Priority Boarding Means Everybody Can Board!

Last week I was in the departure lounge for my Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to Boston. After clearing the pre-clearance US immigration, I waited by the gate to board, only to find out there would be about a 20 minute delay due to the aircraft getting back late from a maintenance facility. I stuck around close to the priority boarding lane as most other passengers in Business Class began to do, and waited as the gate agent announced the initial priority boarding for those that were disabled or with small children.


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That’s when the stampede started – literally everyone and his brother began to scramble towards the gate. There were the few legitimate priority boarders – the families with very small kids, and the elderly in wheelchairs. Then began the rush of other folks who felt they needed to be boarded before everyone else – families with kids of teenage age, anyone over the age of 50 who could move with more mobility than some 30 year olds I’ve seen, and others who clearly didn’t need to use this privilege.

I mean anyone and everyone was scrambling to hand their boarding passes over to be scanned. The funny thing was that the gate agents didn’t stop any of them, and they let the lune continue on, even with the puzzled looks of the Business Class cabin who was waiting patiently for their turn. Now, I know there are certainly legitimate reasons for folks to board early, and certainly many of those reasons may not be outwardly visible, however you can clearly see folks abusing the system. I’ve seen this plenty of times before domestically, however I think there’s better enforcement amongst US based airlines. I’m not sure if it’s because foreign airlines are afraid to say “no,” or that it is a more commonly accepted practice, but it intrigues me that such a large crowd of folks would want to get on the plane first, since the very same crowd will be the same ones to want to get off the plane first when it lands in Boston.

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A minor annoyance I guess, but still puzzling.

What do you think of people that board the plane early that clearly don’t fit into the qualifications of that privilege? 

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  1. Greg says

    The last time I flew out of Dublin, my dad and I had Zone 1 on Delta with my co-branded amex card. Very similar to your story a gaggle of people began to flock the line. However a gate agent asked if anyone had premier, sky or zone 1 boarding. Since we did she told us to wait in the back of the priority boarding line. Since not many people had zone 1, I think a total of 10 people we were able to board without having to fight the hoard of people in general boarding. However I have seen individuals abuse the system before some knowingly others not but I feel that the gate agents have become somewhat lax in telling people that they need to wait for their zone to be called. People abusing the system has come from a lack of caring for the gate agents

  2. Pam says

    I’ve seen this several times in Europe as well as in Puerto Rico. Last year in Paris I got to the Air France gate where passengers were forming a que. I had no idea why, so I stood to the side. Turned out they boarded via the que instead of by zones. Saw the same thing this year on a BA flight. It’s very frustrating for me because I pay for priority seating to be assured overhead bin space, which I need for my professional photo gear. So when boarding is done via a frenzy or a line, it really negates the extra money I spend to get priority boarding.

    Here in Orlando, a majority of the passengers are traveling with kids, so the rush to take advantage of priority boarding is insane.

  3. says

    It is very difficult to distinguish between genuine cases and those who know how to work the system. Plus with the Americans with Disabilites Act even questioning someone’s reasons for boarding early can get the gate agents into trouble if the person decides to lodge a complaint. It’s a no win situation! You have those who obviously need early boarding; those who need it but the reason is not obvious; an those who do not need it but know that they can envoke this ‘right’ when they want to skip their position.

  4. mmh says

    I have flown about a million + miles on United, my husband 2 million +. We’ve had loyalty to this airline mostly so that we can get some perks such as priority boarding and access to the overhead bins since now you watch people in the very back of the plane just park their bags in the business class or economy + bins so early and travel to the back. Why the gate agent doesn’t stop them so our bins adjacent to our seats are usually now full is beyond me. Then, we are asked to check our carryons with work computers and other valuables. Do these fake early boarders people have any moral code? Myself and my husband earned our status by mostly going on lousy business trips in economy, lousy hotels/motels, being away from our family many, many days of the year. The people who jump the line for a yearly trip to Disneyland or to visit a beach or their family are not good people.
    I broke my leg 2 years ago and was very thankful to have earlier access and use of always lovely hard working wheelchair attendants and onboard flight attendants helping me.
    Fake early boarders…A question? Is this what you are teaching your children and family? Shame on you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Justin says

    I’m blind, so I take advantage of riority boarding as often as I can. This is one of those things that really gets under my skin. I swear, I didn’t lose my sight just so I could get first dibs at the overhead bins. Taking advantage of this allows the flight attendants to guide me to my seat and give me the individualized safety briefing without all the chaos of boarding going on. I just hate to see people taking advantage of this kind of stuff when they don’t need it.

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