Passenger Hovers Near Gate Prepared to Pounce Into Boarding Line

The Onion: Man Prowling At Airport Gate Ready To Pounce Like Jungle Cat At First Sign Of Boarding

Slinking stealthily as he scanned the departure desk for any sudden movement, local man Aaron Smith reportedly prowled San Francisco International Airport’s gate 33 Friday like a jungle cat ready to pounce at the first sign of a boarding announcement.

…According to onlookers, Smith tracked the elderly travelers and passengers with disabilities during the pre-boarding process like an apex feline predator eyeing the weakest member of a herd to isolate and ambush, his gaze fixed and intense as attendants guided the group’s wheelchairs down the jet bridge.

…[A]fter the gate agent announced that passengers in the first zone could begin to board, Smith reportedly pulled his ticket from his pocket with lightning-quick reflexes and charged forward…

Are you ever ‘that passenger’?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. What I can’t stand are the people in the later boarding groups who circle/crowd the boarding area and block first/biz class and priority access flyers as they jockey to be among the first in their group to board so they can stow their carry on.

    Word to the airlines, waive the first checked bag fee and start charging for carry ons. That will speed up the process loading and unloading planes. Would also help if the agents checked to make sure all of the carry ons fit the max size allowed by the airline. I see some massive carry on bags because people don’t want to pay for a checked bag.

  2. I don’t understand the need for boarding groups. Call boarding all at once; elite and F pax can queue in the Priority lane while all others queue in Main.

  3. The worst are the ones who slowly meander to the counter when they’re the next group to board; timing it so they get there as soon as their zone is called. If your zone is called and you get caught behind this person, you can’t pass them, because you don’t know if they’re actually in your zone and turns you into the jerk. It basically guarantees that you’ll board one-zone-late.

  4. I’ve seen people go berserk when they try to board in ‘group 1’ when the attendant says “ma’am, your in group 37, please step aside!” Usually those people are carrying a UHaul size bag too

  5. @Pat
    Half the time people don’t even seem to care about boarding groups/zones. They just jump in line even if their group is last and plead ignorance to the boarding agent. Heck, most of the domestic boarding agents don’t even seem to check. I’ve already heard someone bragging about it on the way down the jetway.

    I get a perverse sense of glee when someone tries that and a tiny quiet polite CX or JAL boarding agent just stands there blocking the way because it’s not their turn. That trick never seems to work on the some carriers. Perhaps they are trained for it, or are just more used to it….

  6. “That” passenger? No, because there’s never just one.

    I always assume it’s primarily a combination of:

    1) People with bags that don’t really fit well in overhead bins trying to get in first and shove them in somehow anyway.

    2) A ton of travelers only fly 0-2 times per year. These people are, I would assume, more nervous/uncomfortable generally about travel and especially flying. That plane could leave without you, after all, AND THEN WHAT?!

    Fortunately, I only ever travel with a backpack that fits under the seat in front of me, even on business trips. It makes the whole rat race significantly easier, and I don’t have to worry about “getting settled” or finding bin space.

  7. Now that you have experienced Southwest Airlines post-2007, perhaps you could write an article comparing their numbered boarding process (and maybe their long-gone plastic boarding card process) and how it compares with other airlines’ zone boarding.

    For me, it’s all about results. Due to automatic check-in or elite mid-boarding priority (after the A’s), Southwest gets me an aisle seat every time even if I have to change flights at the last minute.

  8. Quoting from The Onion and calling it a day’s blog post? Running out of things to say?

    And seven comments before mine that took The Onion for real?

  9. He can quote from the onion, the sad reality is its like a pack of hyenas surrounding the gate at boarding time. And now with American boarding flights prior to the posted boarding time its making it harder to time when exactly to be at the gate if you are in the lounge relaxing instead of gate watching.

  10. Even boarding in Europe for LH-flights has become as hazard. When the SAS-Light concept was introduced, the concept meaning flight only (no-check-in-bags), boarding has become a night mare. As opposed to checking in your over-night kit, people tend to go on vacations for 5-7 days with carry-ons only.
    This again makes a problem when boarding late of course.
    I was properly seated in LH flight LH2455 last week on route from OSL-MUC, an “almost” missed my connection, due to the fact the Purser on-board insisted on loading a few of the carry-on in the cargo-hold.
    Selling too cheap tickets, would this in the long-run challenge the punctuality ?

  11. I love The Onion. Through satire it seems to get at the heart of the matter better than actual journalism more often than it should.

    As to whether I am ever “that” passenger. I probably have been once or twice, but I am typically only carrying a small backpack that fits under the seat and sitting in an aisle seat. When those 2 things are true I will almost always wait until last call. My ideal flight is when I am the last one on the plane just before doors close, and the first one off. I think that has only actually happened a few times, though.

    People always do seem to be in a massive hurry to pack themselves into a metal tube with a bunch of strangers.

  12. I flew with Emirates from Melbourne to Auckland last week and boarding for the A380 was called for 4 separate zones.

    Sitting with line of sight to the gate agent I saw several dozen passengers walk up, and then get turned away as there zone had not been called.

    They even had a Flight Attendant walking around the boarding lounge with a mini sandwich board advertising which zones were boarding and yet still these pax kept walking up to the gate and milling around there like a flock of sheep.

    Then – get turned around and go back to their seats. Quite amusing really. Some people just think that boarding calls only apply to other people not themselves. Pretty sure there that none of them even knew what Status even is.

    Well done EK!

  13. Sadly, before the days of getting (status) boarding advantage back when Delta was using the seating algorithm that assigned people in the front of economy in aisle seats boarding in Zone 9, I was a bad girl! I would make friends with other passengers in the boarding area who had better zones and I boarded with them. Of course, none of this would have been necessary if they hadn’t started charging for checked bags with the resulting unintended consequences of having no overhead space left for us peons boarding in Zone 9.

    Now, with status and normally flying F and J and boarding very early in the process, I feel great empathy for the poor souls in Zone 9 who are forced board late and gate check. Maybe the airlines should start charging for carry-on’s and make the first checked bag free and see if the dynamics change.

  14. Gate fleas, as they are affectionately known. One of my biggest travel pet peeves. As we are typically in one of the first two groups to board (after those traveling with small children or need extra help) it amazes me how many times I need to say ‘excuse me, are you in line to board now?’ I feel like a heel and usually the agents just give us a helpless smile. Unless you are flying Southwest, you have a seat assignment and, if worse comes to worse, the attendant will check your bag. I agree with the commenter on smaller checked bags – the ‘I can hide a dead body in here’ duffle bags need to be banned as carry on!!

  15. @Left Handed Passenger

    A joke from The Onion the lead in may be, but it introduces a real and inconvenient issue when travelling, notably in the US.

    People are jockeying for priority in no small part since the carry on baggage situation in the US has become an absurdity with far too many bags for the overheads.

    One within size limit carry on bag, one person, please, and appropriately managed by the airline staff!

    Try travelling outside the US / not on US airlines where, in the main, passengers and airlines alike outclass the yankee yobs…

  16. I usually fly in First, bulkhead-window because I am somewhat claustrophobic. There is no under seat storage, and especially on American’s older planes, the front overhead bins tend to have equipment or crew storage further reducing my “First Class” carry on real estate. Darn right I board first if I can! Another reason to keep elite status, and upgrades. So I’m up there—- but I’m in the correct order.

  17. This is my absolute pet hate. I despise the chaos at the boarding gate. Everyone has a seat number. The plane takes off at a certain time . Yet some people literally riot just to get one space ahead in the queue *facepalm* – we usually wait for the animals to calm down and board later In the process. Even when they call sections noone listens and it’s still chaos

  18. In recent years I can almost never understand announcements at the gate or on the plane . You might see me standing near the counter trying to understand what is said . I know the plane flies at the same time for everyone and I don’t use the bins either so I am not that anxious .
    I try to be patient with other travelers as well .

  19. The story is about SFO, but the photo shows flight 5713 to Detroit departing at 8:41 pm, which means it was taken at ORD. Bad Onion.

  20. I don’t get people who try to rush on before they are called. They board the plane by groups so that the plane can be boarded the most efficiently. If you board early and then block the aisle then nobody can get past you to their seats and it delays the whole process.

  21. My pet peave is the people who take up bin space with a jacket. And the people who block the aisles and are oblivious to others boarding, taking their sweet time.

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