Why you don't want to be called 'gate lice' at the airport
- "Gate lice" is the unflattering name used to describe travelers who crowd the gate before boarding.
- The over-eager passengers likely want to secure overhead bin space to prevent lost luggage.
Flight attendants and seasoned travelers have an unflattering word for the over-eager mob of passengers who crowd the gate before boarding — and it's not something you want to be mumbled in your direction at the airport.
The "gate lice" are likely passengers who are positioning themselves to be first in line so they can secure overhead bin space for their carry-on bags. But people crowding the gate before the plane and crew has even arrived is a major flight attendant pet peeve, Rich Henderson, a flight attendant of 10 years and co-creator of the blog "Two Guys on a Plane," told Insider.
"Just stay as out of the way as possible of the boarding area until your group is at least close to being called," Henderson said. "If our frequent fliers and top-tier people aren't even close to getting on the plane and your crew isn't even close to getting on the plane, you really have no business standing right at the gate."
Crowds of "gate lice" forming in the airport appeared to become more widespread following the pandemic, as The Points Guy senior aviation reporter David Slotnick wrote in 2021.
"It could be that people are anxious to have more time to settle in, given that they've fallen out of their normal travel routines," Slotnick wrote in his first-hand account of how the pandemic changed flying. "Whatever the reason, sometimes going to board a flight has felt like navigating a crowded mall the day before Christmas."
After this summer's travel chaos and subsequent horror stories of lost baggage, travelers may be extra anxious to get their carry-on suitcase in the limited overhead bin space. There's nothing worse than intentionally bringing a carry-on bag only to have the airline lose it after being forced to check it at the gate.
But at least "gate lice" are waiting for their turn to board — unlike passengers who cut the line before their group is even called.
If you haven't tried pre-emptively boarding, you've at least thought about it. Whether or not you get in trouble for boarding before your zone depends on the airline and gate attendant, Henderson said, adding that he doesn't recommend trying and finding out.
"There are some gate agents that, if you're nice and just smile, and act like everything's normal, they won't care or they won't notice that you're not in that assigned zone," he told Insider. "But there are others that if you're caught they will out you and they will shame you."
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