How to not be a jerk boarding the plane

Step 1: Don’t be a jerk.

But, more entertainingly, JetBlue just released the 5th in its series of Flight Etiquette videos. This one is focused on the boarding process and, well, it hurts because it is true. Gate lice suck and make the process annoying for everyone.

I do think this is one of the funnier of the 5 produced so far and, more often than not, I’ve seen the gate agents correctly enforce the boarding order, just like in the video. But I also cannot help but wonder what will change in the coming months as more and more JetBlue passengers are paying for their checked bags, or trying to carry more on board. Or what happens next year when seats are added to the planes and the galley space is reduced, leaving less room to cater more snacks, a problem which already requires use of overhead bins.

So, yeah, funny video. But the reality of the passenger experience will be changing on JetBlue and it could be, erm, interesting.

Never miss another post: Sign up for email alerts and get only the content you want direct to your inbox.

Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I sat back and watched the boarding process today on my DL flight from MSP to MKE. There were people milling about around the gate area but when they announced boarding for first class, it was like locusts surrounding the gate area. People were asking one another, “Are you in first?”, “Are you in first?”, trying to figure out if they needed to wait behind someone or jump ahead.


  2. The Lice problem is created not because people want to board with the section before theirs (well, most people), but because they want to be the front of their section (which is boarding later). So boarding group 2 lice hang around the gate when boarding group lice are being called, so they can be at the front of the boarding group two lice chain.

    I can’t believe I’m saying something good about United, but their boarding process (where there are actually separate cattle-shoot-headed lines for each section, really minimizes the problem of lice from one group infecting another group.

    Of course, as is common with United, if the section is for “elite” flyers, and two thirds of the plane is “elite” flyers, then one can be infected by one’s own class of lice, so to speak.4

    1. Those United line separators are not useful at all stations, though. LGA is a case in point. The lines extend so far back, it is nigh impossible to tell who is in which group. It’s just a giant mass of bodies and you really do have to ask or just plow ahead. At ORD, otoh, the long lines are pretty well defined, but almost always seem to block the middle of the concourse, preventing people and carts from getting by. I just wish people would chill out and not line up 20 minutes before boarding actually began, but I think a big reason why is so folks in groups 1 and 2, especially, can get bin space near their seats.

  3. Funny! I watched all 5 videos in the series! Southwest has a sense of humor as well; they should have these videos on their site!

    BUT seriously, I wish they had a speed- and strength-based line, and if you are young, strong, fast, and ORGANIZED, you can board early! I know this will offend some, but MOST people boarding take WAY too long to walk, too long to stow their bags, and too slow to just sit down for others to board.

    AND then you have people with carry-ons they can barely even carry. If you can not EASILY do a “dead lift overhead” with your carry-on bag, you should not be allowed to bring it on! (I saw a guy get whacked on the head by a weak passenger unable to support their bag as they took from overhead bin!)

    1. Your “young, strong, and organized” boarding zone idea sounds a LOT like the pre-PreCheck “black diamond” security lines for “experienced travelers” … which… like most human endeavors, people were pretty awful at self-assessment and didn’t work.

      You also bring up a good point – whether cabin crew are responsible for helping passengers with large/heavy bags, or whether they should just keep reminding folks that “this is a very full flight, so please place your personal item under the seat in front of you”.

      As with a lot of boarding-related issues, this largely goes away when airlines don’t charge for checked bags, a position I suspect JetBlue will soon be thinking of fondly, except, of course, on the days when they release their quarterly financial results.

    2. The hardest part of figuring out a better boarding strategy is the offense that will be taken by the First Class, Premier, Premier Elite, Elite, Platinum, Platinum Plus, Platinum Plus Elite travelers who have traded common sense for a shameful bit of indulgent elitism. Airlines are reluctant to offend frequent flyers since they realize that although there is some exclusivity based on point-to-point travel, they really are a commodity, and those who have to fly frequently on business will act like lice-after-Kwell if some common sense solutions are applied, which might not include putting their carcasses on first, in order that they can suck down their third G&T by the time the unwashed board. If they (the Status First flyers) wold agree to suspend judgement for a moment or for a few flights, while a new strategy is applied, the whole situation could be relieved.

      If the airlines would strictly enforce this boarding policy, I think there might be a chance that everyone gets out of Dodge alive. First, the carry-on conundrum. Two means two, not three, not seven, not two plus this itsy bitsy 300 lb expandable backpack under my anorak. One roller bag or backpack, plus one purse, or computer bag, or messenger bag. After this is firmly enforced, people will begin to bring on only that which they will not be separated from. For the first six months, make that gate checked bag free. After that, apply the $25 bag fee. Maybe reconsider the baggage charge altogether. I know it’s a dead cinch money maker, but Southwest seems to do OK with their 2 bags fly free policy. Charge like hell for that third bag.

      Next, board the passengers seated from the rear of the plane forward. Overhead/stowed bags MUST be in your overhead, +/- 1 row. If you have too much with you and it can’t fit in those guidelines, see the FIRM 2 carry-on policy. Reverse line jumpers (people seated nearer the front trying to board before the rear passengers): perhaps make the lounge areas more welcoming, offering non-alcoholic bevvies & snacks while one waits? Allow passengers to take on a (closed) beverage and snack, and then do away with in-flight service except for water. Flight attendants will put in a full day every day just enforcing the firm baggage and boarding rules. And the suggestion made upthread that if you can’t dead-lift your own bag is excellent. If you can’t lift it, check it, check it, check it. Learn to pack 10-15 pounds lighter.

      I’m sure there are a ton of holes in my plan, and I’d love to hear them, unless they revolve strictly around the “I earned my Deluxe Double Platinum Onyx Boarding Status.” I’ll dream up plenty of ways to pamper you if you let the bus fill from the back. You’ll still be the first OFF the plane, and no plebeians as me will be allowed to put any of our gear in your bins.

      Background: former frequent flyer for business, enjoyed the hell out of my four years of earned Gold status on NWA. Larger than average traveler at 200 cm (6’7″) height, but average body mass. I subscribe to the Jim Jefferies rule of travel etiquette. The aisle & window cede all rights to the center armrests. The poor boob in the middle seat must needs free access. Also, por favor, if you do me the courtesy of letting me know when you wish to recline your seat, so as not to crush my patellas, I will not impede your rearward progress. I do not believe in the use of the seat-recline restricters, but I find that my well placed forearm will keep the rude-boys from flopping into my lap.

      Now, I do not think that

      1. It is very easy to figure that out: Stop doing it. 😉

        But, of course, that’s untenable to the marketing department.

Comments are closed.