Boarding Etiquette Tip: Wait Your Turn!

Coming home from Chicago, Part 2.

I’ve already shared the first etiquette issue I witnessed on Saturday. Well, here is the second. Southwest had the best flight times for Saturday (had to get home for my nephew’s first birthday!), so I flew them home. I really like Southwest—the flight attendants are usually pretty happy, the seats are a little bit bigger, and I typically can get a window seat without too much trouble. Other business travelers I’ve talked to don’t really like their boarding system, but I don’t have a problem with it. Especially now that they have the numbers to go along with the boarding groups.

(For those of you who aren’t familiar, here’s how it works. When you check in, you are assigned a boarding group (A, B, or C) and a number for your place in line. They have everyone line up basically in order for each boarding group, and then once you’re on the plane you choose whatever seat you want. This has always worked fine for me in the past, with no significant issues.)

However, on the last two Southwest flights I’ve taken, there have been issues. Flying to LA, I had place A30. Our group was boarding, the line was moving along, and then it just stopped. I waited a minute, and realized the lady two people in front of me wasn’t moving. “Excuse me,” I said, “are you in the A group?” “No, I’m a B,” she said. Okeydokey. I walked around her and boarded. Of course, it turned out the woman in front of me was also an A, so she followed me. At the time, I just thought, that was weird and kind of rude, but whatever.

Then Saturday happened. I was B23, not a great spot, but what can you do. I was behind a large family, and our group was boarding. And same as last time, it stopped. The family and I waited patiently, as there were several people in front of us waiting to board. Or so we thought. After a couple of minutes, the gate agent said, “Any more B1-30? Nope? Okay, B 31-60 come on down.” I waved my arm. “Wait!” I said. “There are more of us!” Still the line didn’t move, so I just went in front of everyone and boarded. The family followed close behind. Turns out yet another family had gotten in front of them, that were part of the C group. What the heck, people?

Friends, please wait until the gate agent tells you to line up before getting in line. It is frustrating for those of us waiting to board for people to jump in line and then keep us from getting on the plane during our group. This goes for other airlines too. If you are flying American, and you’re in boarding Group 4, please don’t stand up and clog the boarding area until it’s closer to your turn. It is very difficult to maneuver a suitcase through a hundred people to board, when those people won’t be boarding for like ten minutes anyway!

Readers, what are your thoughts on this? Have you experienced people not waiting their turn to board?

Don’t forget about the contest going on through Sunday!! You could win two nights in a Courtyard Marriott.


  1. I doubt very much that anyone who flies more than a little HASN’T seen this happen. Nowadays, especially with the baggage fees and often-full overhead bins people are clamoring to be on the plane as fast as they possibly can.

    Add to that the complete lack of line management by the gate agents, plus the fact that most gates I fly out of don’t have enough seating for a full flight and you have this problem on nearly every flight I take.

  2. People don’t do it at the theatre, the grocery store, or anywhere else for that matter. But somehow many think that it’s okay to block the line at an airport gate. It’s a really odd behavior…

  3. Southwest fliers are notorious for doing this. It is a very simple system to understand and is ridiculous when people can’t figure it out. I don’t mind if people are +/- 5 out of order as it is annoying to line up exactly in number order, but if your letter hasn’t even been called, SIT DOWN until it is!

  4. Yes, it’s truly odd behavior. I mean, sure, a lot of it has to do with the limited overhead bin space, but also there’s the follow-the-leader mentality. Once a few people do it, everybody gets up.

    Maybe they should tape off area near the gate that says if you are not actively boarding, you cannot be in this area. Then if you violate that rule, you have to board last. It sounds mean, but I think we need to treat boarding like an elementary school classroom. There are rules and boundaries, and if you violate them, there are consequences. I don’t care if you’re an adult.

  5. People do that when you’re boarding by zones as well. Almost as frustrating is people who are in Zone 4 who stand right in front of the boarding lane so that us Zone 1 people have to practically shove them aside to get on.

  6. It annoys me when people completely disregard (or don’t understand) the A-B-C system and just board whenever. I’ve never seen a gate agent catch this, either.

  7. I was boarding an American flight last month and was in Group 2 – this one guy standing next to me was in Group 3, and went ahead and walked in with his friends who were also Group 2.

    I’ve actually seen American send people back when they try to jump, but they didn’t in this case. It was only slightly irritating because he let me go first.

  8. The worst is when there is a family of five with one young child and they ALL board. It gets worse if there are more than three big families that pre-board before everyone else. What makes this become SUPERDUPER worse is when the pre-boarders sit at the exit row and “block” off seats for people who are in the later groups.

  9. I just came back on AA from Budapest and saw this on every leg. It was really annoying to have to physically push people out of the way just to go with my group. Even worse are flights to Asia where people just rush the gate no matter what group they are in.

  10. @Monica Airlines often do allow group to board together whenever the earliest group number is called.

  11. Unless I’m on SW, I just wait and board last (I almost never carry on a big bag, too much hassle these days) to avoid the rush at the gate. I haven’t seen what you describe on SW. Hope I don’t. There might be yelling.

    I like Ben’s idea.

  12. I pretty much exclusively fly Southwest for business travel (not too often, but enough that I am automatic A-List) and for the most part, the gate agents are pretty good about not letting people board ridiculously out of order. I also am not ashamed to have a peek at the boarding passes around me (if they are out and in people’s hands, I don’t ask to see them) and if I see a B-group, politely tell them that it’s not their turn yet and to listen for when the gate agent calls for their group. It also makes me crazy when people are super OCD about getting their EXACT spot in line. If you are within the 5 number range for your boarding group, you’ll be fine I promise. I hate to see people shove themselves in to line because they’re A-26 so they must be at the FRONT of that 5 person group. So annoying!

  13. If people boarding out of order occurs so frequent (as noted in above comments) doesn’t SW know about it. How complicated is it for gate attendant to visually look at each passenger’s boarding pass? If not in A group, etc. kick their butts to the back of the line.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.