No one likes lining up for a long time at the boarding gate. But equally no one (unless they love traipsing empty airports) likes getting bumped from a flight. But did you know that waltzing up at the last minute and catching the tail end of the boarding queue, though satisfying, is actually risky, and not just because when airlines pick someone to boot from a flight, they typically go for the last people to turn up?
That’s right: according to an interesting Quora thread posted by a frequent traveller in 2018, you actually want to be the first to board for another reason. Among other pieces of advice, the traveller, Ashwin S Krishnan wrote: “If you are flying economy/coach and have cabin luggage – gauge how crowded the flight is going to be.”
“If you expect a full flight, try to board earlier – this will improve your chances to get cabin space for your luggage over your designated seat. Having to place your cabin luggage behind your seat or checking it in leads to a significant time loss.”
This resonated with various Quora commenters (and news outlets) with The Sun and Travel + Leisure both picking up the thread and running with it. As Travel + Leisure points out, reducing your chances of being booted from a flight is another reason to want to board first. Though in some cases now this may be a moot point, given many airlines now call you up by the section of the airline you’re in, for those that don’t, it’s worth considering the following point from this other Quora thread they dug up.
“While overhead storage is the obvious reason, everyone is stating, here’s a reason I don’t think many people realize as to why you should want to board as early as possible,” Quora user Timothy Chiu wrote.
“Some airlines when they need to remove people from a plane, start with the last person who boarded the plane. They may need to remove people due to weight restrictions (due to wind, heat, etc.).”
He then shared a tale about this impacting him. He wrote: “Here’s my story about how I got pulled off a plane because I waited to board, even though I had status and was traveling to a connecting international destination.”
“About 7 or 8 years ago I was taking US Airways from SFO to AMS (Amsterdam) for work with a layover in PHL (Philadelphia). Normally I’m the type of traveler that likes to get to the airport early and check-in early and relax until the flight is ready to leave. For some reason that day I was running late, not late for the flight, but late by my standards. Since I was traveling for work, I had to check in a rather heavy bag with a lot of training materials and work related items.”
He added: “And actually for a check-in process everything went rather smoothly. But I missed the frequent flyer early boarding on the SFO to PHL flight, so I boarded late (by my standards) with the rest of the economy crowd.”
“Surprisingly the flight was really, really empty. It turned out there couldn’t have been more than 40 people on the entire flight, a large wide-body jet. I settled in for a long flight with a longer flight after. The flight fully boarded, but it was taking a while for the plane to leave the jetway. Finally the gate agent came on the intercom and asked for volunteers to deplane.”
To cut a long story short, because he was one of the last to board, he was one of the passengers eventually chosen to be removed from the flight, concluding: “Since that event, I double check and make sure I board the flight at the earliest possible moment, using my frequent flyer status.”
Not everyone agrees, however. TikTok is full of users talking about why it’s always better to board last, and ESCAPE writer Simone Mitchell has another reason of her own to try and sneak onto the very end of the boarding queue in the final moments.
Video: TikTok users explain why they think it’s better to board last
In a 2021 article she wrote: “After a period living between two cities, I racked up a mind-boggling number of domestic flights on budget carriers (who are, let’s face it, the only ones who actually seem to police the weight of your bag at the gate). And I discovered a trick that seems to work.”
“I loiter around at a nearby gate. Then when I see the last passenger in the queue boarding, and it’s close to the gate closing, I leg it to the gate. By that stage the staff just want to get you on the plane for an on-time departure, and the chances of them weighing your bag are much, much slimmer. In fact, this method has worked for me every time and I haven’t been weighed in years.”
Of course, the big disadvantage to this is that there may not be room in the overhead lockers by the time you board. But you can’t have everything, we suppose.