We Just Learned about “Gate Lice” and Now You Have to Know About It, Too

Whether you’re a frequent traveler or a vacation every-few-years kind of person, you have most likely been to an airport.

Orlando Airport

Flying is a popular mode of transportation. It can be inexpensive and efficient when everything goes as planned. We have often wondered if there is insider airport lingo between all the associates who work there. Do they have code words or ways to signal secret messages? We don’t know about all the hidden meanings behind the airline lingo, but there is one phrase we recently learned that has our skin crawling — “gate lice.”

Gate lice is a term that probably makes you think of all the gross little bugs crawling around in your hair. They swarm your head and they’re awful to try to get rid of. You’re probably squirming in your seat, and your head is itching — sorry! Well, those are real lice. Gate lice can be annoying just like the tiny, white bugs, but they’re humans, not bugs.

Orlando International Airport

We just learned what the term “gate lice” means, and we gotta say, it’s a pretty accurate term. According to the Washington Post, gate lice are those airline passengers who begin standing in line way before they’re called by the gate attendant. The Post said there are psychological reasons for this — “gate lice” are usually nervous about getting on the flight or just have a tendency to follow the crowd, and start standing WAY before it’s time to even board the plane.

Frontier Plane at the Orlando Airport

We decided to do a little research of our own, and we found this definition for gate lice on Urban Dictionary.com, “Passenger, often inexperienced flyers in kettle class, who crowd around or lineup at a gate at an airport completely blocking the boarding area and preventing First and Business Class passengers from being able to get on the plane when they’re allowed to. They can also cause delays and confusion if a passenger in a wheelchair needs to board as the chair has to plow through the mass of gate lice hovering around the gate.”

Orlando Airport

Interestingly, there is more truth to that statement than you might realize. Gate lice can really cause chaos and issues in the boarding process. They block walkways and delay the gate associates trying to check people in during their proper boarding group. Gate lice can cause a lot of stress and annoyance to other passengers and airport workers alike!

Spirit Airlines at Orlando Airport

Turns out, that this term isn’t new, either. There was an entire article written in The Seattle Times about getting rid of gate lice in 2013!! This has been an issue for far too long! An astrophysicist in the article couldn’t even piece together how to properly board people on a plane because that would require everyone to board in precise order — good luck with that one!

Inside Terminal C at MCO Airport

Many people may find gate lice practices to be annoying, and that might be a true deduction, but the psychology of boarding a plane (because that’s a thing) supports the habit. People want to have ample time to put their luggage in an overhead bin, or they don’t want to lose their seats — the competition of getting on the plane first drives people to be gate lice.

Terminal C

People are also susceptible to what’s called “herd mentality.” We conform when we see others doing something around us. So all it takes is for one person to get a little anxious and stand up and then all the other gate lice follow. It’s a vicious cycle of people watching everyone else and copying their actions: conformity a.k.a. herd mentality sets it. A herd of lice…(we’ll see ourselves out).

©Orlando International Airport

So now that we all know what “gate lice” are (luckily, they’re not nasty things crawling around the terminals), we can hopefully have a more successful, less stressful flight. Hopefully, no major issues are caused by those of us who like to line up early.

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