Cutting in line

To invalidly enter a line by going in any position other than the back
A queue on an open sidewalk in Poland

Cutting in line (also known as line/queue jumping, butting, barging, budging, bunking, skipping, breaking, ditching, shorting, pushing in, or cutsies[1]) is the act of entering a queue or line at any position other than the end. The act is extremely stigmatized in most human cultures and stands in stark contrast to the normal policy of first come, first served that governs most queue areas.


1940s poster promoting safety procedures during civil defense air raid drills

A negative and very assertive response from the rear of the line is expected when someone has cut in line up ahead under any circumstances in virtually all cultures. According to one study, a person cutting in line has a 54% chance that others in the line will object. With two people cutting in line, there is a 91.3% chance that someone will object. The proportion of people objecting from anywhere behind the cutter is 73.3%, with the person immediately behind the point of intrusion objecting most frequently.[2]

Nevertheless, physical altercation resulting from cutting is rare.[3] It was reported that an 18-year-old National Serviceman in Malaysia was bludgeoned to death after he attempted to jump the queue at a food counter.[4] Another incident occurred in New York City at The Halal Guys food cart, resulting in the death of the man who cut in line. The man who killed him was charged with murder in the second degree.[5]

Legislators in the US state of Washington passed a bill that makes cutting in line to catch a ferry illegal. Cutters can be fined $101 and forced to return to the end of the line.[6]

In 2022, Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield drew criticism from social media and the press for bypassing the public queue for the lying-in-state of Elizabeth II, when filming for a television segment in London's Westminster Hall.

Merging on roads

Cutting is present on roadways, especially restricted access highways, where traffic queues build up at merge locations. Drivers who bypass waiting until the last possible moment before merging are sometimes considered to be "cutters," and are frequent instigators of road rage. This behavior is not usually illegal in the US, unless the driver crosses a solid white line or uses dangerous merging techniques.[7]

In contrast, not using the merging lane until the last moment is required by law in Germany, Austria[citation needed] and Belgium;[8] legal use of the lane is when two lanes merge into one and with traffic speed slowed down. Where construction zones close a lane, parts of Canada and the U.S. encourage the "zipper" method of merging, which was introduced in 2002 by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The zipper method can reduce congestion up to 40%, while also giving drivers plenty of adjustment time for the merge and reducing the speed differential between the open lane and the lane with the upcoming closure.[9]

Sanctioned line cutting

Sign at Notting Hill Carnival offering a "queue jump" for toilet facilities, for a fee

Amusement parks

In some instances cutting in line is sanctioned by the authority overseeing the queue. For example amusement park operators such as Cedar Fair (Fast Lane), Six Flags (Flash Pass), and Walt Disney (FastPass) have Virtual queue programs whereby a limited number of patrons cut the line for an attraction by arriving at a pre-designated time (sometimes, but not always, associated with a payment for the privilege). Common penalties for cutting the line without this privilege range from being forced to the back of the line to removal from the premises.[10]


At airports, it is customary – for the sake of efficiency – to allow pregnant women, adults accompanying small children, the elderly and the physically disabled to board an airplane first, regardless of their seat, class or assignment. However, the priority afforded wheelchair-using passengers has reportedly given rise to a practice in the United States, whereby some passengers who do not normally use a wheelchair request one, to pass through security checks quickly and to be among the first to board an aircraft. At the conclusion of the flight, these passengers walk off the aircraft, instead of waiting for a wheelchair and thus being among the last to disembark. The neologism "miracle flight" has been coined to describe this behavior, as passengers apparently needing a wheelchair before boarding the aircraft are "miraculously" able to walk afterwards.[11]

See also


  1. ^ Leah Ingram (2005). The Everything Etiquette Book: A Modern-Day Guide to Good Manners. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781440523373. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  2. ^ "Cutting in Line". Tasty Research. 2006-09-21. Retrieved 2007-05-15.
  3. ^ Clive McFarlane (2007-04-16). "Line jumping – next time maybe a bribe". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-05-15.
  4. ^ "Murder at National Service camp". The Malaysian Insider. 2013-09-24. Archived from the original on 2013-09-25. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  5. ^ "Street Food Stabbing : Gothamist". Archived from the original on 2015-08-12. Retrieved 2015-07-06.
  6. ^ William Yardley (2007-04-11). "No Cutting in Line for Puget Sound Ferries, Under Penalty of Law". The New York Times. p. A-13. Retrieved 2007-05-15.
  7. ^ Mike Lindblom (2005-03-02). "Hey, no cutting in line!". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on 2007-06-18. Retrieved 2007-06-13.
  8. ^ "Principe de la tirette: les Wallons à la traîne". (in French). Retrieved 21 August 2022.
  9. ^ Powers, Lucas (2013-07-05). "How to 'zip' through summertime road construction". Archived from the original on 2022-11-03. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  10. ^ Six Flags guests get out of line Archived November 19, 2016, at the Wayback Machine,
  11. ^ Sarah Maslin Nir (2012-10-03). "Rolling Past a Line, Often by Exploiting a Rule". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-11-20.

External links

  • Mind Your Queues! – article on the Indian attitude towards queueing