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On American: Travel Light, Board Early

On American: Travel Light, Board Early

There’s a new wrinkle in American’s boarding routine, described on American’s website as follows: “We are making it easier than ever for you to get comfortable on board before departure. Now, customers without overhead luggage can board before Group 2.”

That means boarding after first-class passengers, those with elite status, Priority Access customers, and so on, but before everyone else.

It’s a novel move on American’s part. And as with any novel approach, it’s hard to clearly envision its ramifications.

It should hasten the boarding process overall, as travelers hoisting their bags into the overhead bins are a notorious chokepoint in filling the cabin.

While American cites “comfort and convenience” as the rationale for the new process, it’s also an incentive for flyers to check their bags, at $25 or more apiece.

And underlying motives aside, there’s the policy’s vagueness. What exactly is “overhead luggage”? Since overhead bin sizes and the space under seats vary across aircraft types, how is the passenger supposed to know whether his bag will fit under a seat? Are American’s check-in agents going to police bags and confront passengers trying to game the system?

In American’s tests in Austin, Baltimore, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Kansas City, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Washington, the new system apparently proved to be a winner. According to the airline’s news release: “The test received overwhelmingly positive feedback from American’s customers, and agents like the new process because it allows for smoother and quicker boarding for everyone. American expects to see a notable reduction in average boarding time per flight with the new boarding process.”

We’ll see.

Reader Reality Check

How do you foresee this new boarding process working out?

  • LongTimeObserver

    Changes like this bring out the game-players in the traveling public.

  • Paul

    Umm if I don’t have a carry-on that needs to find an overhead space, I’ll want to be the last to board, not the first. There is no other reason why you want to board early.

  • relberger

    Heard this announced on my SEA-JFK flight yesterday. It sounded weird.

    Also, if they have a personal item, who checks if you actually put it in the overhead or not?

    Seems like if they have to check, it will cause more problems for FA’s than it’s worth. I’m sure soon enough we will start hearing about pax arguments over this.