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Feb 22

American Airlines Changes The Boarding Process. Again.

Airlines do certain things well. Getting their passengers on planes is not one of them. For years, airlines have tried to optimize the boarding process and, for years, they’ve failed. In fact, if anything, the process has gotten more complicated. In fact, the only logical thing that they’ve done is tacitly admitted that they have no clue what they are doing, and thus, just trying to monetize it.*

The New, New, New, New, New Boarding Process

You will no longer have to decipher your boarding pass.

The implementation of boarding process 11.0, or whatever version we are on, doesn’t mix up the boarding groups much. What it does do is assign a number to your boarding pass, so the gate agent can announce “Now Boarding Group 3,” instead of “We now invite Platinum members, Gold members, people traveling with kids, people traveling with pets, people dressed in red, etc. to board.” In other words, they’ll speed up the boarding process a little bit by eliminating any opportunity to be confused by the various boarding group names. Now, you only have to be able to count to nine.

A few things stand out to me in the “new” boarding process:

  • Concierge Key members will always board first, regardless of their class of service. CK is American’s “secret elite status.” There are no stated metrics for what is needed to earn it. If you earn it, they’ll let you know.
  • If you pay extra for priority boarding, ¬†you don’t board first. You don’t board second or third, either. Yup, you’re in boarding group four. But you’ll likely still have overhead space.
  • If you have no elite status or anything else that will accelerate your boarding, the earliest you will board will be group six.
  • Those of you buying Basic Economy will board last, in group nine. You won’t have overhead space, but that’s okay, because you aren’t entitled to it, anyway.

The Bottom Line

Airlines 101: If you can’t fix it, at least make money off of it.



*Beginner’s Hint: Yes, airlines are even charging you to board the plane. You can purchase expedited boarding (which will now put you in the fourth group to board) and your credit card may get you closer to the front.

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