American Airlines’ New Boarding Process

American Airlines' New Boarding via @TravelLatte.net

American Airlines’ new boarding procedure hopes to get you in here and in the air faster. (Photo: American Airlines)

If you’ve ever sat at the gate waiting to board an American Airlines flight with Group One marked on your ticket, you know the pain. Clearly, you are in Group One. When the gate agent starts calling groups to board, though, it seems like five or six groups come before you. What gives?

As it turns out, Group One is the first group of passengers who get to board through the Main boarding lane. There can be five or six groups that board through the Priority lane before the gate agent starts welcoming the “average Joes.” Kind of frustrating, and definitely confusing for anyone but frequent fliers and American’s employees.

We feel your pain and, apparently, American has too. The legacy airline has rolled out a new boarding system that begins March 1st. It may take some getting used to, but it should help passengers understand the boarding process better. Of course, if you’ve become accustomed to seeing Priority or Group One on your ticket, you’re going to be disappointed. And maybe a bit irritated. But, the new system at least tells it (more) like it is.

That was then. This is now.

Here’s a before-and-after look at the Boarding Lane landscape at American Airlines:

Boarding Lane Old Group New Group
Priority
  • First Class
  • Active duty U.S. military with military I.D.
  • Business Class on a 2-class international aircraft
Group 1:

  • First Class
  • Active duty U.S. military with military I.D.
  • Business Class on a 2-class international aircraft
  • Business Class
  • Executive Platinum
  • oneworld Emerald
Group 2:

  • Executive Platinum
  • oneworld Emerald
  • Business Class on a 3-class aircraft
  • Platinum Pro
  • Platinum
  • oneworld Sapphire
Group 3:

  • Platinum Pro
  • Platinum
  • oneworld Sapphirel
  • Gold
  • oneworld Ruby
Group 4:

  • Gold
  • oneworld Ruby
  • Alaska Airlines MVP members
  • AirPass
  • Citi / AAdvantage Executive cardmembers
  • Premium Economy
  • Customers who bought Priority boarding
  • Alaska Airlines MVP members
  • AirPass
  • Citi / AAdvantage Executive cardmembers
  • Customers who bought Priority boarding
Main
Group 1:

  • Main Cabin Extra
  • Eligible AAdvantage credit cardmembers
Group 5: “Preferred boarding”

  • Main Cabin Extra
  • Eligible AAdvantage credit cardmembers
  • Eligible corporate travelers
Group 2 Group 6
Group 3 Group 7
Group 4 Group 8
Group 9:

  • Basic Economy

You may have noticed two new groups among those groups:

  • Eligible AAdvantage credit cardmembers, which includes the following branded credit cards:
    • Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
    • CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
    • AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard
    • AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard
    • AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard
  • Eligible Corporate Travelers are passengers traveling on company business for an employer with an active American Airlines Corporate Travel Agreement. According to the company’s web site, “Only tickets that are booked and purchased via an authorized Agency of Record for the company and reflect the company’s unique identifier (CART number) are eligible.”

There is also a Pre-Boarding group, which includes ConciergeKey customers, and those needing assistance.

Boarding Etiquette

It only looks like this process might take longer than the 30 minutes allocated for boarding. There are the same number of groups, though, and the new process better identifies where in the process your group falls. If anything, the new system should help alleviate confusion and speed the boarding process.

As always, though, “gate creep” is real, and frowned upon. If your ticket says Group One, by all means, get in line when the gate agent opens the queue. Otherwise, take a seat. Enjoy the last few minutes of relative freedom before strapping yourself into that metal tube. When you’re in Group 5 (the old Group One), there is still a good chance you’ll have plenty of room in the overhead bin, but lining up early will not help you get more space, for you or your carry-on. It will, however, greatly annoy fellow travelers trying to get to the gate when their group is boarding.

It should go without saying, but every flight we’re on proves otherwise.

3 comments on “American Airlines’ New Boarding Process

    • Hi Anda – There ya go! I suspected a bunch of folks would get to the airport and freak out when they’re normal Priority or Group One boarding pass suddenly said Group 5! I know they have posted it to their website now, but at first it was not easy to find. Here’s hoping you get that Group One!

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