American Airlines boarding procedures are among the most confusing of any domestic airline. Rather than using just group numbers, American first boards passengers based on class of service and elite status. The airline often lacks consistency among gate agents due to the complex boarding procedure. In early 2017, the boarding process became even more complicated with the addition of Concierge Key and Platinum Pro. Now, with the addition of Basic Economy fares and Premium Economy cabins in 2017, American Airlines’ boarding order is receiving another update.
Current American Airlines Boarding Order
Per American Airlines’ website the boarding order as of January 1, 2017 is as follows:
- ConciergeKeySM members
- First Class and active U.S. Military with I.D.
- Business Class, Executive Platinum and oneworld® EmeraldSM
- Platinum Pro, Platinum and oneworld® SapphireSM
- Gold and oneworld® RubySM
- Alaska Airlines MVP® members, AirPass, Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive cardmembers and passengers who bought Priority boarding
- Group 1: Main Cabin Extra and eligible AAdvantage® credit cardmembers*
- Group 2
- Group 3
- Group 4
The above boarding order is a mouthful for gate agents to recite for each departure. I often find each gate agent lists the order slightly different from another. Further, the order is confusing to many passengers who do not typically fly American, but for whatever reason have “Priority AAccess” stamped on their boarding pass. It seems American has realized the current boarding process needs improvement and recently announced a new boarding process to be implemented on March 1, 2017.
New American Airlines Boarding Order
Per American, Beginning March 1, 2017 the airline will implement a new boarding process which is as follows:
Priority boarding lane
- Group 1: First Class and active U.S. Military with I.D.(Business Class on a 2-class international aircraft)
- Group 2: Executive Platinum and oneworld® EmeraldSM (Business Class on a 3-class aircraft)
- Group 3: Platinum Pro, Platinum and oneworld® SapphireSM
- Group 4: Gold and oneworld® RubySM, Alaska Airlines MVP® members, AirPass, Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive cardmembers and passengers who bought Priority boarding
Main boarding lane
- Group 5: Premium Economy, Main Cabin Extra, and eligible AAdvantage® credit cardmembers*
- Group 6 (current group 2)
- Group 7 (current group 3)
- Group 8 (current group 4)
- Group 9: Basic Economy
American is simplifying the boarding process to only include group numbers. This is consistent with other domestic carriers and should prevent a lot of confusion in the boarding area. Going forward, AAdvantage members with elite status will find a clearly printed group number on their boarding pass instead of their elite status level as before. This new boarding process should also help gate agents who no longer have to call out each level of status (now 5 of them) during the boarding process.
The new system also puts any passenger who purchased a “Basic Economy” fare into the final boarding group, which will prevent the passenger from bringing a full sized carryon onto the plane. Basic Economy customers will be charged $25 to check a bag at the gate.
The American Airlines boarding process has always been a little confusing so I am glad to see the airline is trying to simplify the process. With the addition of ConciergeKey and Platinum Pro status levels the gate agent’s boarding announcements have become a little too lengthy. I like that American is clearly separating the two boarding lanes which are rarely used with the current boarding process.
I find it interesting that American is grouping Citi AAdvantage Executive cardmembers in the same group as passengers with AAdvantage Gold status, but moving all other co-branded AAdvantage credit cardholders to group five.
I am excited about the most recent change to American’s boarding process. The old process was a little too complicated with the addition of ConciergeKey and Platinum Pro elite status levels, especially on regional flights.