American changes boarding process March 1, 2017 (for the better!)

Gate Agent: “Welcome to the gate for American flight 1366 with nonstop service from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport.  Our Boeing 737 jet has exactly 16 First Class seats and there are 154 seats on this plane so it would be ridiculous for all of you to stand up and move to the boarding lanes when I call for First Class passengers to board.  Ok, everybody got that?  Ok, First Class is welcome to board”

The above is all too common on jets these days, especially as overhead bin space is at a premium.  While policies like the new Basic Economy fares will certainly help with the boarding rush, American’s policy itself needed some work.  I can’t blame it entirely on American (for once, heh), a lot of it is consumer behavior and some of it is just flat out confusing.  For instance, if you have certain AAdvantage branded credit cards one of the benefits is “priority boarding”.  When you have this access your boarding pass says “Priority Access”.  Leads you to believe you’ll be boarding pretty early, right?  Unfortunately that’s not the case, as Priority Access is technically the fifth group to board.  Not only that, but Group 1 was technically the sixth group to board!  Boarding a plane is tough (science has proven there is no one way which is most effective) but the combination of group numbers and named groups added to the confusion.

But all is not lost!

American is changing the boarding process March 1, 2017, for the better!

Effective March 1, 2017, American is going to simplify the boarding process.  Note that there will still be lots of different groups called, since there are lots of status levels to run through, but from that date forward every passenger will have a group number on their boarding pass.  This is going to make life much easier for passengers, in my opinion.

American put together a handy dandy infographic to help explain the old procedure and the new.

Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 6.55.04 AM

So as you can see there aren’t that many drastic changes in the actual order of boarding, but I think listing a group number for every passenger on their boarding pass will reduce the “grey area” of the whole Priority Access/Group 1/confusion/dogs and cats living together mass hysteria thing.

That said, I don’t think it will prevent people with Group 8 on their boarding pass trying to board with Group 1 completely but it’s a good start.  Nice work American!


What do you think of the new boarding process?  How would you have made it better?  Tell me in the comments below!


  1. My question is just this – for those at the bulkhead, or any seat with no underseat storage, regardless of their status, will they be allowed to board at a time when they can put their items in the overhead? I’ve been yelled at by a FA when it’s their own companies fault! I’ve also had an airline (thanks Virgin America) get this concept & have us in an early group so we could put our items that usually go underseat in the overhead right above our seats.

  2. They need to put the active boarding group on the gate display, so people don’t have to crowd up there to hear.


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