Brace Yourselves: American Airlines Newly Designed ELEVEN (!!) Boarding Group Process Is A Complete Mess!


Someone at American Airlines thought it was a good idea to redesign some things, and so they went ahead and changed the boarding process, which is now broken down into ELEVEN groups.

As anyone can imagine it didn’t take very long for passengers and ground staff to realize in what kind of a mess they’ve gotten themselves into with these new changes.

Boarding the aircraft is pretty much the choking process as far as passenger flow is concerned, and that is not only the case over at American but across all airlines worldwide with ground agents rarely being able to control the crowds once boarding is announced (Japan being the exception here).

Every now and then, someone at a particular airline re-thinks this whole procedure and tries to make boarding more efficient for all parties involved and so it happened that American Airlines once again rolled out a new boarding process which will come into effect on March 1st 2017.

You can learn more about this new procedure (mess, really) on their website (access here).

We board our flights 30 – 50 minutes before scheduled departure. Boarding times depend on your destination and the type of plane. Check your boarding pass for your boarding time.

We shut the door 10 minutes before departure, so be sure to be at your gate on time.

On March 1 we’re launching a new, simplified boarding process. The order will stay the same but group names may change.

Eligible AAdvantage® credit cardmembers include:

  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select World EliteTM Mastercard®
  • CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select World EliteTM Mastercard®
  • AAdvantage® AviatorTM Silver Mastercard®
  • AAdvantage® AviatorTM Red Mastercard®
  • AAdvantage® AviatorTM Business Mastercard®

Fair enough. You’d think that American would package it into a few boarding groups as previously handled and then roll it out. Well think again because what the airlines product managers came up with resulted in a total of NINE (9!!) boarding groups and is guaranteed to test the patience (and basic understanding) of both passengers and ground staff.

Here is how it’s being structured:

Basically, Pre-Boarding various types of Elite Members and Premium Class customers will be stretched out over 6 boarding groups, who will be eligible to board via the Priority boarding lane.

Another group of customers including Main Cabin Extra passengers and holders of certain AAdvantage Credit Cards will then be the first group to be able to board through the Main Boarding Lane, followed by boarding groups 6-9 with non-status customers who booked the new American Airlines Basic Economy boarding LAST.

In total you will have about eleven steps to follow here and if you think you’ve seen chaotic boarding before then hold your breath and await what will be happening from March 1st onward. Apart from having to make complicated announcements and sending passengers back who aren’t eligible to board yet, gate agents at the same time will still have to deal with standby and upgrade requests.


This won’t go down easy. Passengers (especially leisure travelers) aren’t used to such complicated processes and making people feel they’re being pushed further and further down the line as it inevitably happen with such a long boarding process will lead to frustration and tension. Especially if you pair it with flight delays and other customer service issues that are common occurrence when flying.

No doubt this was cooked up by some smart focus group and product managers who try to invent the wheel new every now and then but all it will accomplish is the intensify work for the gate agents and annoy customers. Of course part and cause of this ‘solution’ is that American starts to sell boarding privileges as a separate products and also assign them to credit card holders. Of course once you have to accommodate all of these different groups you end up with a mess like this.

If you enjoyed this article, get our blog updates for free!

Previous articleReader Question: How To Use Hilton Be My Guest-Certificate?
Next articleLe Club AccorHotels Switzerland 300 To 800 Bonus Points Per Stay February 13 – May 13, 2017


  • I agree that this may sound complicated but in reality it really isn’t. As long as the boarding groups are clearly marked on the boarding pass and the boarding groups called out clearly the only people who will be confused will be the terminally stupid and those who want to be “confused” because they want to attempt to skip the line.
    How hard is it really to understand that you board when the boarding group printed on your boarding pass is called? If someone can’t grasp that notion then they probably shouldn’t be allowed out of their home unaccompanied.
    I agree that there will probably be a scrum at the gate but, for once, I don’t think you can plant the blame at the feet of the airline – the blame will lie squarely with passengers being dumb or impatient.

    • Xavier

      It is more or less the same than the people who boards the plane trying to reach the 25F and, when arriving the row 25, starts looking where’s the F. Because everyone knows that the airlines try to play with the people by putting letters in random positions every row. 🙂
      It’s not so hard to understand but… people are people.

      • TURBO


      • Joe

        Then get told it is Gate 25, and they are in row 12. That’s always fun.

  • Scott

    The one that amuses me is that people that have paid for priority boarding are in Group 4. I can imagine the occasional traveller who has stumped up for this being somewhat confused as to why they are only in Group 4. It’s not materially different from the current order but ranking and formalising it sets it up in a different way in people’s minds.

  • Jill Gillham

    Flew American for the first time in 20 years last year (At my local small town airport, Northwest or Delta has always just made more sense), and I can remember telling my husband that, yes, the boarding pass said Group 1, but I had no idea what it actually meant. So I tend to see this as an actual clarity improvement.

    Though as someone in the land of outstation wee regional jets, I think it’s a bit silly that the number of boarding groups seems to be approaching the number of seats on the plane, and there comes a point where a Southwest-style sequential number boarding pass system would probably just make more sense.

    • Bill_in_Bryan

      I was flying a few weeks ago and some poor woman in Group “1” just about had a conniption fit when the GA wouldn’t let her on the plan first. I agree that while 11 boarding groups is a bit much, it’s nice the the group number will now accurately reflect the actual order of boarding.

  • Why the excitement? The only change is that the new Basic Economy is added at the end, which was announced with the launch…
    (New) Premium Economy and corporated travelers are spelled out and added to existing groups, everything else stays the same.
    Same mess as last week…

  • Kevin

    AA hasn’t simplified the boarding process at all, they’ve made it more complex for their agents to deal with. Why didn’t they follow the model of UA – they seem to have a very good system, 4 groups, 4 lanes. Frankly Southwest has the quickest and easiest boarding – no crowding around the gate, no elite-ist attitudes trying to show they should get to go first cause of their status, and since you can check bags free, much less try to get carried onboard.

    • Yeah. Eleven groups is an overkill. Shouldn’t be need for more than three or max four.

  • Maynard D

    Sorry to disagree, but it makes more sense to me this way. Currently they name off every possible status & US military, and everything else under the sun. This way, you simply have a boarding group number to listen for. How much easier could it possibly be? And they had to come up with a way to enforce the no carry on rule for the new basic economy fares. How else could they do it except putting that final group at the very end?

  • John Everett

    I like the new order. Instead of listening to a gate agent drone on with every imaginable named group out there, it is now down to simply group 1, group 2, etc.

  • Dr.Florida


  • Tahoe

    This only works IFF the staff enforce this. They don’t enforce it now, so I am not going to hold my breath waiting for this change to actually yield any benefit..

  • Lee Van Doren

    Works for me. As an MVP I move up a notch to elbow in with the Golds

  • Jamo

    I saw this process trialled late last year. It actually worked quite well. US passengers tend to be much more in tune with the boarding process and when they can board. There were many groups and we chuckled a bit, but there aren’t many members of the higher up groups so they sort of run into each other very quickly.

  • Bill_in_Bryan

    I’m OK with the number of groups, but I wish AA would adopt UA’s lanes model. As an EXP my most annoying first world problem is wading through the sea of humanity to get near the front of the pack. If AA would make a little more effort we could avoid annoying situations like this (see picture) :

  • Joe

    So elites will get it.
    And non frequent fliers will get it too. I’ve heard many people moaning about “another special group” before they get to the Grp #s. i don’t think they care except not knowing what is going on. They are all trained by SWA to have a specific spot in line.

    Also makes it easier to announce – I hate not hearing whether it is ruby, military in uniform, no parking in the red zone, or what going.

    And let’s be honest, they will start with “now boarding Groups 1-5” anyway. Just like before it started a lot of times with “Priority Boarding”.