Today I flew American Airlines from Denver to Dallas and I noticed for the first time that after first-class and priority boarding, we didn’t board from the back to the front of the plane like normal. This is because American has changed it’s economy boarding process so travelers board in the order they are checked in for the flight – which essentially means on a first come-first serve basis.
I don’t have status with American, but since I checked in the prior evening, I was assigned boarding group #2. I found it extremely easy to get on the plane and into my seat and I feel like the plane loaded very quickly.
American Airlines says it’s “random” seating method reduces boarding time by 5 to 10 percent…and I believe it. It saves time because it minimizes the grid lock that occurs when passengers in the same row are trying to stow their luggage and sit down at the same time. Using this method, people can be sitting down in different parts of the plane simultaneously instead of arriving in clusters in one area and having to wait for their neighbors to get out of the way.
This is significant because it is a massive money saver, as some studies say it costs an airline up to $30 for every extra minute spent on the ground.
Personally, I think this is the fairest method of boarding. It is the traditional “early bird gets the worm” model and it puts the traveler in control of boarding – if you plan ahead and check in early, you get rewarded. Some of the flight attendants have commented that it creates “chaos in the cabin” but I didn’t see anything but happy flyers getting on the plane and into their seats!
American’s new boarding policy, in my opinion, borrows the best aspects of Southwest’s boarding (first come-first serve), and leaves out the annoying component of Southwest’s policy (no assigned tickets). Hats off to you, American! UsingMiles.com is a big fan of this decision.