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As you have likely already read, American Airlines has just enacted a new policy where if you are traveling without overhead luggage, you can now board before Group 2 boarding. The point behind this is to try to get the planes loaded faster. To avoid checked bag fees, and the risk of your checked bags being delayed or lost, more and more of us are trying to carry on everything we possibly can. This means the planes are loading slower which is bad for the airline, for passengers, for costs, etc. American’s thought is to get those without large carry-ons into their seats. It (in theory) I guess it makes the customer happier, and speeds up the process.
I have no clue whether that will really help or not, but I do think about the boarding process frequently, and I wonder if early boarding matters to you? If so, I’m curious as to the reasons it matters. Here are my thoughts in a few different situations:
Early boarding with small children + car seats or similar contraptions:
Yes, I want to board the very first second I can if I have to lug and install a car seat on the plane. It is large, it is bulky, and my child cannot be seated in her assigned seat while I am installing it. This means I will absolutely temporarily leak into someone else’s seat while this process is happening. As a result, I would prefer for everyone’s sake that others not yet be around us. I will also temporarily be stalled in the aisle while I put the other bags in the overhead compartments, and get the car seat into our assigned row. I will go as quickly as possible down the (hopefully empty) jet-bridge and onto the plane to get ahead and minimize others being impacted by this cumbersome process.
We are absolutely “gate lice” who line up before boarding starts simply so that we won’t hold up a long line while we go down the aisle with the car seat and get it into position. In that case early boarding matters a whole heck of a lot to us, in an effort to be considerate to others (and avoid as many dirty looks as possible).
We are able to do this due to elite status that allows us to board with the first group, but if we didn’t have that status we would be SOL on most airlines as they no longer allow families with small children to board first. In the case of the car seat or other seat contraption, being one of the first really matters to me.
Early boarding with small children with no seat contraptions:
If I am not installing a car seat, there isn’t a whole bunch of incentive to board early with my kiddo unless I need spaces for overhead bags. In fact, the ideal situation is when my husband boards first to get all the “stuff” situated, and the kiddo and myself hang back until later in the boarding process. The earlier I get her on the plane, the longer I have to keep her entertained while remaining seated. Of course this only works if he can carry the car seat and any bags that would need overhead space. He is a good “donkey”, but even he has his limits on how much stuff he can carry at one time.
Early boarding with a roller bag:
I don’t need to be the first one on the plane if I am traveling alone with a roller bag. I do need to be in the first half of boarding to ensure an over-head bin, but I don’t need to be one of the very first on-board. So, for me if I am traveling with a roller bag that needs an over-head bin then early boarding does matter, but it doesn’t matter in the same way as if I had a car seat.
Early boarding without a roller bag:
If I am traveling only with a purse or similar that will fit under the seat in front of me, then according to the new American Airlines policy I now get to board earlier than I otherwise would if I had something like a roller bag that needed to go in the overhead bins. However, if I don’t have any luggage for the over-head bins, and I don’t have a car seat or similar to install, then what is my incentive to get on the plane earlier? On most airlines I have an assigned seat, so it isn’t like my seat is going to be taken out from under me just because I am the 100th person to board the plane instead of the 22nd person to board.
I guess if I am in first class I might be missing out on my “pre-departure beverage” if I wait too long to board, but that doesn’t really seem like a real problem. I just don’t quite get why someone would want to spend more time sitting on the plane if they didn’t have a specific need for getting on early.
I don’t have any issues with the new American policy, and I hope it does work for them. However, as a passenger I just wonder whether early boarding really matters when you aren’t concerned with bags, small children, or car seats?