In an effort to speed up the boarding process, American Airlines announced yesterday that it would allow earlier boarding for passengers traveling with one personal carry-on item that fits under the seat in front of them. American defines a personal item as a purse, briefcase, laptop bag or a similar item such as a tote that does not exceed 36 inches. Customers will be invited to board immediately before Group 2.
Passengers with a carry-on bag who wish to board before Group 2 can check their bag at the gate at no charge. I wonder if American thought this through. This means smart travelers can take advantage of the priority boarding AND avoid a $25 checked-bag fee at the same time. The carry-on bag would be retrieved at baggage claim upon landing.
American hopes that by encouraging passengers to travel light, it will create a more efficient and enjoyable customer journey - fewer people will be holding up the line and blocking the aisles while juggling to fit a bag into the overhead bin. Minutes saved during boarding will result in a more timely departure and arrival. Of course, the airlines pretty much created this situation when they started charging fees for checked luggage. To avoid the costly fees, passengers started carrying more and more on board.
According to American, the new boarding process was tested earlier this year at seven airports and received overwhelmingly positive feedback from customers.