Why An Airline Boarding Flights Early Isn’t A Good Thing

Nobody really wants a delayed flight.  We all have places to be, and it’s important we get there on time.  That’s what the airlines promise, despite countless roadblocks to achieving that goal.  Boarding flights early when they’re so full can be a huge help, but it can also be the wrong answer.

Boarding Flights Early

Crowded Walk Through London Heathrow

I was flying on American Airlines recently and ended up in a conversation with the passenger beside me. I had arrived at the gate about 45 minutes prior to departure because I was hoping to grab a seat flying standby to get to my next destination sooner.  The agent happily cleared me into a seat in coach.  It was one of those rare times I fly coach on American, but I’d be happy to get ahead of some potential weather and get to my destination early.

I headed to the restroom and intended to grab a snack prior to boarding but when I passed by the gate shortly thereafter, they were already boarding Group 3.  For a frequent traveler that doesn’t check luggage, hearing Group 3 is akin to a black hole as I don’t want to lose sight of my bag.  I hustled to the gate and managed to find a spot for my bag above my seat.  I settled in and checked some e-mail.

Shortly thereafter, the person who had the window seat beside me arrived.  When I’m stuck in the middle (which happens literally almost never on American for me) I try to make conversation with the people beside me so as to start things off on a good foot.  This usually creates a less hostile atmosphere jostling for armrest space.

The guy next to me was obviously not happy.  Unlike me, he didn’t get to board early, probably due to no elite status.  So, he purchased priority boarding.  Only problem was, due to the fact that they started boarding early, there was no overhead bin space left. And, he was heated.

I can’t say I blame him. I’ve seen more boarding early, specifically on American Airlines. United, as bad as they are on many customer service elements, have at least adjusted the official boarding times, especially  on bigger planes.

It was early last year when American rolled out a program where employees could earn monthly bonuses for beating rival airlines in on-time arrivals, baggage and customer satisfaction. While I’m a big supporter of employee incentives, I think it’s important that all interests are aligned.  In this instance, it may have been better to link the on-time arrival bonus more directly to each other as opposed to competitors.

I also think they could solve this issue by adjusting the official boarding times.  I’m happy to play by most sets of rules, as long as I know what they are.  Boarding planes earlier is likely a positive given that flights are generally more full today than in any time in the past decade.  And, I’d love to see those employees earn that bonus.  But when this many flights are boarding early, and Joe Public is upset because he spent extra money and didn’t get what was promised, he may protest with his feet and end up somewhere else, especially with no status to tie him to the airline.


The post Why An Airline Boarding Flights Early Isn’t A Good Thing was published first on Pizza In Motion.

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7 Comments

  1. Those of us who were US airways are quite accustomed to this. 😉 Although I do agree, if you are not on your toes at the gate, it’s quite easy to miss early boarding (even worse when connections are tight).

  2. Absolutely agree!

    Although, based on the FA contracts, UA flights can’t start boarding earlier than the stated boarding time.

  3. I agree, it’s annoying when airlines start boarding before the set time. Adjusting those boarding times seems like the good solution here.

  4. I’ve an issue with boarding passes that give one time, while at the gate they have another later time. Air Canada’s international flights are notorious for this, seldom ever start boarding at the given time. As are AA regional flights.

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