American Airlines Moved To Single Agent Boarding Before They Were Ready

In an attempt to save customers from long lines at security checkpoints, American Airlines has implemented a new program at the busy JFK Airport in New York. And unlike many other airlines, American will not use a single passenger agent to check in a passenger at a security checkpoint. Instead, a single agent will work at a separate desk. This is a move that comes at a cost to customers, who will be forced to take a separate security queue, and need to take their carry-on baggage with them as well as check in with the Transportation Security Administration.

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To get the most out of Air Travel, it’s important to get the most out of your flight. But did you know that American Airlines did something very strange the last time they did a full switch to single agent boarding? They did not wait until they were ready. American Airlines installed the SAB system only at their hubs, and were still using the traditional boarding system at their other airports for years after. Apparently, American Airlines did not wait until they were ready. Why? It’s unclear.



Before They Were Ready, American Airlines Switched to Single Agent Boarding.

on August 30, 2021 by Gary Leff

A flight attendant addressed American Airlines CEO Doug Parker about the difficulties of single agent boarding at an internal staff meeting last week, which was recorded and analyzed by View From The Wing.

During the epidemic, American Airlines began sending just one agent on flights with less than 70% occupancy. They’ve begun sending just one agent to flights that are less than 80% filled this year.

Boarding with a single agent is a catastrophe. The single overworked employee can’t handle boarding and last-minute upgrades, clearing last-minute standby passengers, or assisting customers in changing seats, much alone addressing anxious passengers’ queries.

Perhaps more importantly, they are unable to manage all of the tasks associated with departure while also inspecting carry-on bag sizes (American has requested that they charge to gate check oversized bags) and observing passengers who may be inebriated or under the influence of a substance, implying that single agent boarding contributes to increased conflict on board the aircraft and potential flight disruption.

CEO Doug Parker, on the other hand, claims that they’re having trouble with single agent boarding because they didn’t communicate effectively, first via their CFO talking to investors (which I believe I was first to note). According to him, the procedure goes as follows:

Only on flights with a particular load factor will there be assistance for the agent, and only when we have the tools in place to help them offload a lot of the work that they now have to perform. It’s still a long way off.

Except that instead of placing two agents on every trip until the systems are in place for fewer, they’re doing it immediately on all flights with a load factor of less than 80%. Perhaps implementing it on all flights, regardless of load factor, is “a long way off.”

Single agent boarding is “currently a work in progress,” according to Chief Operating Officer David Seymour. It hasn’t been widely distributed.”

American has made technological improvements, but they clearly rolled out single agent boarding without all of them in place to make it work smoothly, and executives have to make excuses about the technology that will help with this and hemming and hawing about not fully rolling it out yet because it isn’t ready (and is still very much a “work in progress”).

To reduce the number of tasks an agent has to complete, American Airlines is clearing standby lists automatically an hour before departure. This means that nonrevs listed for a flight will be confirmed, and there will be no seats available for customers who rush up to the gate to be added to the standby list. When their connection comes early, lower status and non-status passengers will take precedence over last-minute Concierge Key members attempting to get on an earlier aircraft. Although clearing standbys sooner implies clearing standby and still being upgraded at the gate, it is feasible to clear standby and still get upgraded at the gate.

More From the Wing’s Perspective

American Airlines, one of the world’s largest airlines, has announced a series of changes to its long-running boarding process. These changes to the boarding process, which took effect last week, include a change from a two-agent boarding process to a single agent boarding process, which eliminates the possibility to have a second agent in the boarding area.. Read more about when do planes stop boarding southwest and let us know what you think.

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