How do they decide which peons in economy to pack in first?
November 25, 2012 10:18 PM   Subscribe

How exactly does American Airlines assign its boarding groups 2-4? Is it just totally random?

I know the overall boarding procedure, but was wondering if anyone could shed any light on how non-elite, non-priority passengers get sorted into groups 2 through 4.

Some pages seem to indicate that those who check in online faster get placed in earlier groups, but others seem to indicate that it's just totally random.

I'm inclined to think it's the latter and totally random, because I checked in literally 23 hours and 59 minutes -- flying Southwest has trained me to do this out of habit -- before my AA flight home for Thanksgiving, and yet got placed in group 4, with a concomitant downright awful boarding experience.

I know you can pay at the airport to be in Group 1. Just wondering about groups 2 through 4. Any insight would be appreciated, before I ready myself for the journey back this week.
posted by andrewesque to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Did you have an aisle seat? On many airlines, aisle seats are in the last zone boarded, and window seats are in the first non-priority zone. That's kind of the whole point of the zone thing: fill each row in the most efficient order, and fill the plane back to front.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:34 PM on November 25, 2012

It makes no sense on AA anymore. They used to board the plane from back to front, but now it does seem random. The AA flight I was on last week, my girlfriend in the aisle seat had a lower group than me at the window. And we were on the same itinerary.
posted by hwyengr at 10:44 PM on November 25, 2012

I noticed recently on United that it didn't seem to make any sense either (I always assumed it was done in the most efficient way, but it looked very random last time). I could be missing something.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:52 PM on November 25, 2012

Guide to Boarding Procedures, which has AA as "back-to-front," but it seems they've since switched to random
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:53 PM on November 25, 2012

I had a window seat.
posted by andrewesque at 1:33 AM on November 26, 2012

I vaguely remember reading something on A/B testing where some airline or another had figured out that back to front was actually a fairly inefficient boarding style, and that they were experimenting with others.

I'm pretty sure it wasn't an article on the Steffen method, although that'd be a good place to start.
posted by straw at 3:17 AM on November 26, 2012

American is also experimenting with different grades of service. You can buy all kinds of crazy stuff for an add-on fee. One of them is boarding with Zone 1. So you'll see people in the back of the plane, in all sorts of seats and they paid an extra $15 for the privilage of putting their butt in a seat and their life in the overhead before you. (I might be one of those people, I HATE checking bags.)

In Korea, I was on an Asian flight and they just say, "Okay, we're leaving, get on!" And everyone just piles on. It's no less efficient.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:29 AM on November 26, 2012

I've often thought it might be at least partially driven by the fare you paid.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:29 AM on November 26, 2012

The Pilot has said otherwise, but I agree with you, Chrysostom. At least, based on my experiences with United, using tickets I buy many months in advance.
posted by Rash at 9:36 AM on November 26, 2012

When I get a Zone 4 boarding, I just board when they call Zone 2. They've never stopped me and told me to wait for my Zone to be called.
posted by doomtop at 11:18 AM on November 26, 2012

We've discussed this previously, but not specifically for American.
posted by Rash at 4:43 PM on November 26, 2012

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