This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Update 2/22/17: American Airlines has slightly altered its boarding process to include premium economy passengers in Group 4 instead of Group 5. Here is the updated boarding chart that’ll go into effect on March 1:


If you’ve flown American Airlines recently, you may have noticed that the carrier seems to have a never-ending list of passenger classifications when it comes to boarding. Gate agents can sometimes sound like auctioneers trying to get through the entire list of groups, particularly on regional flights where there might not be any passengers in a particular boarding group.

Or, maybe you’ve experienced the frustration of holding a “Group 1” boarding pass — thanks to your Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard — and realized a significant number of passengers have already been invited to board before the gate agent has even reached Group 1.

Well, that’s going to change soon. AA has announced an overhaul of its boarding groups for flights starting on March 1, 2017. Thankfully, the change will make the boarding groups more transparent. Rather than having a slew of unnumbered priority boarding groups plus four numbered boarding groups, there will soon be nine boarding groups:

  • Group 1: First class and US military, business class on a 2-class international aircraft
  • Group 2: AAdvantage Executive Platinum and Oneworld Emerald, business class on a 3-class international aircraft
  • Group 3: AAdvantage Platinum Pro, AAdvantage Platinum and Oneworld Sapphire
  • Group 4: AAdvantage Gold and Oneworld Ruby, Alaska Airlines MVP members, AirPass, Citi/AAdvantage Executive cardmembers and passengers who purchased priority boarding. UPDATE: Now includes premium economy
  • Group 5: Premium economy, Main Cabin Extra and eligible AAdvantage credit cardmembers
  • Group 6: [General economy boarding. Former Group 2]
  • Group 7: [General economy boarding. Former Group 3]
  • Group 8: [General economy boarding. Former Group 4]
  • Group 9: Basic Economy (when launched)

While nine groups seemingly would be enough to cover all passengers, there’s actually a 10th boarding group as well: “ConciergeKey members will be invited to board prior to general boarding.”

American Airlines’ current and new boarding groups.

There will be no change to the boarding lanes that passenger groups use. Groups 1-4 — the currently unnumbered priority boarding passengers — will still use the Priority boarding lane. Groups 5-9 will use the main boarding lane. This means that Priority passengers still have the chance to skip to the front of the line by using the Priority boarding lane, even if you happen to arrive at the gate after boarding has begun.

Benefits

While having nine boarding groups (plus Concierge Key) sounds absurd at first blush, we actually applaud this move. AA is effectively keeping the current order, but making the process more transparent. Under the current system, passengers who paid for “priority boarding” end up boarding fifth and the deceptive-sounding “Group 1” boarding group is actually the sixth group to board. Under the new system, it’ll be clear exactly where you fall in the pecking order.

Assuming the boarding group number is prominently displayed on the boarding pass, gate agents will have a much easier time policing the boarding process. Currently, the “Priority” designation on the boarding pass could mean one of five different sub-groups. After the change, gate agents will be able to see at a glance whether a passenger is boarding before his or her group has been called.

Also, hopefully this change will give gate agents’ voices a break. Rather than having to announce “Now boarding AAdvantage Gold, Oneworld Ruby, Alaska Airlines MVP members, AirPass, Citi/AAdvantage Executive cardmembers and passengers who purchased priority boarding,” the gate agent can simply say “Now boarding Group 4.”

Bottom Line

In less than six weeks, American Airlines will be renumbering its boarding groups. While the boarding order is effectively going to be the same, the change should hopefully make the boarding process more straightforward and transparent. However, you might be shocked at the high boarding group number on your boarding pass.

Featured image courtesy of American Airlines.

The best beginner points and miles card out there.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.99% - 24.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.