American Airlines Is Making Its Standby List More Transparent

Jun 15, 2019

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If you’ve ever noticed that you were skipped on an American Airlines upgrade list or standby list, there’s probably a legitimate reason for it — as frustrating as it may feel. The “out of order” passenger could be a crew member who’s been cleared to fly in a jump seat or a passenger who’s standing by for a different cabin (i.e. first class instead of main cabin).

Of course, the airline could tweak the system to make it clearer what happened — and now that’s exactly what American Airlines’ boarding system does systemwide. When a crew member clears the standby list into a jump seat, the initials “JS” should show on the standby list.

I noticed this for the first time earlier this month before a flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles:

I was so excited to see this that I hurried up to the gate counter to take a photo — which seemed to startle the gate agents. I asked them when the change was made to use a “JS” instead of a check mark. After understanding that I was asking generally — and not upset about having been skipped — they mentioned they thought it was a fairly recent change.

I contacted an American Airlines spokesperson to confirm. He also initially thought that it was a new enhancement. However, it turns out that AA started rolling this coding out back in July 2018, but a recent fix was made in May so that this “JS” designation is now working properly systemwide.

While this is a seemingly small change, it simply and effectively clarifies the situation for the likely thousands of passengers per day who are on American Airlines standby lists.

The next challenge: making the upgrade list more transparent. American Airlines’ system still lumps business class and first class onto the same upgrade list. While the back-end system will clear the upgrades in order, it’ll appear as if passengers are cleared out of order.

That’s exactly what happened to TPG Lounge member Andrew M. back in September 2017 before his Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG) flight. He was listed as #2 on the upgrade list and was livid that #4, #6, #8 and #9 were cleared “ahead” of him:

At the time, American Airlines looked into the situation and confirmed that the list was cleared in order but that Andrew was upgrading into a different cabin than the passengers who were cleared.

Despite this having been a problem for years, American Airlines still hasn’t fixed this issue. However, an American Airlines spokesperson has confirmed that the airline is “looking at the three class situation to make it clearer so it doesn’t cause confusion to passengers who are looking at the mobile app or on the display.”

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