American Airlines just changed its boarding groups: Here’s how it will affect you

Dec 16, 2020

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Starting today, American Airlines will change its boarding groups. Specifically, American Airlines AAdvantage members without elite status will now board in Group 6 even when flying on a basic economy ticket.

I looked at this news when American Airlines announced it yesterday but didn’t think much of it. After all, I have Executive Platinum status, so I usually board in Group 2. Even if you don’t have elite status with American Airlines, you likely have a cobranded American Airlines credit card that will let you board in Group 4 or 5.

So, this change primarily affects flyers who don’t have American Airlines elite status or an American Airlines credit card. However, there are a few other implications. So, let’s take a closer look at how this change will affect you.

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American Airlines boarding process

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

American Airlines currently has ten boarding groups. Now, with the Group 6 change, American Airlines’ boarding groups are as follows:

  • ConciergeKey: ConciergeKey members
  • Group 1: First class, active-duty U.S. military with military I.D. and business class on a two-class international plane
  • Group 2: Executive Platinum elites, Oneworld Emerald elites and business class on a three-class plane
  • Group 3: Platinum Pro elites, Platinum elites and Oneworld Sapphire elites
  • Group 4: Gold elites, Oneworld Ruby elites, AirPass members, premium economy, Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® cardmembers, travelers who bought priority boarding and eligible corporate travelers
  • Group 5: Main Cabin Extra (excluding Basic Economy) and eligible AAdvantage credit cardmembers
  • Group 6: AAdvantage members
  • Group 7: Non-AAdvantage members with a Group 7 boarding pass
  • Group 8: Non-AAdvantage members with a Group 8 boarding pass including basic economy to or from Europe and South America
  • Group 9: Non-AAdvantage members with a Group 9 boarding pass including basic economy within the U.S., Canada, Central America, Mexico & Caribbean

Many other airlines altered their boarding process to reduce coronavirus risk this year. But, American Airlines has stuck to its boarding process. So, you’ll see this change take effect immediately.

Related: Which airline credit cards offer the best priority boarding perks?

Effect of all AAdvantage members boarding in Group 6

American Airlines said this change is “one more way we’re thanking our members for their loyalty and gives new members a benefit they can use on day one when enrolling in the AAdvantage program.” So, American Airlines’ intention is clearly to get more flyers to enroll in its AAdvantage program.

Of course, the most obvious effect is that seemingly more passengers will be boarding in Group 6. But, by allowing basic economy passengers to board in Group 6, American Airlines is continuing to eliminate reasons not to buy basic economy tickets.

That being said, there are some knock-on effects of this change. For example, passengers working toward elite status with another Oneworld partner won’t be considered AAdvantage members. So, these passengers will need to board after Group 6 unless they have Oneworld status.

In the end, this boarding policy change likely won’t affect you much. And, if it does, you can always get a cobranded American Airlines credit card like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® or CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® to jump to Group 5.

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Why TPG’s Zach Griff always boards last, no matter where he is sitting on the plane

Featured image by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

Based on TPG’s most recent valuations, the 50,000 miles are worth $815. As of July 23, 2017 this is the only card that offers Admirals Club lounge access so if you are an AA flyer this card might make sense for you.  Aside from lounge access the primary cardholder will receive a Global Entry application fee credit every 5 years, first checked bag free for up to 8 travel companions on domestic itineraries and a 25% discount on eligible in-flight purchases on American Airlines flights.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® Bonus Miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Admirals Club® membership for you and access for up to two guests or immediate family members traveling with you
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
  • Earn 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 eligible mile earned from purchases
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 16.74% - 25.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Regular APR
16.74% - 25.74% (Variable)
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.
Recommended Credit
Excellent, Good

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