American Airlines often starts boarding before the time they tell customers on boarding passes. There are two things at play here.
- Gate agents who are under tremendous pressure to get planes out exactly on time (D0), and who start the process with the consent of flight attendants.
- American actually begins boarding 35 minutes prior to departure for domestic Airbus A321 and Boeing 757 flights. These planes are larger, carry more passengers, and so they give themselves 5 more minutes but boarding passes still say they board 30 minutes out.
American boards earlier than the time they put on boarding passes for a couple of different aircraft types. This is a known issue at American, and one they’ve chosen not to spend on the IT to fix. It’s one reason you may show up at the designated boarding time and find your flight halfway boarded.
The airline is taking Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft into the fleet and each new MAX has more seats than their older 737s. In addition they’re retrofitting their existing Boeing 737-800s to have more seats. They’re doing this by squeezing seats closer together and reducing space elsewhere throughout the aircraft, most famously the lavatories.
By the end of this month there will be 21 torture tube 737s flying for American. Add these to the list of planes that board earlier
American says that their Boeing 737-800s that squeeze in an additional 12 seats (after squeezing in 10 more already after the merger) will now board five minutes earlier — 35 minutes prior to departure rather than their standard 30 minutes.
That’s fine as far as it goes if and only if they choose to tell customers this on boarding passes, the mobile app, and everywhere else.