American Airlines is Using Moon Buggies and Remote Stands in Philadelphia

American Airlines is using remote stands — and mobile lounges to transport passengers from aircraft to gate — for some afternoon Philadelphia Boeing 757, Boeing 767, and Airbus A330 arrivals.

The Points Guy‘s JT Genter doesn’t push back on American’s claim that it is just as fast to pull up to the gate and let passengers get off as it is to park at a remote stand, have them board buses to the terminal, drive them to the terminal, and have them get off these buses.

I was curious how much extra time this process might take for passengers with connections to make. But, Andrew says American has “found that we’re able to deplane our customers with PTVs as fast as traditional arrivals.”

To help prepare passengers for the experience, AA has “developed a set of onboard messages that our [flight attendants] read before landing to help inform our customers what to expect” and AA has customer care representative onboard the mobile lounges to assist with questions.

It’s hardly a revolutionary idea to use “mobile lounges” or moon buggies that carry passengers slowly across active taxiways to their terminals. Many Washington Dulles United passengers still have to use them, for instance, and arriving passengers at that airport on a variety of airlines too.

They were an ‘idea of the future’ 60 years ago. With hindsight they just seem quaint to outside onlookers. To Dulles passengers they’re inconvenient. They have to stop for traffic. And they aren’t traveling continuously, you board and wait for departure and they have to be driven by a person.

In my experience at Dulles if one of these meets your aircraft, instead of merely having to take one to customs and immigration, you board and sit and wait and wait and wait until the thing fills up. It’s the longest minutes after a long flight.

Sadly these mobile lounges do nothing to solve gate crowding in Philadelphia for departing flights where tables with OTG iPads take up nearly all the space (they’re monetized).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Oh god, I am a DC flyer. I know all too well the years of the “mobile lounge.” I am sorry for you in PHL. It’s a nice name but “lounge it is not.” More like “Mobile Sardine Can.”

    Suggestion: Avoid the seats. Get in first and go left or right right away into a small connector hall between the front walls. Stand there. Avoid all other areas. From this spot you will get off early and not have your feet trampled and recieve head injuries from people’s backpacks.

  2. Is it worse or better than the busses they use in Frankfurt and Zurich airport and a few others. I guess it depends on the time of year. If its nice out, you get a couple minutes for fresh air. If it’s not then you get to freeze. Another benefit, I tend to have a small carry on and a fully packed briefcase, the dune buggy looks like it does not have steps to walk up and down. I live in PHL, I guess I will find out soon enough.

    Also the the iPad ordering areas are nice at some of the restaurants. I have not seen them in A terminal where International is. They are confined to the common area in F and not at many of the gates like B&C. What I dislike now most about PHL is they dropped Coke for Pepsi throughout the airport. Two things I frequent, Marriott and PHL are both dedicated pepsi, good think the flights are still coke.

  3. Why does AA think anybody will want to transfer to Europe at PHL given all the available better alternatives? Another bit of AAinsanity.

  4. Those people movers at PHL are OLD. They were originally used by US Airways when they began to ramp up European service in the 1980’s at Terminal A East. When A West was built the gate capacity increased such that they were no longer need. But, they were just parked in a remote location, occasionally brought out during the summer rush. Being old, they are slow and prone to breakdowns. Stairs and normal busses would be faster, but not as friendly to passengers with physical limitations.

  5. When Dulles finally sunsets the mobile lounges, I’m going to buy one and put a more powerful engine in it. I will then own the road.

  6. So do you have any information on how long it actually takes to deplane via these lounges vs. gate? And was AA referring to the fact that otherwise planes would be sitting, waiting for a gate? Are you inferring they’re using these for the fun of it? It’s an operational constraint, and this was clearly the best way they could handle it.

    Seems like a cheap shot at JT and the AA PR person, with no useful information provided here to refute AA’s claim. I was expecting some kind of info on how much longer these take at IAD at least.

  7. This is part of the reason why I had strong feelings that AA was making PHL the sole main TATL connecting hub.

    PHL simply does not have or will ever have the infrastructure capability to be what EWR is for UA or JFK/ATL is for DL.

    AA dropped the ball in NYC IMHO. JFK could have been what IAD is for UA (and what BOS will be for DL) and co-exist with PHL.

  8. I’m not a heavy duty flier but for most of the last 10 years have flown AA due to PHX and getting some status but between the lack of award seats, ticket costs, unreliability, etc. I’ve taken Delta the last two trips and have enjoyed it. Their lounges are nicer, planes cleaner and more reliable.

  9. @Sled they have an operational constraint having grown the schedule. No I am not suggesting they are doing this ‘for the fun of it’ I am saying based on experience arriving and deplaning onto mobile lounges that – contra the explanation by American – it takes longer to deplane onto a mobile lounge, wait for the lounge to fill up, drive across the airport and disembark the mobile lounge than it does to get off the plane at the gate.

    No cheap shot at all, just suggesting that the claim being made by AA is a bit silly. Is it worth their doing? Perhaps, but don’t claim passengers disembarking onto mobile lounges is just as good as arriving at a gate because it isn’t.

  10. Clarifying my post – making a mistake in making PHL the sole main TATL connecting hub…

  11. I’ve seen these parked around Kennedy – who uses them there?

    They remind me of Airport 1975 when they loaded Gloria Swanson from a buggy to the 747.

  12. This isn’t new. They’ve been doing this at PHL for at least a year now.

    Theorectically I can see how mobile lounge deplaning (using multiple doors and multiple lounges) could be done faster/as fast as deplaning through a single jetbridge. But I wouldn’t trust AA to pull it off.

  13. All things being equal, I would prefer going directly to a gate over using mobile lounges.

    However, I would significantly prefer using a mobile lounge over waiting on the tarmac for a gate to become available. Whenever there is a tarmac delay waiting for a gate, I wonder why they can’t just take a bus to the plane in those circumstances.

  14. Being a PHL resident I do feel that the A-west terminal should expand but idk if that can work the way the layout is. Yet to be fair at Paris CDG airport as big as that airport is they still use hardstands and bus people to terminals as I’ve done that before. Yes I know the buses are different from people movers but still facts planes are parking at hardstands because not enough gates. I’m just curious overall is AA might consider working with PHL like they have with DFW and CTL for terminal expansion.

  15. Being a native DC resident I can give you a lifetime of experience dealing with these at Dulles.

    1. The loading, despite the ability to board them direct from an aircraft, is painfully slow. The issue is that the seating is limited and the standing areas are very tight. People won’t move down to the back knowing it will mean they are last to get off. As such staff have to scream at people begging them to move. It takes a while to pack people in. And man do they pack them in. At first it’s hard to understand why a bus would be easier but it is…side loading and unloading through multiple doors is far more practical.

    2. They tend to get very overloaded and it is not uncommon for people to be hit with bags, fall, etc. There are very few places to hang on for those standing and you are essentially squeezed and packed in the most god awful manner. It takes a good 2-4 of these shuttles to offload most aircraft so the other issue is that people end up having to wait on the plane for the first shuttles to leave and the new ones to arrive and dock. Also, these were made in the 60’s when people had little in the way of carry on bags. Given how they overload them now and the new age of carry ons it becomes complete chaos trying to step over people’s roller bags etc.

    3. Dulles rarely uses them anymore direct from an aircraft. They are now 98% for transport to Customs from the terminal and intl flights. You deplane into a secure hallway in the terminal and go to a boarding area. This is a bit better than the old days but they still far overcrowd them, take forever to load, and are much less safe than a bus given the ancient interiors. I can still remember the days before the trains were built when this was the ONLY way to move between terminals and flights, domestic or Intl.. It was hell, lol.

    4. As I suggested earlier…the secret is the little connector hallway between aisles when you first get inside. Stand in it and don’t move. It’s the best way to exit out first and is the spot least likely to have you stepped on and hit with bags. Avoid the seats at all cost UNLESS you are early to board and the connector hallway is already full. Then grab one of the first seats. If you try and stand near the entrance too early the packers will force you to move back and you are gonna be last off. You can try the wheelchair area to stand but you will almost always be removed and pushed back into the aisle of death. One last trick is if you know the little connector hallway is full and the seats are filled up towards the front wait outside until the last possible second and then go in….this will get you in a better standing spot to the front and not shoved to the back.

    Clearly I have too much time on my hands today, lol

  16. Mobile lounge? What a joke!
    Do not believe anything American Airlines tells you. As an Anerican i was embarrassed to have one of these antique relics take me and international arriving passengers to the terminal. We taxied to the cargo area a long way from the terminal. It took ovet 15 minutes to get the thing up to the right elevation to load the passengers. 10 minutes to load them and another 10 to get to the gate. And of course there was only enough room for half of the passengers. Since we were in the back we had to wait for the same shuttle to return and add another 35 minutes for the shuttle to get us to the terminal. Total 70 minutes!!! What museum did they get these relics out of. Avoid American in Philadelpha.

  17. What a ridiculous name. They must’ve hired the Bonvoy ad agency to come up a name that bad.

  18. @Christian. That name has been the joke around DC for years. It sounds like a luxury transport with a cocktail bar. It is anything but. It actually originated in the 60’s – so perhaps back then it was more “lounge” in feel, lol

    Interestingly enough the concept was part of Saarinen’s design of Dulles (which is truly one of the most gorgeous pieces of architecture in the world). But, he designed this concept before the jet bridge was invented. Seemed like a good idea at the time and Dulles was one of the first airports in the world that passengers could avoid the elements to board an aircraft. That quickly changed – but Dulles was slow to figure out how to adjust the airport for the changes in the industry. It was only in 2010 that we got the train system and the “mobile lounges” were the go to for getting to the different terminals…which was truly awful.

  19. I live in DC and used the mobile lounges at Dulles beginning in the 1970s when they took you directly to the plane. They were a good idea for the 1960s, but once the jetway was invented, they became obsolete, yet Dulles continued to use them to transport passengers to and from the midfield terminals. Even today, nearly ten years after the subway replaced the mobile lounges for all departures and for domestic arrivals, the mobile lounges are still in use for international arrivals. I hate hate hate those mobile lounges, and I wish they would quickly figure out a better way to handle international arrivals.

  20. Funny that this is the only site that has “poo pooed” this ideal. It’s for a few flight a week and if you’ve ever waited on the tarmac, this is a great approach. Much safer then stairs. You all never give AA credit for thinking of unique solutions, well here is one and it’s working well from the input we are hearing from customer who have had to deplane this way..

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