American Telling Gate Agents Not To Remove Passengers From Flight To Accommodate Late Standbys

Standbys are being cleared earlier automatically and upgrades are now being cleared earlier by the ‘Agent Assist’ program which was developed to make work at the boarding gate easier, support single agent boarding, and still allow a flight to go off on time.

But with standbys and upgrades happening earlier, more customers are showing up at the gate asking to get on board after most seats have already been given away. Agents are being reminded,

  • Not to remove passengers from the flight to clear people showing up later, even though those additions to the list might have higher priority.
  • To insert remarks that someone was a ‘late add’ to the list, so it doesn’t appear that the list was cleared ‘out of order’ when auditing later.
    Some agents don’t seem to understand that the system is clearing standbys the way the airline intends. When a customer gets added to the list with higher status, they show up at the top of the list – ahead of those that have already cleared. American hasn’t changed the lists.
  • And so to avoid confusion over whether the list was processed correctly, the airline wants agents to take the additional step of explaining the discrepancy – that someone is higher on the list but ‘skipped’ for an upgrade or clearing the standby list because of when they were added to the list.

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, 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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Hmm. The headline made it sound like the system was bumping people who had confirmed seats but were just not on board (ie someone who is running to make a connection). At some point you have to clear the standbys and if you aren’t on the list it’s pretty hard to accommodate your future request. If an EXP buys a ticket the day of a flight I wouldn’t expect them to downgrade a lower status member who has already been upgraded to accommodate the EXP.

  2. Sounds reasonable to me and pretty efficient. I agree with @AdamH that the headline is very misleading. Basically people are getting cleared for standby (and upgrades) earlier. So if someone is cleared and a higher ranking elite passenger runs to the gate right at boarding asking to be added to the standby or upgrade list OF COURSE they aren’t removing passengers that have already been cleared and shouldn’t do so. Priority matters but that doesn’t mean to bump someone already assigned to a seat. Sorry Gary – sounds like you may have been that obnoxious EP that races to the gate and is ticked they don’t bump someone for you . What entitlement!

  3. Reminds me of an AA incident I had. I cleared standby, everyone had boarded including myself. Suddenly the gate agent came down the aisle to take me off the plane with zero explanation. She was working with another passenger as I came out – I’m guessing that was a late person with higher priority. So the headline isn’t misleading, it actually happened before. Terrible experience

  4. United does a good job of identifying elites likely to miss a connection and automatically adding them to the standby/uograde list for the next logical flight. If they make their original flight, great, and if not, they can pick someone from the standby/uograde list. In general, it seems like United has spent more on their IT systems to make things work the way one would expect it to work

    A Dallas based 1K with no American status.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *