Flight Attendants Are Doing Two New Things On Their Devices During Boarding At American Airlines

Now that American Airlines has rolled out new iPhones and iPads to frontline employees they’ve been given a new tool. The airline has been talking up how they’ll use ConnectMe for four years.

It’s now been extended to 17 airports (including all of the airline’s hubs) to improve communication between the gate and crew on board an aircraft that’s getting ready to depart. This way flight attendants don’t have to pick up the phone and gate agents don’t come running down the jetbridge. There are two new things cabin crew are using it for.

American is using the new tool to prompt flight attendants to hit “D0” goals of exact on time departures. Each flight attendant’s company device now has a status bar and countdown clock for the flight. At ten out from scheduled departure, the status bar changes from green to orange, and then at 5 minutes out it goes red. The company expects the door to be closed.

The tool is also being used to communicate problems, like overhead bins filling up or passengers with duplicate seat assignments.

Hopefully flight attendants will give accurate updates on overhead bin space to the gate, rather than telling them to cut bags off too early. Then if gate agents trusted those real time eyes on the bins, rather than assuming the need to gate check, customers would be much better off.

Perhaps the two most common passenger complaints I see on twitter – regardless of airline – are that a checked bag has been beaten up, and also that a passenger was required to gate check their bag because ‘all of the overhead bins were full’ and then they board the plane and see a sea of empty bins.

Many gate agents are quick to make passengers check bags out of fear that the bins might fill up, because they don’t want to be checking bags at the last minute. Last minute bags take time – at the last minute – and risks missing exact on time departures by a couple of minutes. At American Airlines especially missing exact on time departure by two minutes is just as bad (worse even?) than being 45 minutes late.

In a message to employees about the new tool, the airline highlighted other automation to reduce the burden on gate agents trying to get a flight out on time, “like processing a standby list, allow them to spend more time on more critical interactions with our customers.” That’s… one way to look at it.

In fact, American’s automated process to clear upgrades and standbys earlier (“AgentAssist”) was designed so that a single agent can handle boarding for flights that are less than 80% full instead of staffing gates with two agents. This wasn’t to allow more time for customer interaction, it was part of a plan for reduced staffing that means less customer interaction.

Currently AgentAssist replaces gate agent processing of upgrades and standby passengers at the start of boarding. Agent Assist does it 60 and 40 minutes out (standbys processed 60 minutes out only on flights that are less than 80% full). Upgrades 40 minutes to departure are processed only for domestic flights (both mainline and regional). There are still gate agent tasks, but fewer of them, so that automation replaces agents.

Of course, with flight attendants legally required (generally at a ratio of 1 per 50 passengers an aircraft is configured for), ConnectMe won’t replace cabin crew any time soon.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. Here’s a very helpful tip that I wish you would impress upon your readers. Overhead bins are a shared space. 1 carry on item and 1 personal item, means just that. So when you approach the boarding door with the kitchen sink, not only are you selfish..but you hold up the process.

  2. Have airlines consider installing proximity sensors in the bins similar to parking garages with parking sensors to let them know if a bin is empty or full. Sounds silly for a plane but why not. Helps both consumer and company.

  3. And yes, I agree with Gary that this is NOT about “spending more time helping customers.” It’s help reduce the number of staff to save money. AA would have the entire process from check-in to baggage claim be self-service if they could figure out a way.

    OK, you want to save money. I get it. I wish companies would just come out and say it. And that applies to hotels with their “for your convenience, we’re reducing services” or “we’re doing it to save the planet” B.S.

  4. @Kimberley wait, what? I’m not allowed to have eight pieces of carry on luggage? That’s impossible!

  5. @thing1
    “… this is NOT about “spending more time helping customers.” It’s (to) help reduce the number of staff to save money.”

    You sound new to modern capitalism in the USA.. this should not be a surprise. If any airline found a way to eliminate all staff, they woild do so in a heartbeat.

    It is always aboit cost reduction. Gotta pay those CEO salaries…

  6. As an EXP, I am always amazed how the flight attendants always act like it is the first time for them.
    As stated previously, this isn’t for the passenger, it’s so they can do as little as possible.

    Want to see the flight crew in full color, reinstate the mask rule, they will be all over you with unwanted attention!

  7. Saw an absurd D0 interaction with my last AA flight between GAs and FAs on the PA system. Just embarrassing they lean so heavily into this metric.

  8. I wonder if it occurred to them to start boarding 5 or 10 minutes early so it’s not a mad scramble to close the door on time. I get it if there is a tight turnaround, but that is often not the case.
    Thankful there is a regulatory minimum for crew to pax, or they would do away with FA’s in coach altogether.

  9. It’s a given that airlines would like to reduce staff. Salaries are rising and staff are hard to find. This program makes sense to me.

  10. I wish AA would figure out that customers care about on time ARRIVALS and don’t give two craps about a few minutes delay if it means getting to take all their carryon luggage on board. They preach about caring for customers along life’s journey but their weird obsession with D0 proves it’s not really their priority and never will be.

  11. @Johnny. I think it is a union thing that Flight Attendants don”t get paid for boarding on AA. The last AA flight I was on the gate agent started boarding early and the #1 Flight Attendant blocked the door saying we don”t get paid and boarding can only start 30 minutes before departure.

  12. With all due respect, Delta FAs have had similar devices, communicate with the gate agent regarding overhead bin status, and they do a better job of not cutting it off too early or waiting too late so that bags have to be checked onboard.

    and Delta has boarded many flights with a single agent for years; I don’t know their criteria and there are plenty of flights w/ two or more agents but you have to give credit to AA for at least recognizing that there are other airlines that have invested in technology to improve their operations.

    And Delta probably now boards flights earlier than any other domestic airline – and their FAs are paid during boarding – so the company has plenty of reason to expect them to help facilitate the boarding process.

  13. Mr. Dunn is correct. Delta has used “Delta Family” app for many years. It connects the gate agent, ground agents, catering, flight attendants, flight crew, dispatch and numerous others. Like some of Delta’s other proprietary software, it allows the company to stay ahead of issues that will affect the customers and/or airline operations. American is just getting around to figuring this out!

  14. I’m a frequent flyer and what I don’t understand is when I see people boarding with very obvious more than the one carry one for up and one under the seat why they’re not stopped.

  15. Another thing regarding overhead bin space, some are larger and is required for the bags to go in sideways, yet I see 80% of people putting them flat. Maybe the gate agents need to relay this before boarding and then again for the FA to say it again in the plane. Bag space will not fill up as fast if people just learn and listen and are cognizant of their space.

  16. @AA Employee. If you leave on time then you arrive on time, pretty simple. Theres a lot of statistics that you probably don’t that support the importance of D0, the company didn’t just make it up because it sounds cool.

  17. Those First/Business class bins fill up fast with Coach passengers. If the aircraft is a Crj, bin space is smaller and underseat is wonky. In other cases, FA don’t want to allow the time it takes for folks to use the overhead and underseat, at boarding and deplaning. I stick with an underseat, when possible. Regional Crj’s are hit or miss for my bag.

  18. The agents boarding pass reader counts how many paxs have boarded. When the pre designated number is reached, the agent takes/starts checking all bags regardless of overhead bin space remaining. Sometimes you’ll have a large group who checks all their luggage – that leaves plenty of overhead bin space. The above pics are classic examples. Once the bags are tagged and checked- there’s no getting them back regardless if the overhead space is wide open.

  19. Every time you heard a GA say “we just got notification from the FA’s the overhead bins are full” it was a lie. The company installed a set time to cut off bags and that is why there was often still room when you were forced to check your bag.

  20. Ladies & Gentlemen: May I remind you that “traveling light” still goes a long way for passengers, inflight crew, CSAs, ramp agents in order to prevent chaos, frustrations, disagreements. Well, it may be asking for too much but, as a passenger, (& also a Flight Attendant) there’s nothing like a seamless experience when boarding in comfort, peace of mind, sanity intact with everyone coordinating & collaborating with safety and security in mind. Safe travels✈️

  21. You don’t need proximity sensors; you need one or two cheap cameras mounted so the gate agent can sew the luggage bins, or yoy can have one flight attendant call every 3-5 minutes with an estimate of space left. And if you habitually travel with too many carry-ons, stop griping about gate-check requirements, but if you don’t carry too many yourself, stop complaining about others who take their chances and get lucky to be allowed to take on more than they should. The airlines could solve the imbalance by adjusting the fees for checked baggage and for gate-checking on flights where booking figures and data on past flights suggest that the overhead bins will be insufficient to accommodate expected carey-ons.

  22. @Eddie Santiago – there’s a difference in effect of a 2 minute delay and a 40 minute one, there’s overemphasis on the former versus the latter.

    Having supervisors run down the jetway to yell at flight attendants isn’t as useful as getting all of the work in place to be actually ready to depart on time, from maintenance to cleaners to catering to baggage to processing of upgrades and standbys and nonrevs. There’s too much focus on D0 and not enough getting right the things that make D0 possible.

  23. I was on an AA flight this week and two AA FAs were seated in first class on each side of me. One across aisle and one beside me. They both brought 3 pieces on board and both put 2 in the overhead taking up about 25% of the FC overhead capacity.

  24. Well let’s make sure passengers only bring one carryon and one personal item. That would be great. Another thing follow instructions. The space under your seat is for bags not just your feet. So let’s slide that laptop and small backpack in there not just shun it on the overhead as the flight attendant is letting u know what to do. Let’s not ignore crew instructions. I know I’ll be the first one moving those small items that clearly fit under your seat. To your feet. Passengers don’t comply they don’t know the rules. So someone has to let them know. Even tho you get those roll of eyes and those uneducated comments. Good job on AA on that feature.

  25. @Fathiss…they had to be in uniform to be able to each bring 3 pieces. If they weren’t, the agent shouldn’t have let them pass. They were either commuting to or from work or deadheading to cover a flight. Usually the 3rd piece is a food bag. Food is not provided during the day unless you are working a long haul trip. Many times running from flight to flight, there is no time to stop at restaurants in airport. If you are a frequent flyer yourself you should have also experienced that.

  26. What I can see reading all the comments is ..how clueless the passengers are about the airline industry

  27. @ Rosie LMAO , I was just about to say the same thing. Been in this business for 37 years , I just come on here to laugh at these keyboard cowboys who know nothing about rules and FAA regulations .. LMFAO !!!!

  28. Gate agents count bags as pax board the aircraft and when a pre-set number is reached the rest of the carry on bags get gate checked, irregardless if there is more available overhead bin space. As you can see, the later your boarding group the more likely you will have to check a bag. This is announced prior to boarding and pax are given the option to check their carry on bags early. You can purchase priority boarding if you are worried about having to check a bag at the gate. If you arrive to the gate late and the bag limit has been reached you will have to gate check even if you are in an early boarding group. CRJ’s are valet check flights and no one brings on a carry on. If you are being honest do you really listen to the announcements made prior to boarding? D0 is an important metric as most folks have tight connections. A few minutes late at each turn and by the end of the day it has a huge impact on people traveling to their final destinations.

  29. Yep , More things to equip the FAs with having to do during boarding
    ( when they are NOT being paid until pushback )
    so they can do other people’s jobs ( that are getting paid ) !
    Remember ……FAs and Pilots are ONLY paid for Flying Time .
    Brilliant !

  30. Hey Richard [redacted -gl]. Flight attendants don’t get paid until the door closes. I’m pretty sure you don’t work for free why should they. It’s always that person that has never worked on a plane or in the airline industry that thinks they know EVERYTHING.

  31. Maybe the CSuites need to fly incognito (All a façade when everyone knows an exec from the ivory tower is on board – catering is early and 100% correct, Plane is spotless, etc) if they fly undercover in coach, they could grasp reality vs what they “think” works.

  32. The airlines are losing a ton of money by allowing people to get to the gate with oversized bags. Then, they say “you’ll have to let me take that bag” “ohhh, reallllllllyyy? No charge? My bad!” I’ve seen it a million times. That’s the real problem.

  33. United has handed out Company Iphones to agents and flt attendants for years with all the features AA is just starting to introduce…and more. Pilots got ipads same time. All of them are linked with the other work areas and with operations in a chat.

  34. The AA ConnectMe has a button labeled “Seat Dupe”, for use by flight attendants when two pax have been assigned the same seat. How can it happen that 2 pax have been assigned the same seat?

  35. Ok, the idea that AA sucks at carry-on bags is not a problem to AA. It’s industry wide. It just so happens to be that AA is the absolute worst at carry on bag control.

    The agents hate this program and the FA’s don’t want to use it as they’re not being paid.

    AA needs to get their head out of their asses and listen to the employees who used to be very honest about what works. NOw, they just don’t do it and then HQ wonders why shit sucks, they hire some clown who knows nothing about the problem at hand and makes it a sterile lame, pathetic excuse of a customer experience.

  36. You say the complaint about ‘all of the overhead bins were full’ applies “regardless of airline”.

    It does not. It doesn’t happen at Southwest, where bags fly free and people who don’t care about lugging them onboard always check them.

    Free checked bags is the solution to all this mess.

    Aslo, this is a reminder of how behind AA is with tech: it’s 2023 and they still didn’t have this???

  37. For those saying that 2 min delay at the gate does not matter do not know much about airport operations . Even if you are a gate agent and can’t comprehend the reason behind D0.
    The aircraft is occupying a precious gate. There is a plane out there that may be running late with customers connecting , and those two min in the tarmac waiting on a gate feel forever .
    If a customer arrives ONE late to the cut off time at the gate , which is currently d-15, he or she will be denied boarding. For ONE minute? They can give away your seat to a standby, and you best believe they are not going to unseat the standby (which doesn’t necessarily means an employee no Rev, a standby can be another revenue pax).
    So yes, leaving on time or before is crucial and can affect many people.

Comments are closed.