Here’s Why American is Excited About Their New Boarding Music. (And It’s Really Pretty Good.)

In the fall American changed their boarding and arrival music. And since the new tunes are getting positive reaction they’re sharing the current and upcoming playlists.

No doubt some of the excitement stems from seeing tweets from LA-based celebs who dig the new music.. the little things that help them in that fiercely competitive market where United, Delta, Southwest and even Alaska have a strong presence and no one can get more gate space to expand.

Interestingly, they’re candid that they made the change because of customer complaints about the old music.

In October, American replaced its previous playlists of piano versions of chart-topping pop songs with a surprisingly edgy mix of indie music. The new tunes feature contemporary acts such as The XX, Moby, The Postal Service, Bon Iver and Haim. The decision to change to the lesser-known indie music was a reaction to customers’
complaints, which included boredom.

It never occurred to me to complain about boarding music. But then it never occurred to me to complain to the Department of Transportation about not being able to deplane before business class as an elite frequent flyer, either.

Here’s the current March boarding playlist.

And the arrival playlist:

They’ve also shared what the boarding playlist will be next month:

Of course the aircraft have the ability to play music that the flight attendants bring onboard.

On the oneworld MegaDO we landed at LAX to the Commodores’ Brick House. One of the flight attendants might have put on some gangsta rap after that – but an American Airline exec shut that down pretty quickly and we returned to the American Airlines standard!

I do wonder whether the ‘candor’ is because it’s a new team in charge, and so it’s easy to criticize the decisions of one’s predecessors. Nonetheless, I’ve noticed the new music and much like it.

I’m glad they’ve thus far kept the existing welcome and safety video, probably just because I”ve had several flight attendants featured on the video on my flights. I don’t like the new arrival video though (‘we’re glad you decided to fly with us today, and we know you’re ready to be on your way..’). It just feels really stilted. And no one listens to the video about keeping their seatbelts on any more than they listed to flight attendant announcements, either.

Still they are clearly listening regarding inflight service. And not just about the cookies. They’ve rewritten the script prior to departure about ‘last chance to get off’ after complaints about how stilted it was (they added this to set a clear start time for the DOT tarmac delay rule). It now seems perfectly normal, and not just because I’ve simply gotten used to it.

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 »

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  1. United went through about 4 safety videos in a year based on customer feedback.

    Sad that for American this sort of ‘responsiveness’ is a surprise.

  2. I actually really loved the Piano Pop music and was disappointed when I boarded my first flight without it. Guess I was in the minority. 🙁 Never thought to complain about it going away though.

  3. Good Move – actually noticed the XX tune while boarding earlier this week and it put me in a good mood.

    Well chosen (and often changed) boarding music can improve the boarding process for sure.

  4. The only reason you’d need them music for long is if they can’t get the door opened immediately upon arrival – a pet peeve of mine. Especially at Boston there seems to be an employee culture that they’ll get there when they’re ready and you can wait. It is surely something that a sharp exec would develop a protocol for, something like employee should be in place on jetway while jet is pulling up, not after. They could easily monitor the agents’ card swipes onto jetway to see if they really met the flight. Make the requirement five minutes before or there is an inquiry. Discipline should ensue.

    You can have the best flight ever and if you’re forced to wait on the plane for ten minutes while a gate agent shows up, it really ruins it and causes bad feelings for the airline. Fix it or forfeit business to those who do!

  5. I wonder if it’s a response to Delta, which has been using the album Drive from Tycho. Either way, this is a win for passengers!

  6. @greg That actually is, for the most part, standard operating procedure at AA. They call it the “door open” time and it’s measured in their computer as the aircraft have a little button that triggers when the door is opened. The standard is 1 minute.

    They can’t use the jetbridge swipes to monitor agent movement because those are owned by the airport authority and not AA (or any airline). However, agents are trained to be on their jetbridge to meet the aircraft 15 minutes prior to arrival.

    Reality, of course, hits when the agent is dispatching a flight at another gate and is scheduled to meet an early aircraft. Also it canbe incredibly intimidating to drive a 25 ton jetbridge in the dark when all you have is a joystick and a button. It’s far more serious to an agent if they damage an aircraft than to be late opening the door. Not every one is experienced, so it can cause delays while driving the jetbridge to the aircraft door.

  7. Boarding music? Who needs muzak when boarding an airplane? Can’t you find your seat without it or is there not enough noise already?

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