American’s New Push Boarding Notifications Work Differently Than You Think

American Airlines announced yesterday that their mobile app will prompt customers when their flight is boarding. That’s something that Delta, United, and Southwest have already offered. I mentioned American beta testing this back in April.

JT Genter says “app users will automatically get a notification when their flight has begun boarding” and that’s the general idea – I don’t think he intends it as a precise description of how this feature works, but it seemed like knowing what actually triggers the notification could be useful to some people (or at least good to know).

One Mile at a Time offers “It’s my understanding that the push notification is tied to when the first boarding pass is scanned” but that’s not quite correct.

It is not the precise start of boarding or when the first boarding pass gets scanned that triggers the boarding notification to a customer.

Here’s what actually happens:

  • GateReader sends a message to the Customer Notification Engine “when the 5th customer is boarded with GateReader within the boarding window” per an internal airline document on the change.

  • The boarding window “is defined as latest posted ETD in FLIFO + Scheduled Boarding Time + 5 Minutes”


I don’t see the feature as being nearly as valuable as others have suggested. If you wait to leave the lounge until your flight is boarding, you probably aren’t going to get overhead bin space above your seat. So you’re still going to need to be near the gate for bin space, even during rolling delays.

Given the extreme pressure on gate agents for ‘D0’ – getting a plane out exactly on time – many will make customers gate check their bags even when there’s plenty of bin space still left on the aircraft. That’s because they don’t want to risk the time it takes for a passenger to board, discover there’s no bin space, and then get it tagged and loaded. It’s easy to just announce everyone has to get check.

At least on aircraft that have new bigger bins gate agents aren’t supposed to preemptively make you gate check bags.

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. This worked perfectly on my delayed ORD-LGA flight today. In the club, 90 minutes late, I got the notice, and got to the gate by group 4…its better than no notice.

  2. Worked yesterday for me as well, but the question I have, are you saying that if they start boarding the plane 10-15 minutes early (as some agents are prone to do), people won’t get a boarding notification, or at least not until it is 5 minutes before the boarding time?

  3. All I want to know is if there a way to turn this “feature” off…

    Don’t want or need it. Information overload.

  4. Tgp called this a “game changer” on Facebook… I tend to agree with you. I rather they just follow their stated times so I could trust the app.

  5. I fly United where I get the notifications by SMS and in the app (also using Tripit) and frankly they’re a waste of space, as I’m already at the gate or on the plane (I’m 1K).

    The only valuable notification is from Tripit Pro when the flight is delayed and then “Pulled In”, aka the delay is shortened and they’ll be boarding very soon. I don’t know any airline that has that alert directly, so the first to do it gets my kudos. I doubt it’ll be AA.

  6. I just boarded an AA flight at DCA and was the 3rd person scanned. A few seconds later I got the notification from AA that my flight was boarding, so I can confirm the 5th person scanned thing seems accurate.

  7. It’s a start. I was at the gate for an A-321 domestic flight last month 40 minutes before departure, and they were boarding group 7.

  8. Just remember @Bob & @Jeff that when you turn off the app’s notifications you also lose the app’s notifications for delays and gate changes.

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