Did you know that if you check in using American’s mobile app, and wish to use a mobile boarding pass, you have to pull it up prior to the start of boarding? That’s apparently “The infuriating rule American Airlines won’t tell you about until it’s too late”
Yesterday, I learned that American Airlines will throw you under the bus — er, plane — if you arrive at the airport after your scheduled boarding begins but before you have had a chance to load your digital boarding pass for the first time.
This exact scenario happened to me. The result? I got caught in a Twilight Zone of air travel, trapped between a TSA agent who needed to inspect my boarding pass and an airline that refused to give it to me. Helplessly, I had to watch my plane depart even though I still had 10 minutes (at least!) to make it to my gate. Unable to proceed any further, I was forced to abandon my place in line, get a standby ticket for the next flight to Dallas and spend the night on a sad cot listening to the sounds of linoleum being waxed under fluorescent lighting that never turned off, instead of making it home.
Leaving aside that no one actually ‘forced’ the author to ‘spend the night on a sad cot’, it’s likely no one is surprised that there’s a cutoff time for check-in. It’s a reasonable rule, in my opinion, so that seats assigned to people who aren’t going to show up for their flight may be given to others that are standing by and want to fly.
In fact American has a web page dedicated to it. For domestic flights you need to check in at least 45 minutes prior to departure.
You have several ways to get a boarding pass in time. For instance,
- You can check in up to 24 hours in advance on the American Airlines website.
- You can check in using their mobile app.
- You can check in at an airport kiosk.
- You can check in at a ticket counter (unlike Spirit Airlines, American will not charge you for a boarding pass printed by an agent).
In case any of this seems obscure, when you buy a ticket from American Airlines they send you an email that says:
You may check in and obtain your boarding pass for U.S. domestic electronic tickets within 24 hours of your flight time online at AA.com by using www.aa.com/checkin or at a Self-Service Check-In machine at the airport. Check-in options may be found at www.aa.com/options. For information regarding American Airlines checked baggage policies, please visit www.aa.com/baggageinfo.
Here’s what the author is actually complaining about. He says he checked in using American’s mobile app but never pulled up a boarding pass. But you have to pull up the boarding pass in advance.
The author posits “[m]aybe you’re in a rush and have only a few minutes in between meetings to deal with flights” and therefore have time to hit the check-in button, but no time to pull up a boarding pass on the mobile app. Or “[m]aybe your mobile Internet connection gets cut off” or “[m]aybe you’re just an idiot who delayed downloading it until later.”
As a result he “had to watch [his] plane depart even though [he] still had 10 minutes (at least!) to make it to [the] gate.”
Something tells me he’s not familiar with the rule about being on board 15 minutes prior to departure. Although he may have a legitimate beef about that, too: I can no longer find on the American Airlines website the requirement to
Arrive at the gate and be ready to board at least 15 minutes prior to scheduled departure
That used to be on the boarding process page and on the check-in and arrival times page. But it’s gone. And I can only see the statement “To better ensure an on-time departure, our goal is to close the jetbridge door 10 minutes prior to departure time.”
I don’t have a ton of sympathy for author Brian Fung. However I suspect no one reading will ever check in but not access their boarding pass on the mobile app, especially when arriving at security while their flight is already boarding.
It’s a good idea to access your boarding pass through the mobile app right away anyway because the app will store the boarding pass when you do — and in case the app fails to do so later you can pull up the one you’ve saved.