New American Airlines Rules Force Passengers To Congregate At The Gate Earlier, Miss More Connections

American Airlines has updated its rules have been tightened to require customers to be at the gate earlier, and to board flights earlier.

As Zach Griff uncovered, American now requires:

  • Customers on domestic flights to be at the gate 30 minutes prior to flight, instead of the previous 15 minutes
  • Customers on international flights to be at the gate 45 minutes prior to flight, instead of the previous 30 minutes
  • Boarding to end 15 minutes prior to departure, instead of doors close 10 minutes out.

These are measures that will encourage on-time departures at the expense of passengers.

Doors Close 15 Minutes To Departure Will Mean More People Miss More Flights

With inbound connections running late, I’ve had to run for my share of flights. In February I wrote about arriving for a flight home at 11 minutes to departure and finding the door closed. The agent opened it for me. (There are 3 cases where gate agents are supposed to hold the boarding door even when it’s time to close.)

Requiring Passengers To Show Up At the Gate Earlier Doesn’t Sync With American’s Operation

Requiring passengers to be at their gate 30 minutes prior to departure for a domestic flight and 45 minutes prior to an international flight is absurd for several reasons.

  • American Airlines sells connections that are less than 30 minutes, for instance flights arriving and departing the E terminal in Charlotte have a 25 minute minimum connection time (flight number ranges 2950-6099).

  • American’s mobile app push boarding notifications that were added back in the fall are meant to allow customers not to be in the gate area until boarding commences. That’s frequently inside of the 30 minute domestic window, and it can take several minutes to get from a club to the gate (once clubs re-open, of course).

  • American fails to properly update departure times based on knowledge of certain delays. Flights may be ’30 minutes to departure’ even when they don’t take off for two hours. And as the airline runs through rolling delays, 5-15 minutes at a time, taken literally this rule would mean that customers couldn’t ever leave the gate during hours-long delays.

Requiring passengers to spend more time congregating in cramped gate areas is the opposite direction from where the airline should be moving in the current era which calls for greater social distancing.

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. I disagree. 1. This will let AA space out passengers as more and more start to fly. 2. People are distancing and will continue too. 3. Connections today and 2 – 3 hours, not the 30 minutes from 2 months ago. A huge difference and AA does hold plane (yes I know you don’t think so but they do) if it’s the last flight out to that destination for the day.

    Different time, glad to see different thinking.

  2. @Gary – You should do an article on how the airline industry needs to scrap BE. If they are trying to entice FFs with lower qualifying thresholds, they need to do away with BE as well.

  3. @sunviking82: There are plenty of connections less than an hour with AA, especially at CLT. To Gary’s point, ORF-CLT-FLO in mid-May appears to have a 30 minute connection option. Per their new policy, a passenger would need to be at their connecting gate for the 2nd when the first flight is scheduled to have its door open.

  4. They just need to require all passengers to be at the gate 6 hours before departure. Board everyone 5 hours before departure. Immediately close the door and not let anyone, and then sit back and wait four and a half hours until pulling back from the gate. Ta – da ! They have met their all important on-time-departure goal.

  5. Talking about Charlotte Airport. Land at Charlotte early at 5pm for a 615pm departure to Detroit, drive around for 20 minutes because there is a plane at our gate. Have to wait for carryon bags to get unloaded because they didn’t fit in the Gulfport puddle jumpers bins. Gate was E31 and connection was gate A8. Makes no sense, I’m 63 and my wife 56 and we had to hustle about a 20 minute walk. American really doesn’t care about passengers as I see most of connections of 30-40 minutes. Does not leave any wiggle room for issues.

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