Run To The Gate To Catch An Earlier Flight? Starting Tomorrow American Airlines Will Turn You Away

Time after time I’ve gotten home early when I’ve been willing to run. My connecting flight lands in Dallas a little bit early, I’m one of the first off the plane, and I book it to the gate of an earlier flight to Austin that hasn’t left yet. There’s still an open seat or two (or maybe someone doesn’t make the flight.) I walk up to the gate agent and ask to get added to the flight. For most customers, the answer from American Airlines is going to be “no” starting March 1, 2024.

As an Executive Platinum member I’m at the top of the standby list and squeak on. I even make it back for dinner with my wife and daughter, or at least get a better night’s sleep. It’s one of the sweetest victories in travel, and it’s a chance that American Airlines takes away from most passengers on March 1.

  • American Airlines is limiting free standby to members of the AAdvantage program, and requiring requests to be made via self-service channels for nearly all passengers.

  • What they haven’t shared publicly is that unless you are a Platinum Pro, Executive Platinum, ConciergeKey or oneworld emerald member you will no longer be able to run up to the gate and make an earlier flight.

That’s because they’ve taken away airport standby requests from anyone that less than Platinum Pro AAdvantage status and because app and website requests must be made at least 45 minutes in advance. It’s only those customers with the highest status who will be able to be added to standby at the gate, up to 15 minutes prior to departure.

If you’re merely a lifetime AAdvantage Platinum member, and if you land early in Dallas and want to get on my flight home to Austin, you’re probably not at the gate 45 minutes prior to departure – 10 minutes before they begin boarding, even. You’ll just be turned away and stuck with dinner alone at Pappadeaux instead of with your family.

Little by little we keep peeling back the onion of these changes to learn more than American Airlines initially announced.

  • When they first said standby would be restricted to loyalty program members, that was a hoop but manageable. Although note that non-status program members cannot stand by if they’ve already checked a bag.

  • Then they dropped into a larger email that standby would have to be requested on a self-service basis (though, in fact, top elites would be exempted from this).

  • They haven’t even proactively told customers about the time restrictions that prevent running up to the gate to make an earlier flight.

Here’s American’s memo to reservations agents describing the changes:

More detailed rules regarding eligibility, timeframes, and ineligible tickets are here. Note that corporate PNRs are not eligible!

And note details on waived fees for same day confirmed changes – Alaska Airlines top tier members are not eligible for waived fees if traveling on a basic economy ticket.

I understand the drive to make passengers join AAdvantage, in order to market to them and try to convert them to a credit card. But telling them they can’t walk up to and earlier flight and get home for dinner isn’t a great sales pitch. Telling them that nobody will help them and they have to use self-service tools isn’t, either.

American has been driving towards staffing reductions, and has automated many of the functions that were handled by gate agents so that domestic flights that are less than 80% full now have just one agent managing boarding. That’s tough because it makes them less likely to process last minute upgrades, and makes them less able to monitor passengers for intoxication prior to boarding. But it saves money. And limiting the ability for customers to request stand by at the gate supports this goal as well.

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. The airline industry gets away with things that other buisnesses wouldnt even try, because they would get sued abd lose. How is it you buy a ticket, if you cant use it for some reason, you cant sell it or even transfer nit to a family member. How is that fair? But I guess monopolies are ok as long as youre willing to ani up to certain political parties or politicians

  2. Obviously this is valuable information but I fail to see how this policy affects more than a tiny percentage of AA customers. I do agree AA should do a better job of explaining their policy changes.

  3. In another life I worked for DL for about 20 years, much of it as a gate agent. Routinely would have passengers booked on later flights come up, sometimes just a few minutes before departure and would put them on that flight. Full fare went ahead of NRSA if they hadn’t been cleared yet. And having worked as a load planner a few added passengers doesn’t make any significant difference.

  4. If you want to be home at a certain time, book the flight that gets you there at that time. Book the earlier flight. Get up early and take the early connection. It’s not hard.

  5. Horrible airline. Id much rather fly Southwest and get treated much better and arrive on time.

  6. I fly AA all the time for work. I’m Executive Platinum. I change flights all the time without any issue or frustration, because I use the APP. I use APPs for all my travel arrangements for flights, car rentals, Hotels etc. and book, switch, cancel, update, upgrade, you name it. For those who are tech inept I can understand why this new policy bugs you.

    I have never had a gate agent, flight attendant, customer service associate or any of the airlines employees be rude, or “high and mighty” with me. Actually they have always been pleasant. I have seen them get aggressive with unruly and snotty customers, like the passenger that is on such an important business call that they cant hang up. If the staff is mean, then its probably because you are the problem. That goes for all the airlines, not just AA.

  7. So, somehow you’re mad that the flight YOU booked, you must take? You’re upset that if YOU get in earlier, YOU can’t take an earlier flight? Also, pre-covid if you wanted this done, you would have to pay a fee! It only changed for 4 years….. now back to its regular schedule program ! Want to get home earlier, book an earlier flight! But that’s not what people are doing! Ppl are booking the cheapest flight which is normally later in the day, and getting to the airport earlier to switch the flight, free of charge! Sorry! Can’t do that anymore

  8. I agree with the new policy. People book cheaper seats and then want to stand by for an earlier flight for free. Puts undo stress on the gate agents and airlines. Book the flight you want and leave it be. I am not referring to top tier passengers.

  9. At Cornell University they have an incredible piece of scientific equipment known as the Tunneling Electron Microscope. Now, this microscope is so powerful that by firing electrons you can actually see images of the atom, the infinitesimally minute building blocks of our universe. If I were using that microscope right now, I still wouldn’t be able to locate my interest in your problem.
    This is the most first world of first world problems, and affects such a tiny subset of a niche group of individuals that I am astonished that this subject was considered worthy of such a long-winded whinge masquerading as an article.

  10. They forgot to mention on this article that active duty military are an exception on this rule. AA always goes above and beyond for their military service personnel.

  11. American AALWAYS put itself first, before passengers.

    If it only learned (like Delta has!) to put psgrs first their service and reputation would improve drastically.

  12. I don’t understand why an airline would not want to fill empty seats on an earlier flight. From a business standpoint it makes sense to maximize available capacity. The later flight will have an additional open seat which may now be sold.

  13. Employees need to commute to work. It’s rude to list last minute and bump them off.

  14. I don’t get the reasoning here. Why wouldn’t they want to fill up the plane that’s about to leave and instead have extra seats later? Catching an unexpected early connection is a win win for both traveler and airline.

  15. I blame our government, for Not making the airlines friendlier and mostly cramming us into seats that are too close and not big enough for a ove average size…

  16. This type of change is why AA sucks so bad.
    They don’t have any customer service and charge for everything they possibly can.
    Spirit did the same thing to there customers, see what happened to

    If they weren’t based at DFW they would be out of business.

  17. Part of the delay reason for airlines is the 25 people standing by for an earlier flight. Passengers buy the cheapest ticket and go standby on earlier flights.
    At one time they charged and they should again. Less people would be at the gate creating chaos.
    We all want to get home for dinner early but it is the only fair way for other travelers

  18. Tried this today as Platinum Pro and first gate agent (while as nice as could be) told me that he couldn’t put me on the list. They have been instructed not to help anyone with regards to stand-by requests. There was no way on the app to add myself to the stand-by list. There were no available options on the same day flight change list. Checking the flight status of the flight I wanted to get on, I knew there were 12 available seats and currently 10 people on the stand-by list. After trying to work through the app with another agent and confirming that it wasn’t possible, they put me on the list as they would have gladly done yesterday (2/29). I was number 1 on the list and made the flight along with all others on stand-by. It seems to me that the agents are equally frustrated with this last minute, forced and untested corporate change. It will be interesting to see how long it takes to iron out the wrinkles.

  19. Ben Leonard,

    It only impacts a very tiny fraction of AA flyers. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it impacts a large proportion of those us who have been very frequent domestic flyers.

    Of the legacy major airlines’ domestic routes in which I have flown 10 times or more, I’ve flown standby at least once on most or them. And the more frequently I have flown a route, the more likely I have had use for free and easy standby and preferred to fly carriers that give me priority on standby waitlists. I doubt I am unique among by-air commuters and very frequent domestic business flyers.

  20. Wait a minute. If they have an open seat, it can only go on standby for “PREMIUM” people of AA. But if I book a ticket that goes to say NY and has a layover in say Cleveland. And I decide to get off and not finish my trip. I get penalized. I completely agree with the person(s) above, about the monopolization, politicians and etc…

  21. That’s a shame. If you are there and no one else is it can those on your original flight that might be overbooked. So there’s no rational reason to deny this.

  22. It sounds like a good decision to me and you are just being a complaining baby. Get their on time or don’t. Don’t expect extra privileges because you are “gold” lmfaoooo.

  23. Your comment is awaiting moderation. This is a preview; your comment will be visible after it has been approved.
    It’s nice how you censor comments lol

    are you freaking serious!?

  24. USAir did the same thing to me in PHX MANY years ago. I can still remember sitting there fuming, as the aircraft left the gate with MANY empty seats, like it was yesterday. I never flew US again…that is until they bought AA. Even with lifetime Platinum, with each “improvement” (i.e. cost cutting measure) I’m feeling more and more like it’s time to fly the best airline/flight, not AA.

  25. And this is why after the worst flight experiences on AA a few weeks ago I swore I would never fly AA again. They have no customer service whatsoever.

  26. This is great news for our commuting flight attendants that are trying to get to and from work to take you to and from where you need to be. It allows a seat to free up for them.

  27. Well some of it I understand. Many people by the cheapest fare which is usually later flights but then jump on the earlier expensive flights. While agents are trying to process flights and standbys, last minute people running up doesn’t help.

  28. The whining from most of those commenting far surpasses the whine of the engines on the plane.
    Many seem to view this matter only from their very narrow perspective.
    Let me paint a scenario for you. Mr (Mrs) EP comes running up at the last minute with their roller board and computer bag and when they get to the aircraft the bins are closed (don’t forget D5). Now the FAs have to go searching for space in the bins. Know what this cost?…it cost time of which there is precious little at this point. And should there be no space the bag will have to be checked requiring a ramper to come up get the bag, bring the belt loader back up to the plane to load the bag…again costing time.
    No gate agent is going to incur the wrath of their supervisor for that.
    One final thing, bonuses for certain personnel are predicated on timely departures.
    Many folks here claim they will never fly AA again. All I can say is someone else will fill that seat.

  29. I’ll drive 2 days rather then fly American. Dallas to bdl. There should be other airlines that can do this route. American has it wrapped up unfortunately!!!!

  30. At least American Airlines is first in honesty about how much they dislike their customers.

  31. Please bought the flight that’ll get where you need to be at the time you desire that’ll take care of your problems. Remember you’re in need of a favor, therefore you’re at their mercy.Get that!!!!

  32. I don’t really understand why people are so upset. How about you book the flight and the connection you want? This article caters to those people who just want to be a victim of everything….those who think the world should cater to them and accommodate their lack of ability to plan or think ahead.

  33. Guys/gals, we know the reasoning here. They want to “streamline” the airport experience. With one agent working most flights, they don’t want the once-per-year flyer running up taking up their time being added to the list 10 minutes before departure. Especially when they schedule A320 turns for 40 minutes and they want doors closed D-:10. Yes, this will streamline the process – but at what cost? Ticking everyone off? That being said, just join the AAdvantage program and download the app if this is important to you.

    The bigger story here: AA is running (or trying to run) like Southwest, without the efficiencies and hustle culture Southwest has. With quick turns all day long, the lone agent working each flight is rushed, and cannot provide attentive service. At least DL (and lately UA) get that running a full-service international legacy carrier requires more than 40 minutes to turn a full in/full out A320. I predict we will see more carriers implement similar standby list restrictions in the future.

  34. So the hours of vacation time they cost me over the years due to overbooking, delays etc is going to be paid back to me?

  35. American Airlines has not been known for their customer service. As an employee for another major airline I can tell you this will bite them in the butt. The benefit of filling an earlier flight allows them seats for those that misconnect later in the day . American could end up with angry passangers later in day and paying for more hotel nights for these customers. It’s just opening the pandora’s box to Many problems. Won’t last long.More abuse towards the gate agents to deal with..

  36. I agree with others that this affects such a small subset of people. Gary is writing this because it personally affects him. It won’t affect Akita of people.

    And like others sad, if you want the earlier flight, buy the earlier flight. But no you want the cheapest flight.

    I think that having it on the app makes it more streamlined and then the gate agents aren’t bothered by this requests and can work on other tasks to get the flight moving. Not all customers are decent and they might be very rude. So they may not be nice to the gate agent when wanting to get an earlier flight. If it’s all handled by the app. We are essentially reducing the stress the gate agent might have to go through. They just have to refer them to the app.

    It also helps give more fliers a fair chance to get that ticket. Instead of it being Gary running to the gate to get it, it’s the first to snag it on the app. That gives more opportunities. I never knew ot was an option so it was just for the lucky ones.

    I am betting this way more open seats do get filled being in the app. Which is great for consumers to have that option and not just the few who were aware.

    This affects Gary more than most of his readers. Now the secret might be out and he won’t get the chance to use it. I guess buy the earlier ticket at that price instead of the cheaper one. Stop being entitled. That doesn’t make a good article.

  37. Hi – I’m struck by how AA seems to have the most funny-business at the gate, among the major airlines. I long ago (15 yrs ago) had status w AA, then with United, now w Delta.

    My last AA flight was full, but I got bumped because they gave up on “board now or else” announcements early (like 30 mins before flight time) and had given away my seats already (good seats together, we were a group of 2 – and I had paid full-fare!) when I got to gate 20 mins before flight time.

    I researched online after that, and found out this was an American-specific thing, because their agents face huge pressure to get flights released on time, to the point where in effect they have to get everything done earlier than stated policy. I think Delta and United have more of a “guys, just do your best (to get out on time w/o bumping anybody)” attitude. At least, that’s what I picked up from my hundreds of United flights and connections.

    So I’m not surprised to see AA now tightening walk-up stand-by. I wonder if it’s not AA’s IT that’s part of the problem, with them trying to push standby requests online 45 mins early. (By analogy, I notice you need like a couple of hour window before flight time before they can convert miles into an award ticket, while you can do it instantly on the website with either Delta or United.)

    Anyway, my bad gate experience with AA broke the tie for me whether to pursue Delta or AA status. I’m in NYC so they’re totally interchangeable for me at JFK.

  38. This is extremely short sighted and is a time bomb waiting to explode.

    This will become a massive problem when there is misconnects.

    Let’s assume 10 passengers misconnect to a flight. The later flight has 5 open seats. This means 5 passengers do not get home that night.

    If there were 7 standbys on the earlier flight, everyone gets home.

    Add to that, American sells tickets with tight connections and if you show up later than 15 minutes before the flight, they won’t let you board.

    American may call it weather and deny compensation to the stranded passengers.

  39. And I thought Air Canada was a PR nightmare. Soon this airline will have no passengers left to board

  40. American Airlines Sucks Period hands down they have bogus bullshit people working there that don’t do their job correctly. Oh some of them are racist. This is not my opinion this is a fact. Some of you may say oh he must been kicked off a flight. I have never in my life been kick off a flight or didn’t comply with that rules and regulations. Why would I when I use to work there and I know all the rules and regulations. They band me cause someone who I never met but had a conversation with said oh you can’t fly with American if you was fired. Ha I never been fired there is a big difference in being fired and saying No I quit because of sexual Harassment. Sorry Folk I love Girls and Girls only Not with that homosexual. So this guy puts down he fired me no I quit period. Back to the other people involved this racist SOB said that I was buying flights from someone when in reality the answer is no and was no and low and behold if I was how can you penalize me and band me from buying a ticket when I didn’t even work there. So all in all they racially profiled me and not only did they do that they as a company failed as a whole. I was never told or informed about being banned bought a ticket for my birthday to go see my son and I get to the airport wait go thru security to only be told you are not allowed to get on this flight or any other flight. Had to buy a ticket and guess who saves the Day DELTA so to all of you about saying American this and that better read the fine lines and think twice.

  41. This is just one of numerous reasons that I no longer fly nearly as much as I used to. The airlines are 100% about $$$ and not the customers.

  42. It is always a good idea to have some empty seats… think of annoying passengers that need to be reassigned mid flight! Or big/overweight passengers that can barely fit an average seat and may need more breathing room of space without having to cram 3 people in a row:) or simply for the peace that comes in seeing a not so crowded plane;) I think American has your comfort in mind! LOL

  43. If you show up at the gate for an earlier flight and it’s half empty why wouldn’t you let the person on? It’s been my experience when I book that it’s the later flights that cost more not the earlier flight. Therefore, I am not following people trying to save money by standing by for an earlier flight that are in the comments. Secondly when traveling for business sometimes meeting are done early and trying to get on an earlier flight only makes sense. A reasonable person wouldn’t proactively book the earlier flight knowing you have an appointment conflict What I find most confusing by some of the comments and the AA policy is that the airline says it is causing time restraints for its agents because they are booking one per flight. If only a small portion of your flying population is being affected wouldn’t this issue be more than the exception than the rule? Why not leave this to the discretion of the agent ? Finally regarding connecting flights. Your reasonable traveler is going to book the later connector so they don’t get stuck. Keep in mind typically its not the idea of the traveler to stop off at an extra city. However, if their original flight arrives early why would you deny them boarding because the airline is using a hub and spoke system? Which brings me to my next point. If AA is trying to model Southwest with the quick turns your first order of business would be to eliminate that system and utilize different airports.

  44. What an inefficient money hungry policy to put in place. American Airlines already isn’t my first choice but unfortunately their the main airline who flies out of my local airport. They suck! Clearly everyone benefits by getting to their destination faster? Most of the time you only get to the desk 15 minutes before boarding never 45. I already have a premium American Airlines credit card with few perks. This is the nail in the coffin. Clearly they only care about raising their prices, getting rid of incentives unless you have a 350$ a year card. Not to mention the extreme decline in service the past two years. Every other flight has extreme delays which result in being reconnected, hotel stays, leaving the airport and totally rebooking days later. I wish I didn’t have to fly American but after this I will be canceling my card. They don’t care about customer service unless you’re premium member this has made that so clear…

  45. the more the airlines squeeze the last buck out of every passenger, the harder the passengers will be to deal with. I used to work for Delta back in the 90’s when customer service was the rule for every decision that was made. I truly hate to travel by air now, and have no desire to participate in the horrible process it has become today. you all can have my seat on the plane, I’m driving. enjoy life in airline hell.

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