American Airlines is using technology to cut down on staffing expense, in a way that I see as hurting customer service too. They have moved to single agent boarding for flights that are less than 80% full. The reduce the tasks the gate agent needs to do, ‘Agent Assist’ software is going to clear standby lists earlier on these domestic mainline flights.
That’s going to make it harder to run up to a gate and get on the standby list, getting to your destination earlier. That’s because empty seats may already have been given away – to other customers and to employees on nonrev travel – and because agents just won’t have time to deal with you when you show up after boarding has started.
However there’s one upside that I should be highlighting here: that standby customer has a much better chance of getting an upgrade.
- In order to get upgraded from coach to first class, you first need to be confirmed on the flight.
- Getting confirmed into coach an hour before departure, instead of at the last minute (often after upgrades have been given away) means that those former standby passengers listing for an upgrade are now positioned to get one.
You can standby for a flight, clear onto the flight at T-60, and then be on the list for when upgrades are processed. So while on the one hand it’s harder to just run up to a flight and get on it, if you’re standing by an hour in advance you may both get on the flight and get an upgrade if you’re an eligible elite customer.
According to an internal company memo on Friday,
Revenue and non-revenue customers waiting for an upgrade will be assigned seats in Main Cabin and agents will process upgrades, if available, based on current policy.
Once cleared off the standby list, Agent Assist will assign seats:
- Front to back for elites and nonrevs, “including Main Cabin Extra and Preferred seats, prior to moving to standard seating.”
- Back to front for non-elite passengers, “beginning with standard seats and, when necessary, Preferred and Main Cabin Extra (excluding exit row seating).”
While American is using technology to reduce the agent workload and reduce gate staffing, they’re also adding tasks at the gate too. In another company memo issued on Friday, agents were told they’ll have to start manually documenting the time that aircraft doors are closed in order to better comply with Department of Transportation tarmac delay rules.
Agents must document the door closure time after dispatching all mainline and regional flights using QIK in the C-Text:
QIK: SHIFT+ALT+R, F8
This information will be critical to the Control Center team members monitoring flights in TarmacMonitor.
Note: Even if the door close time has been documented using ConnectMe Teams or GateReader, this entry must be completed in QIK to ensure it is placed in the C-Text.