What American Is Telling Its Gate Agents About Automating Clearing Upgrades And Standbys

American has developed an automated process, AgentAssist, to clear upgrades and standbys earlier, so that a single agent can handle boarding for flights that are less than 80% full while still getting flights out exactly on time (“D0”).

Instead of agents processing upgrades and standby passengers at the start of boarding, Agent Assist does it 60 and 40 minutes out (standbys processed 60 minutes out only on flights that are less than 80% full).

Upgrades 40 minutes to departure are processed only for domestic flights (both mainline and regional).

Agent Assist could potentially run twice on a single flight once at D-60 to accommodate to [sic] OS customers and again at D-40 to assign seats to remaining OS, DSR, RF, UPG, RI, RV and non-revenue customers.

Processing standbys earlier does make it possible for customers to get a main cabin seat and then be eligible for an upgrade 40 minutes out. However processing standbys earlier makes it tougher for a customer to run up to the gate, trying to make an earlier flight, and still get on. Non-revenue customers may be cleared onto a flight ahead of paid customers trying to fly earlier.

I’m happy with the tradeoff because when the algorithm decides who gets the seats I shouldn’t need to worry about rogue agents:

  • Agents who decide that some passengers deserve the seat more than others, for instance passengers who have been waiting longer trumping passengers with higher status

  • Agents who decide only to give upgrades to passengers waiting at the gate, so those sitting in the club until the club at the last minute get skipped over

Nonetheless, despite processing upgrades and standbys via algorithm, agents retain control and can still trump the computer. The agent will “still have control of the flight. Even though Agent Assist assigns the seats, [agents] should still check tthat the list was processed properly.” Algorithms though are likely more accurate than many agents.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. 40 minutes before a flight is not too early to stop further passengers from booking on a flight.

    I wonder if AA has an automated program to cancel misconnects and clear any remaining standbys at 15 minutes before departure.

  2. I love the system automatically clearing upgrades. It has treated me well thus far. I do not like how standby is handled. You can clear in to a seat, but it won’t update your app with your new flight, so you have to wait at the counter to get a paper ticket, and you won’t receive flight updates or boarding notifications. I cleared standby on to a flight with a rolling delay yesterday with a gate agent that provided no updates, so I felt like I couldn’t leave the gate area. I would have much preferred to wait out the 2 hour delay in the AC.

  3. Now if they could process all the extra “carry-on bags” at the ticket counter (or curb side) more flights would depart on time.

  4. I suspect the GA’s will appreciate the computer automatically handling this in advance. A lot fewer keystrokes for them.

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