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.