Would You Trade Your Carry-on for Early Boarding?

Last week FareCompare noted a new experiment being conducted by American Airlines: Anyone who agrees to forgo using a carry-on bag will get the privilege of early boarding.

We’ve been getting some questions about this and here are some answers.

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What Airports are Involved?

At this point, according to media reports, the experiment is being conducted at four U.S. airports: Baltimore, Austin, Washington-Dulles and Ft. Lauderdale. American is being somewhat cagey about these tests, only saying they will do this for a limited time before analyzing the results.

Is This a Good Deal?

Hard to say. Passengers give up the convenience of a carry-on – or at least, a large carry-on, since it only applies to bags that must be stowed in overhead bins as opposed to under the seat in front of you. If you have give up your carry-on in favor of a checked-bag, you will pay the one-way checked baggage fee of $25.

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Note: As others have pointed out, one of the main reason travelers like early boarding, is so they’ll be able to find bin space for bags. If you don’t have a bag, well, no need for the bin space now, is there?

Why is American Doing This

All airlines want to streamline boarding procedures. Over the years, we’ve seen experiments in fee-based early boarding, scientific studies on faster boarding conducted by an astrophysicist center, do-it-yourself robotic boarding and more. The quicker the boarding process, the quicker planes leave on time and that’s important since these figures are published on a monthly basis by the Department of Transportation – which could be construed as a kind of public shaming.

But as The Los Angeles Times points out, there’s money at stake too and they quote a transportation study that says every minute cut from the boarding process can save $30 per flight and while that may not seem like much, “those savings can add up for a carrier like American Airlines, which operates an average of 3,400 flights per day.”


Published: March 29, 2013