American Airlines Will Let You Board Earlier, Starting Next Year

Pay attention to this major update, which you'll want to take advantage of.

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The boarding process varies by airline, with some far more streamlined than others. Whatever the case, you want to get on the plane as quickly as possible, ensuring that you can settle in and score a spot for your carry-on in those coveted overhead compartments. When you fly on American Airlines, how soon you're able to board is determined by your designated boarding group. The carrier has nine groups in total (10 if you count pre-boarding), according to NerdWallet, and the lower the number, the earlier you get to your seat. But while you might dread seeing the number eight or nine printed on your ticket, all hope is not lost: American Airlines will be giving you the opportunity to board earlier. Read on to find out how you can take advantage of this perk in 2023.

READ THIS NEXT: Southwest Is Finally Changing the Way It Boards Flights.

Boarding processes have been getting makeovers lately.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737s in Baltimore
SkyCaptain86/iStock

News of American Airlines' boarding changes comes after Southwest Airlines announced a change to its famously (or infamously) unique approach to boarding. Typically, you're assigned a boarding group and position that indicate where you line up to board and in what order.

Some travelers prefer this method, which allows you to pick your seat when you get on the plane, but when traveling with children, things get a bit complicated.

To help families find seats together, Southwest lets families with kids under the age of six board after the first 60 passengers in group A. But now, the airline is testing a system where families can board before group A, regardless of the letter on their boarding pass, per Beat of Hawaii.

The change was made with the hopes that it will simplify and save time when boarding, even though Southwest already has one of the fastest processes in the industry. Now, American Airlines is following suit when it comes to helping passengers board earlier—and they're not limiting the option to families.

Certain travelers can board earlier.

aadvantage american airlines loyalty program
rafapress / Shutterstock

Those who sign up for AAdvantage, American Airlines' loyalty program, will soon enjoy new perks when the boarding process begins. According to a press release from the airline, among several other updates to the free program, members will only need 15,000 Loyalty Points to board in Group 5 (preferred boarding) for the membership year. As groups board in numerical order, that means only four groups will be ahead of you.

Aside from getting you on the plane sooner, boarding in Group 5 also gives you "a slightly upgraded experience," namely extra legroom and complimentary snacks, drinks, and alcoholic beverages, as well as free movies and TV, according to NerdWallet.

The new incentive kicks off in March 2023 as part of the new Loyalty Point Reward system (previously known as Loyalty Choice Rewards), and benefits go beyond just upgrading your boarding group.

When you reach that 15,000 number, you also get to choose between two other Loyalty Point Rewards—priority check-in, priority security, and Group 4 boarding for one of your trips or five coupons to select preferred seats. According to CNBC, "preferred" seats are often located at the front of the economy cabin, but they won't get you extra legroom.

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Once you earn your points, you get to keep them.

Shot of queue of passengers waiting at boarding gate at airport. Group of people standing in queue to board airplane.
iStock

Members earn Loyalty Points based on the price of your ticket, per USA Today, and a sliding scale is used to calculate the actual amount, depending on your member status. You can also earn points when you buy goods from one of the airline's partners or by getting yourself an American Airlines co-branded MasterCard. Once you reach a certain level, you stay there—you don't need to cash your points in to access your reward.

"Think of loyalty points as something that you constantly accumulate throughout the year. They're never spent," Heather Samp, AAdvantage managing director, told USA Today. "Once you get to one of our loyalty point reward thresholds, the benefit is unlocked or the choice is unlocked."

As you continue to rack up Loyalty Points, you continue to access new perks and benefits, with rewards available at sky-high thresholds like 550,000, 1 million, and 3 million, USA Today reported. Previously, there was a 75,000-mile cap per ticket, but the airline has lifted that with the latest round of changes, Samp told USA Today.

Other changes aren't as convenient.

crowded american airlines flight
Samuel Ponce / Shutterstock

While American has certainly made some exciting updates, not every change is necessarily positive. To reach Gold status, members now need to earn 40,000 points, as opposed to 30,000, meaning you'll need to spend more money to obtain the lowest tier of frequent flyer status, CNBC reported.

The number of miles AAdvantage members earn is also down to just two miles per dollar spent on basic economy tickets, which is down from five miles per dollar. This change goes into effect on Jan. 1 for travel starting March 1, 2023, according to American's press release.

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