AMR’s American Faces ‘Chaos’ With Change in Boarding, Union Says

American Airlines’ decision to alter boarding procedures to shorten passenger wait times is producing “complete chaos” on some planes and conflicts with gate agents, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants said.

Last month’s changes by the AMR Corp (AMR).-owned airline include spreading passengers throughout the cabin instead of boarding in groups by seat location, Jeff Pharr, a union spokesman, said yesterday. The process takes more time, pressuring gate agents to let people board earlier than normal, time for which attendants aren’t paid, the union told members on its website.

“More often than not, the result is congested aisles and flight attendants having to explain to bewildered and already stressed passengers why there is complete chaos in the cabin,” the union said.

The new system, implemented May 4, shrank the number of boarding groups to six from 10, Ed Martelle, a spokesman for the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline, said yesterday in an interview. It’s intended to provide a “quieter, calmer” departure area and reduce crowding on jetways, he said.

“What we’re trying to do is expedite the passengers boarding the airplane,” Martelle said. “The whole process may take a little longer, but you’re not standing in line as long.”

The union created a document for attendants to give gate agents explaining that it isn’t necessary to board passengers before the traditional 30 to 40 minutes before departure time.

“The majority of flight attendants are not happy with the new system,” Pharr said.

American Airlines tested the system in Los Angeles and San Francisco before adopting it, he said.

“It seems to be working well,” Martelle said. “We’re pretty much happy with it.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at

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