Understanding American Airlines boarding groups and how to upgrade


In March 2017, American Airlines switched to a new boarding process with no less than nine boarding groups. American has stuck to this boarding process since then, despite the occasional sigh and eye roll from passengers who believe their boarding group may never receive a call.

Having so many American Airlines boarding groups can be confusing, but you can use this complicated process to your advantage. Just learn how these groups are assigned and how to get priority boarding for your next flight.

American Airlines’ 9 boarding groups

While there are officially nine boarding groups, there is actually one more: pre-boarding.

Preboarding is mainly reserved for travelers who require special assistance and passengers with a child under 2 years of age. Invitation-only members of the airline’s ConciergeKey Elite status may also board before Group 1 boarding begins.

After the pre-boarding, the following groups come:

  • Business class passengers (two-class aircraft).

  • US military on active duty.

Business class passengers (three-class aircraft)

  • Citi / AAdvantage Executive card members.

  • Travelers who have purchased priority boarding.

  • Eligible business travelers.

  • AAdvantage credit card members.

All other AAdvantage members

  • Basic Economy passengers to / from Europe or South America.

Basic Economy passengers in North and Central America

These groups are divided into two entry lanes. Groups 1 through 4 go through the priority lane, while groups 5 through 9 go through the main lane.

One benefit of priority boarding (groups 1 through 4) is that if you arrive at the gate mid-boarding, you will have to skip the line. Just walk up priority lane and the gate agent will hold the main boarding group lane to let you on your flight.

Photo courtesy of JT Genter

How are American Airlines boarding groups assigned?

American passengers are placed in the highest group for which they qualify. For example, Basic Economy passengers will be dismounted in Group 9. However, a passenger who has booked a Basic Economy ticket will receive Group 4 if they have AAdvantage Gold Elite status.

Likewise, a platinum elite will be placed in Group 3 if you fly in business. When the upgrade for first class is complete, the boarding group will be increased to group 1.

That means there are a number of ways you can improve your entry-level position.

How to Get Priority Boarding with American Airlines

There are several ways that American Airlines passengers can obtain priority privileges – from elite status to having a specific credit card. Here you will find all the ways to get priority boarding.

Fly in a premium cabin

All passengers fly in a Premium cabin Get Priority Boarding. But the group you get depends on what class of service you are flying.

Passengers in the front cabin board of group 1. This includes all cabins that are marked as First Class – from First Class on domestic flights to Flagship First Class on international long-haul flights. Group 1 also includes Business Class on international flights without a first-class cabin. You can find this on the Airbus A330-200 and the American planes Boeing 777-200 and 787.

Group 2 is mainly reserved for elite members. However, flagship Business Class passengers will board during Group 2 when flying on a three-class aircraft. This is the case with the American aircraft Airbus A321T and Boeing 777-300ER.

Premium economy passengers also receive priority boarding. If you book a Premium Economy ticket on one of the internationally configured aircraft, you can board in Group 4 – unless you qualify for a higher tier through another method.

Hold AAdvantage or Oneworld Elite status

Most American Airlines early boarding groups are reserved for the elite members of American Airlines and Oneworld. No matter what level advantage or One World If you have elite status, you can board the flight during priority boarding – even if you are flying in economy class.

Top elite members (American Airlines Executive Platinum and Oneworld Emerald) arrive in Group 2 at the latest. Middle-class elites (American Airlines Platinum Pro and Platinum and Oneworld Sapphire) are assigned at least Group 3. And the lowest-tier elites (American Airlines Gold and Oneworld Ruby) are assigned to Group 4.

However, this is the lowest entry-level position you can get as an Elite member. You can join Group 1 (or 2) when your upgrade is complete.

Board as military

Members of the U.S. military who are on active duty and have a military ID can join Group 1. With this benefit for boarding the military, the airline can honor those who serve.

Wear the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

One of the advantages of Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® is priority boarding. Cardholders receive at least Group 4 boarding – this is the last group of priority boarding. However, this should get you on the plane early enough to find space in the baggage for your hand luggage and not feel rushed by other economy passengers.

Take AirPass or fly on business

AirPass and business travelers receive priority group 4 boarding privileges. Anyone can sign up for AirPass. Well, at least anyone who may lose more than $ 5,000 on the flight before buying it. As part of the AirPass program, members receive fixed price prices, elite status, Admirals Club Membership and more. While AirPass-associated elite status is sufficient to receive priority boarding, AirPass members receive at least Group 4 priority boarding.

Alternatively, you can get Group 4 priority boarding by being an “Eligible Business Traveler,” that is, passengers traveling on business for an employer with an American Airlines business travel contract. The ticket must be booked and paid for through the business travel portal in order to qualify.

Pay for it

If you can’t take advantage of any of the above, there is one final option to get priority boarding: pay for it. Economy passengers can be moved to group 4 by purchasing a priority boarding add-on. Travelers cannot purchase this upgrade on first booking. You will therefore need to add it during online check-in or at the airport.

The final result

American Airlines’ boarding process involves multiple boarding groups with no pre-boarding. It might seem muddled, but American uses these boarding groups to motivate travelers to take steps that will make the airline more money – from flying enough to get elite status to getting a credit card or the Upgrade to a premium cabin. If any of these elements make sense in your travels, American is happy to reward you with priority privileges.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our tips for that best travel credit cards of 2021including the best for:


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