Ugh: American Airlines’ Single Gate Agent Boarding

Ugh: American Airlines’ Single Gate Agent Boarding

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I tend to think gate agents are probably the most overworked and underappreciated airline employees. Well, their jobs at American Airlines are about to get more difficult.

American Airlines cuts gate agent staffing

American Airlines CFO Derek Kerr spoke at an industry conference today, where he provided some updates about the situation the airline is in. For the most part things are looking up, but that’s not going to stop the airline from continuing to cut costs.

It has been revealed that American Airlines will be cutting gate agent staffing — specifically, the airline will start introducing single gate agent boarding, down from the previous minimum of two gate agents. I would assume that this won’t apply to wide body and/or international flights.

American will now board some flights with a single gate agent

This is going to be a mess

If you ask me, gate agents have the highest stress and lowest reward jobs in the airline industry. They’re not particularly well compensated and they don’t get the “glamor” of traveling for work (as flight attendants do), but:

  • They are constantly in customer facing positions, and have nowhere to “retreat” to
  • They’re in high pressure roles, because if a flight is delayed the blame falls at least partly on them
  • They take so much anger from customers, from enforcing mask policies, to announcing delays, to telling passengers they can’t sit next to one another, to gate checking bags

While gate agents aren’t always friendly or professional, I do find they’re consistently hard working, because they don’t really have an option not to be.

The fundamental problem with switching to single agent boarding is that one person can only do so much. In the 30-50 minutes leading up to a flight’s departure (typically when flights board, depending on the aircraft type and destination), you’ve historically had:

  • At least one gate agent dedicated to boarding the plane
  • At least one gate agent otherwise staffing the gate, answering any questions, clearing the upgrade and standby list, gate checking bags, etc.

With this policy change, you’ll want to make sure you get all of your questions answered prior to boarding starting, because gate agents simply can’t be expected to multi-task in the way that American seems to expect.

American recently revealed it would start charging passengers who bring oversize carry-ons — good luck having that happen with just a single gate agent per flight!

A couple of things to note:

  • Many low cost carriers do board flights with just one gate agent, but that’s a different game — they don’t have as many carry-ons (since they charge for them), they don’t have upgrade lists, etc.
  • It’s one thing if American Airlines had good technology and could better automate clearing upgrades, standby passengers, etc., but that’s simply not currently the reality

There’s no way boarding with one gate agent will end well

American Airlines’ statement on this

After the post was published, an American Airlines spokesperson issued the following statement regarding this:

“Flights with fewer passengers traveling have been boarded by individual agents for the last several months. In tandem, we’ve been developing new tools to help our agents perform tasks at the gate, which give them more time to focus on customers during the boarding process. We’ll introduce these tools to our team members over the next several months to further support our customers throughout their travel journey.”

That doesn’t change my opinion much:

  • It’s fine if mostly empty flights are boarded by one gate agent, since that’s a manageable workload
  • I’d like to see the “tools” that are being introduced over the next several months to “further support customers throughout their travel journey”

Bottom line

American Airlines will start boarding many flights with a single gate agent, which isn’t going to be fun for customers or employees. I don’t know exactly how gate agents are expected to juggle clearing standby and upgrade lists, answering questions, boarding planes, and checking carry-on bags, all while providing decent customer service.

Do you think American reducing gate agent staffing is going to be problematic?

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  1. Todd

    In my experience. While AA flight attendants are generally courteous: personnel at gates and check in can be as condescendingly discourtious and racially hostile (against the majority) and racially preferential (toward certain minorities) as TSA officers often are to everyone. Unbelievable how blatant it is at times. I think theyoften see themselves as correctional officers, and we passengers are the inmates, or maybe military basic trainees.

  2. Blake

    As a 43 year flight attendant for American I can say with a high degree of certainty that this will not provide a good customer experience. It’s just not possible for one person ( gate agent) to effectively handle this work load on full flights or even near full flights. The results will be : disgruntled passengers, unprocessed upgrades for premium customers , constant luggage violations for size and quantity, poor quality preboarding for individuals...

    As a 43 year flight attendant for American I can say with a high degree of certainty that this will not provide a good customer experience. It’s just not possible for one person ( gate agent) to effectively handle this work load on full flights or even near full flights. The results will be : disgruntled passengers, unprocessed upgrades for premium customers , constant luggage violations for size and quantity, poor quality preboarding for individuals needing the service, constant conflict between flight staff and agents due to boarding time pressures and all of the above resulting in delayed flights. It’s a very poor call by AA management and just another example of throwing customers and employees under the bus. Stop it now!

  3. John F Duffy

    I recently retired from a large airline in Denver. As a 43 year employee who spent 2/3 's of my career in direct, gate agent, roles I have a unique perspective to the gate agents responsibility. When I am asked "what do you do for the airlines?", my answer is always the same. I have the ultimate Rodney Dangerfield occupation, no respect!"
    Long live Rodney Dangerfield!

  4. Parker

    It will not work. There will displays of anger and even violence in our new world

  5. ArKay

    "If you can't afford to pay a living wage, you can't afford to be in business.

    Asking people to work below poverty wages so you can own a business is entitlement at it's finest.

    You are asking human beings to use their lives to subsidize your desire to own a business.

    If a job is worth being done, it's worth being paid enough to live."

    - Mohamad Safa, @mhdksafa

  6. Konohannah

    As a new gate agent I’m not looking forward to my 1st day. Over sold seats, passenger demands, along with all the hoops you must jump through in an outdated, glitch ridden system. This will be an interesting day of dual ops with no one to help when I do get stuck in weeds.... Not looking forward to it at all!!

  7. Kat

    Come on Amtrak! I can't wait for train services to come back! I would rather ride than fly.

  8. Shortsighted

    How much does a gate agent make, $40/hr? 2 hours per flight of 150 people, or $0.50 per person? Doesn't seem like the right place to cut 50 cents per pax.

  9. Louise

    I recently had a stressful boarding situation in Charlotte NC. I had a boarding pass and a seat but my boarding pass would not scan and fixing it turned into 20 minutes of frustration since the plane was loaded and wanted to leave. If it had not been for the 2 agents at the gate working diligently to fix the problem I would not have been able to make that very important flight. If there...

    I recently had a stressful boarding situation in Charlotte NC. I had a boarding pass and a seat but my boarding pass would not scan and fixing it turned into 20 minutes of frustration since the plane was loaded and wanted to leave. If it had not been for the 2 agents at the gate working diligently to fix the problem I would not have been able to make that very important flight. If there had been just 1 agent, I would never have made the flight. This was not a large plane but 2 were very much needed to solve just this one problem. I appreciate these unsung heroes! Thanks. guys!

  10. Rae Walker

    I have a personal friend that has been employed for well over 50 years as an attendant with American airlines. Flying primarily out of their hubs on the Eastern seaboard. As time evolves, things are getting consistently worse with working conditions, attitudes of newly trained personnel, and add to that all the changes that have come about because of the pandemic. Believe me when I tell you that those flight attendants have schedules and stress...

    I have a personal friend that has been employed for well over 50 years as an attendant with American airlines. Flying primarily out of their hubs on the Eastern seaboard. As time evolves, things are getting consistently worse with working conditions, attitudes of newly trained personnel, and add to that all the changes that have come about because of the pandemic. Believe me when I tell you that those flight attendants have schedules and stress that can be insurmountable! Why in heaven's name airlines discontinued loading the passengers from the back of the aircraft to the front, once the first class folks have been seated is beyond me. This is something that may be considered in the future to eliminate a lot of the bottleneck with people standing in the aisle putting oversized luggage in the overheads. Whatever became of the metal racks where you used to have to put your suitcase into it, and if it did not fit ,you had NO CHOICE but to check the luggage. (THIS ALL TOOK PLACE AT THE MAIN COUNTER WHEN YOU FIRST CHECKED INTO THE AIRPORT. SOMEHOW THIS RULE GOT DROPPED BY THE WAYSIDE OVERTIME.
    What a messy way to run the airline business!!!
    Ms. M from South Jersey

  11. Adam

    I think a lot of this will depend on how tightly they're expected to enforce the oversize-bag policies. I am willing to bet that at least a third of carryons are technically "oversize," even those that fit comfortably on their side or flat in an overhead.

    So, if the question is whether some reasonably sized rollaboard fits immediately in the dubious little sizer, I imagine dozens of passengers are going to be stopped and...

    I think a lot of this will depend on how tightly they're expected to enforce the oversize-bag policies. I am willing to bet that at least a third of carryons are technically "oversize," even those that fit comfortably on their side or flat in an overhead.

    So, if the question is whether some reasonably sized rollaboard fits immediately in the dubious little sizer, I imagine dozens of passengers are going to be stopped and charged -- and argued with -- over their bags. That could slow boarding by ten minutes. On the other hand, if the policy is limited to catching and charging egregiously oversized bags -- the bags any reasonable person would recognize as too big -- that's another matter, and not necessarily any different from what agents do already.

    But, if every passenger is being ordered to put his/her carryon in the sizer, which somehow is always smaller than the (reasonable-looking) bag, good luck turning that plane on time. The arguments will be endless, with no second agent to handle all the other customers in the interim.

  12. Grayson

    I don’t see what the problem is with “just” one gate agent. I once had a flight out of clt (before COVID) with no gate agent, and it was super smooth!

  13. Mikey

    What an utterly nonsensical policy. You have to wonder if the bean counters and execs that declare themselves caring for people on life's journey actually ever talk to the people doing the job or the people traveling. Here's to AA going for great again.... I say good luck with that!

  14. KC

    As someone stuck with CLT which is >90% AA, this will be fun.. even with 2, it’s already a cluster especially with so many connecting pax who are more likely to need additional assistance. Where will they go? The admirals club front desk? Leave security and get help at the AA check in desks? I can maybe understand in a perfect world of orderly, organized pax where jets arrive and leave on time, this could...

    As someone stuck with CLT which is >90% AA, this will be fun.. even with 2, it’s already a cluster especially with so many connecting pax who are more likely to need additional assistance. Where will they go? The admirals club front desk? Leave security and get help at the AA check in desks? I can maybe understand in a perfect world of orderly, organized pax where jets arrive and leave on time, this could work, but in a world of upgrade lists, overbooking, delayed connections, people who don’t know the difference between priority lanes and non-priority lanes, and (in the case of CLT) no seats due to the place still being under construction 10 years on so everyone’s standing, this won’t be fun. I’m not entirely sure they thought this one through. Unless it’s just for American Eagle CRJ flights. Also, I expect since AA would be saving $, we’ll see cheaper tickets.. just kidding.

  15. Steven Schutz

    Worked at Delta airlines for a decade, the norm was a single agent boarding flights. You have to be organized but it is certainly possible, not that difficult, and yeah, we stopped the oversize bags and all the rest.

  16. TL

    The good agents will be able to do this with very few problems. However, the mediocre agents will not. AA did this at some stations years ago in the early 90's and, even with less technology, it worked fine most of the time. I fear that technology will actually make it less workable now.

    That said, another strategy that works quite effectively is to have the second agent show up at boarding time and oversee...

    The good agents will be able to do this with very few problems. However, the mediocre agents will not. AA did this at some stations years ago in the early 90's and, even with less technology, it worked fine most of the time. I fear that technology will actually make it less workable now.

    That said, another strategy that works quite effectively is to have the second agent show up at boarding time and oversee the actual boarding pass scanning/handing over process, while the original agnent handles desk duties. Many airports already do this.

  17. Desertfox

    This pretty much shows the direction they seem to want to be going. They need someone to get things turned back around to a respected on time machine with at least acceptabler service and.
    https://youtu.be/Fg89CSkoSuI

  18. Alessio

    American Airlines are slave drivers and they always overwork their employees and now they are overbooking flights more than the annual average just to make up for the losses of the pandemic which in turn overworks TSA Officers and they will be unable to perform full and detailed security checks, TSA Officers will literally have to skip many security measures and alarm resolutions because of the pressure from airlines, its a ticking time bomb or...

    American Airlines are slave drivers and they always overwork their employees and now they are overbooking flights more than the annual average just to make up for the losses of the pandemic which in turn overworks TSA Officers and they will be unable to perform full and detailed security checks, TSA Officers will literally have to skip many security measures and alarm resolutions because of the pressure from airlines, its a ticking time bomb or another disaster waiting to happen, i personally wouldnt even want to fly with this mess.

    Security of passengers and baggage will drop, AA wants more flights per day then i guarantee they will get less security, lots of these TSA Officers dont get their breaks on time and are over worked, this is not good at all! Someone needs to do something about this, its absolute chaos at the airports!

  19. Joseph Munn

    Actually it will work but there's one big problem it's not the gate attendant it's the dumb ass passengers that don't pay attention to what the gate attendant is saying that's always on their phone and not listening to their zone being called if everybody pay attention it will be smooth sailing lol

  20. bob

    Oh boy. I feel bad for the gate agent. It will be bad enough when things go as planned. You know the herd rushing to the gate even when they are the last group to board to pile on the line hoping for a chance to skip the line. The worst part will be when there are delays because the gate agent will be the first to bear that level of passenger hate. And when...

    Oh boy. I feel bad for the gate agent. It will be bad enough when things go as planned. You know the herd rushing to the gate even when they are the last group to board to pile on the line hoping for a chance to skip the line. The worst part will be when there are delays because the gate agent will be the first to bear that level of passenger hate. And when you get half a plane of angry delayed passenger and only 1 agent to help....there will be lots of youTube passenger behaving badly videos. They need to give the gate agent a big neon sign that says, act out of line and you pay $10K in fines to protect themselves.

  21. ML

    I hope the same agent doesn’t have to meet the inbound on a quick turn with midconnects

  22. Barry Brann

    Even as Executive Platinum, I rarely get a smile, hello or greeting ( never mind greeting by name). So one will be able to watch us scan our boarding passes ourselves.

  23. dan

    @Jordan you hit the nail on the head.

  24. Jim

    American Airlines does not care about customer service or their employees the only care about money the would outsource everything Job they have if they could it’s been downhill for a while they do not care about our customers flying experience as soon as you pay for the ticket they could give two craps about you and how ur flight was and it starts from very top

  25. RF

    It's going to be terrible for sure.

  26. AdamH

    If your tech all works and is awesome, great, but this doesn't work for AA (or many others). One GA means I land early, rush to get to a gate for standby and I get told I missed an arbitrary cutoff because they have to focus on scanning boarding passes. It means missed upgrades. It means poor customer service.

    Airlines could work on better tech, both software (make it easier for passengers to control...

    If your tech all works and is awesome, great, but this doesn't work for AA (or many others). One GA means I land early, rush to get to a gate for standby and I get told I missed an arbitrary cutoff because they have to focus on scanning boarding passes. It means missed upgrades. It means poor customer service.

    Airlines could work on better tech, both software (make it easier for passengers to control itineraries, make the processing of standby/upgrades more automated, etc.) and hardware (install automated boarding gates), but instead they do stuff to slow down boarding, like force people in exit rows to scan boarding passes twice/confirm they are again willing and able to sit in the exit row despite doing this when their seat was selected, when they check in and ultimately once they are onboard.

  27. Tara

    Hi an actual AA gate agent here.

    First, I do not get paid $30 an hour. The starting wage is much lower than you think. $30 an hour means an agent have been putting in your “dues” (years) being an agent. Yes we can pick up shift and get paid for delays but we really don’t want delays. It means we don’t get to go home after when we wanted to.

    Second, I...

    Hi an actual AA gate agent here.

    First, I do not get paid $30 an hour. The starting wage is much lower than you think. $30 an hour means an agent have been putting in your “dues” (years) being an agent. Yes we can pick up shift and get paid for delays but we really don’t want delays. It means we don’t get to go home after when we wanted to.

    Second, I do wish things were better and improved technology wise. It would really help us out when comes the boarding time. Asking to change seats are the most time consuming in the world. We truly do wish that the customers would just pay for the seats if they are traveling together or don’t want a middle seat.

    Lastly, this single boarding agent will only be possible if 1, technologies improvement such like Delta. 2, all planes were 100 passengers or less.

    Until then, this is not possible for an agent like me to do 1000 things in 1 hour from pre-departure to closing the A/C door.

  28. gabriel

    its just bad for all. bad for the morale of the gate agent. bad for the customers who all want to be treated like their VIPs but will be treated, more than ever, like cattle. bad for families traveling with children who are not seated together because they did not want to pay for their seats in advance. just bad overall. foremost, bad that, the biggest airlines, american really does not care for its employees and or passengers...just the underlying american dollar.

  29. Adam

    I'm a gate agent for AF at JFK and this would definitely not work. From a physical standpoint you need one person to board and guard the open door(s) to the jet bridge, and then one to manage the boarding process. We have usually 5+ once boarding actually starts, with two just to set up the gate as we have common use gates. I realize there is a difference from a domestic regional flight to...

    I'm a gate agent for AF at JFK and this would definitely not work. From a physical standpoint you need one person to board and guard the open door(s) to the jet bridge, and then one to manage the boarding process. We have usually 5+ once boarding actually starts, with two just to set up the gate as we have common use gates. I realize there is a difference from a domestic regional flight to an international widebody, but I just don't understand how you could do it with less than 2 people and keep the flight secure. There are so many other points I could bring up but it's essential the entrance to jetbridge is guarded at all times once the door is opened to boarding. Good luck to AA.

  30. Lynda N Thompson

    "Gave up flying AA several years ago. They have Horrible Customer Service from stem to stern."

    I've flown AA exclusively for more than 30 years and can honestly say that I've never had an unpleasant experience with ANY AA employee. I don't know the reason for my good fortune, but I do try to be extra nice to all of them because, having worked with the public since I was 14-years-old, I know how hard...

    "Gave up flying AA several years ago. They have Horrible Customer Service from stem to stern."

    I've flown AA exclusively for more than 30 years and can honestly say that I've never had an unpleasant experience with ANY AA employee. I don't know the reason for my good fortune, but I do try to be extra nice to all of them because, having worked with the public since I was 14-years-old, I know how hard it is to maintain a constant smile and happy demeanor when half of the customers THINK they deserve special treatment, and the other half KNOW they do.

  31. Davistev

    Well, at least now customers will no longer interrupt the chit chatting gate agents. All too often I see them ignore customers and avoid them at all costs. It is like they hate us.

  32. Larry

    This is a pointless observation. 75% of flights have been border by one agent since before the pandemic.

  33. MoJo

    I am a 30 year AA flt att. This is sad to hear. Not only is it going to be problematic, its not safe. For them or the crew, especially now. I agree with most of what's above. It will cause delays because of last minute bag checks, pax issues or flight issues that they can't handle until they are done boarding. When they are busy they can't answer the phone from the jet bridge....

    I am a 30 year AA flt att. This is sad to hear. Not only is it going to be problematic, its not safe. For them or the crew, especially now. I agree with most of what's above. It will cause delays because of last minute bag checks, pax issues or flight issues that they can't handle until they are done boarding. When they are busy they can't answer the phone from the jet bridge. They will be alone with no one to back them up if there is a confrontation or violence with a pax. If there is an issue down the bridge or plane and they cant answer the phone, the pilots will have to call it in which will take longer It will have to round robin thru who knows how many departments. Everyone be ready for the door being closed EARLY, so they don't get a delay.

  34. DodgerzFan

    Big deal. After 9/11 when I was a gate agent at Delta in ATL we got cut down to one agent, sometimes even on a wide body. We adapted and made it work even when loads recovered. Not to sound too cocky but I was a really good gate agent and rarely needed help. I now commute out of ATL as a flight attendant for another airline and rarely do I see two gate agents....

    Big deal. After 9/11 when I was a gate agent at Delta in ATL we got cut down to one agent, sometimes even on a wide body. We adapted and made it work even when loads recovered. Not to sound too cocky but I was a really good gate agent and rarely needed help. I now commute out of ATL as a flight attendant for another airline and rarely do I see two gate agents. Occasionally a red coat will stop by and clear the standbys and move on. The gate agent continues to board and check bags when they get the notification that bins are full. The AA agents will adapt too and you're trying to make something out of nothing.

  35. Mugwump

    Gate and boarding are already high stress so this will ensure more people boarding with frazzled nerves that flight attendants will have to deal with. More inflight incidents?

  36. Steve

    I remember working a UA flight SAN-IAD that was overbooked by 10 which was the norm back then. No problem. Then at boarding time it was downsized AND weight restricted. Big problem.
    Received no back up assistance despite several requests on the radio.
    There were about 45 stranded passengers I spent half the morning rerouting. Some waited 2 hours or more. Not a single person gave me a harsh word or complained. Good times.

  37. Santastico

    Gate agent lives would be so much easier if there were not so many moronic passengers flying. I was just at MIA airport yesterday and was waiting for my flight close enough that I could overhear the things passengers were approaching the gate agent for. OMG!!! Why don’t people just get their boarding passes and wait quietly for their time to be called to board? Also, after not flying for over a year I could...

    Gate agent lives would be so much easier if there were not so many moronic passengers flying. I was just at MIA airport yesterday and was waiting for my flight close enough that I could overhear the things passengers were approaching the gate agent for. OMG!!! Why don’t people just get their boarding passes and wait quietly for their time to be called to board? Also, after not flying for over a year I could not dismiss the amount of crap passengers bring on board of a plane.

  38. Henry

    I think someone from plane or other gates may come in to help in that case, it is nice to see Lucky cares about the workers, but more agents do not necessarily mean happy customers and agents. Before the covid, you can even see from the face of the workers of UAs(except Polaris) and DLs, while DL guys are certainly happier and UAs they cannot wait to finish their work to go home... lol

  39. Philip Faust

    Gave up flying AA several years ago. They have Horrible Customer Service from stem to stern.

  40. KS Flight

    As far as some new tools go: standby's (non-revs for now) are supposed to start clearing automatically with boarding passes being sent via email instead of handed out by the agent (but can be printed on request). I'm sure the agent still has to track down exactly who's there for the flight as I've seen the non-rev list go all over the place from time to time. I'm starting to hear more pre-recorded computerized messages...

    As far as some new tools go: standby's (non-revs for now) are supposed to start clearing automatically with boarding passes being sent via email instead of handed out by the agent (but can be printed on request). I'm sure the agent still has to track down exactly who's there for the flight as I've seen the non-rev list go all over the place from time to time. I'm starting to hear more pre-recorded computerized messages for welcoming each boarding group as well. It will be interesting to see what else they roll out and if this succeeds in the long-run or not.

  41. Dave

    Again, I think this is a great idea!

    Most domestic flights have effectively been boarded with a single line anyhow. Usually, they have one line for all the priority passengers and a single line for coach.

    Usually, people line up for the coach and then even as the priority agent invites them over, few decide to, because it's confusing.

    So I think this is a great idea to save on some additional costs, especially on less full flights!

  42. Jordan

    The problem is not AA (and one staff member boarding) It's the American people, period. The vast majority of people in this country flying have at this time flown before.

    Yet we see the same nonsense at the gate (the dumb last minute questions) - the sheer sense of entitlement, the need to be "seen" by an agent, to ask a question, to feel special etc, and then we get onboard.

    Whether I'm in...

    The problem is not AA (and one staff member boarding) It's the American people, period. The vast majority of people in this country flying have at this time flown before.

    Yet we see the same nonsense at the gate (the dumb last minute questions) - the sheer sense of entitlement, the need to be "seen" by an agent, to ask a question, to feel special etc, and then we get onboard.

    Whether I'm in J, PE or Y, I know my seat, which side of the plane its on and I am prepared. When I hit my row in Y, I shove my bag in the overhead or under the seat, and I'm in my seat within 5-15 seconds flat. I get out of the aisle to let others pass. Granted, if bin space is tight, then its an issue (and here is where we can blame the airlines). The biggest issue in this country, is a country full of selfish people! Taking their time and not thinking of others. We see this on the roads when driving.

    See JL. I've been part of boarding on their 777-300ER's, that took 10 mins flat to board the whole sold out flight.

  43. Evan

    Automation can only get you so far. Typically, I notice the same scenario almost every flight (taking out IRROPS)...the gate agents are gabbing with each other, helping the stray customer that comes up with a question. Then boarding starts and now everyone has a question for the gate agents.

    Also, I fly DL and live in DTW. The only times I've had only one gate agent were on CRJ200 flights and the last bank departures.

  44. James S

    Like flight attendants, it should really be tied to pax numbers.

    1 gate agent for every 100 passengers

  45. John

    Ah the lovely automation. A hack waiting to happen!!!

  46. D3kingg

    I’m from the future.

    There will be no gate agents. Boarding will be fully automated and domestic flights including transcon will only be flown with one pilot. Also , there will be no need for flight attendants in the future neither. You can order food and drinks from vending machines in the galleys. In the event of an emergency automated announcements will come on the PA instructing all passengers.

  47. JM

    United has done this on many flights, and close to all flights from IAH, during the past year. It's difficult and unpleasant to be so understaffed.

  48. TM

    @Juan, I agree. I'm also Platinum with Delta and I was surprised to see other DL flyers say that one agent was the norm. In my experience, DL normally has two agents, and often times a redcoat (supervisor) nearby. The only time I recall seeing one agent is during IRROPS craziness or occasionally regional jet/light load flights.

    Maybe common sense is a stretch here but if AA knows ahead of time which flights are full...

    @Juan, I agree. I'm also Platinum with Delta and I was surprised to see other DL flyers say that one agent was the norm. In my experience, DL normally has two agents, and often times a redcoat (supervisor) nearby. The only time I recall seeing one agent is during IRROPS craziness or occasionally regional jet/light load flights.

    Maybe common sense is a stretch here but if AA knows ahead of time which flights are full and which flights are not, than can move agents around accordingly. Full flights with 150+ pax definitely need two agents because there's always a line of people at the desk waiting to talk to the agent.

  49. Chris

    I'm hoping more airlines in the U.S. begin to utilize automated boarding gates such as in Europe as it just makes more sense if they begin to do this.

    Frankly I don't mind that much if there is only 1 gate agent vs 2. I don't think it will make significant difference personally, and if things get tense with a passenger, there should then be freed up staff who can come from elsewhere to...

    I'm hoping more airlines in the U.S. begin to utilize automated boarding gates such as in Europe as it just makes more sense if they begin to do this.

    Frankly I don't mind that much if there is only 1 gate agent vs 2. I don't think it will make significant difference personally, and if things get tense with a passenger, there should then be freed up staff who can come from elsewhere to bring the passenger to the side to be dealt with.

    I fly regionally the most and they always board with 1 person, its no real problem.

  50. Eric

    @steve_cc there is no way a Fa is going to help boarding. First, they don't get paid during this time, second, they need to be onboard the aicraft before the customers can board the aicraft due to minimum crew (American flight most of its flight with the BARE Minimum UN allowed by the faa.)

  51. Eric

    Agents at mainline American airline get paid $30 usd an hour. Plus overtime when delays happen. They are also able to pick up shifts from other employees. It is not necessary a bad compensated job.

    1. Gina smith

      They do not start with 30.00 an hour. That is after many years with a company. They start with slightly above min wage. Work all holidays , weekends, late night and strange hours.

  52. Lu

    AA is just a low cost carrier that happens to have business class cabin on their flights.

  53. Milo

    The world is moving towards automation. It is inevitable.

    Over the last 2 decades, airlines have significantly cut down the number of checkin agents. I don't see why gate agents are any different.

    Most of the delays and issues during boarding are caused by human interaction, or more precisely, interaction between passengers expecting / demanding special treatment and gate agents who can't grant them to all, and the ensuing argument that follows. Otherwise, upgrades are...

    The world is moving towards automation. It is inevitable.

    Over the last 2 decades, airlines have significantly cut down the number of checkin agents. I don't see why gate agents are any different.

    Most of the delays and issues during boarding are caused by human interaction, or more precisely, interaction between passengers expecting / demanding special treatment and gate agents who can't grant them to all, and the ensuing argument that follows. Otherwise, upgrades are now mostly handled by a computer and an app, and with the app, the re-issuance of the new boarding passes is automatic. Boarding pass scans can be handled by a computer and an app. Checking size of carryon can easily be handled by a machine -- think about it, a machine can measure the size of a carryon down to the millimeter. What are you going to argue with, that you are somehow special and deserve an exemption? Add a turnstile and pretty much there is no need for human interaction.

    Sure, there is always a need for human agents, but you don't really need one per gate, let alone multiple. You can have a handful of agents servicing multiple gates.

    You lose the human touch in customer service, but you gain in efficiency, and as long as they knock a few dollars off the airfare, the flying crowd would vote with their wallet.

    I don't necessarily blame the airlines. The constantly lowering standard of service they offer is a direct reflection of what the majority of the customers demand, in search of lower fares.

  54. Steve_CC

    Thankfully AA has essentially installed the larger overhead bins on their entire fleet now so the need for gate checking is significantly reduced. But yeah this is gonna be a mess unless they just have one of the FAs help which i imagine is what they are doing.

  55. FlyingHippo

    @ steven kapellas - Boy did you hit the nail on the head. My home airport is MCO. It should be mandatory to have 4 agents working most flights. EVERYONE seems to think they have exceptions or has questions, or has strollers etc. I don’t have any travel planned but imagine this will be a mess next go round.

  56. Juan

    @Jake @Echo I'm Platinum with Delta, but I rarely see them use just one gate agent. However, most of my flights are out of their hubs and focus cities (DTW, LAX, SLC, ATL), so that may be why.

    If I'm flying out of a smaller city or it's a Delta Connection flight, there's usually only one person.

  57. David

    Ahh....it's good to see the Delta fan club back in action again after going into hiding during a couple of bad months.

  58. SEM

    I have to echo the other commenters that are surprised at this...UA has had just one agent since September 11th, depending on the Station...For example IAD and LAX are notorious for having a single agent work the flight [sometimes even wide body aircraft], and this was being done long before automation of anything...To be honest I am kind of surprised AA had a "minimum of two" policy...

  59. CF Frost

    This hardly seems new. I've had load over single-agent gates even before the pandemic.

  60. steven kapellas

    This is going to be carnage especially in State of Florida.

  61. Echo

    As a DL loyalist, my response was "wait, some airlines still have two gate agents?"

    DL has operated on the one agent model for quite some time. Never any issues apart from the inconvenience of not being able to ask questions, get a seat reassignment etc. once boarding commences. As others note, the days of manually clearing upgrade lists are nearly gone. The app alerts me and reissues a boarding pass before the gate agent...

    As a DL loyalist, my response was "wait, some airlines still have two gate agents?"

    DL has operated on the one agent model for quite some time. Never any issues apart from the inconvenience of not being able to ask questions, get a seat reassignment etc. once boarding commences. As others note, the days of manually clearing upgrade lists are nearly gone. The app alerts me and reissues a boarding pass before the gate agent tells me to come pick up a paper one, and now, more often than not, they don't even do that - a seat reassignment slip just prints automatically on boarding.

  62. James W

    You can have on-time departures (D0), phenomenal customer service ("Going for Great"), or low operating costs. You can't have all three.

    A focus on D0 means hiring more staff, but getting planes out promptly.

    A focus on customer service means better training/pay for gate agents, but slowed departures and higher costs.

    A focus on rock-bottom costs means slashing staff and enforcement, but slowed departures, oversize bags, and unpleasant crowd scenes at busy...

    You can have on-time departures (D0), phenomenal customer service ("Going for Great"), or low operating costs. You can't have all three.

    A focus on D0 means hiring more staff, but getting planes out promptly.

    A focus on customer service means better training/pay for gate agents, but slowed departures and higher costs.

    A focus on rock-bottom costs means slashing staff and enforcement, but slowed departures, oversize bags, and unpleasant crowd scenes at busy gates. But at least the shareholders will be moderately pleased that the sinking ship has heaved a few bucketfuls of water over the side.

    We cannot respect American Airlines anymore as a company. They have no firm guiding principles anymore. If they were just about making money, they'd drop the pretense of D0 and service with a smile. If they cared about service, they would pay accordingly. If they cared about saving the customers money, they'd go full Allegiant and drop any pretense of being a legacy carrier with widebodies to Europe and a fat pension debt. But they do none of these things all the way. They do half-measures across the board, swinging from one strategy to another, never making up their minds on who they are. At least Spirit and Delta know where they want to be.

  63. Niko_jas

    Even Ryanair has two. The delays in getting a flight off in time will cost more than the salary of 1 gate agent.

  64. jetset

    United was looking to move this direction when they started piloting automated boarding gates (like what Lufthansa and other European airlines use).

    Not sure if they're planning to revisit. There was active sabotage (maybe a dramatic word) from gate agents in BOS when using the gates - turning them off and reporting to IT that they were broken, trying to actively damage the gates, etc.

    I don't see how AA can move to one agent...

    United was looking to move this direction when they started piloting automated boarding gates (like what Lufthansa and other European airlines use).

    Not sure if they're planning to revisit. There was active sabotage (maybe a dramatic word) from gate agents in BOS when using the gates - turning them off and reporting to IT that they were broken, trying to actively damage the gates, etc.

    I don't see how AA can move to one agent without doing some technological enablement...

  65. Jake

    Delta has done single gate agent boarding for years, why does this surprise you that American would go that direction?

  66. Chase

    Grab your popcorn! It will be especially bad when you get that one passenger that argues about checking (and having to pay!) their “oversized” carry on bag at boarding. How’s that gonna work…?

  67. NSS

    I agree it's a terrible idea but it also depends on how much they can automate. Gate agent scans your boarding pass - or you scan your boarding pass - and hits a button somewhere to note the carry-on is oversized and the card you charged the ticket to gets hit again for the fee. Upgrades clear in the app or they don't. And on and on.

    DL is testing that facial rec thing...

    I agree it's a terrible idea but it also depends on how much they can automate. Gate agent scans your boarding pass - or you scan your boarding pass - and hits a button somewhere to note the carry-on is oversized and the card you charged the ticket to gets hit again for the fee. Upgrades clear in the app or they don't. And on and on.

    DL is testing that facial rec thing - does that work yet?

    I know this tech isn't easy but loads of things are possible if AA wants it to be.

  68. Ryan

    AA used to have one FA come to gate to assist in boarding. They should go back to that.

  69. leol

    There is only one gate agent for my United flight last week in Houston. Boarding is a mess.

Featured Comments Load all 71 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Todd

In my experience. While AA flight attendants are generally courteous: personnel at gates and check in can be as condescendingly discourtious and racially hostile (against the majority) and racially preferential (toward certain minorities) as TSA officers often are to everyone. Unbelievable how blatant it is at times. I think theyoften see themselves as correctional officers, and we passengers are the inmates, or maybe military basic trainees.

Blake

As a 43 year flight attendant for American I can say with a high degree of certainty that this will not provide a good customer experience. It’s just not possible for one person ( gate agent) to effectively handle this work load on full flights or even near full flights. The results will be : disgruntled passengers, unprocessed upgrades for premium customers , constant luggage violations for size and quantity, poor quality preboarding for individuals needing the service, constant conflict between flight staff and agents due to boarding time pressures and all of the above resulting in delayed flights. It’s a very poor call by AA management and just another example of throwing customers and employees under the bus. Stop it now!

John F Duffy

I recently retired from a large airline in Denver. As a 43 year employee who spent 2/3 's of my career in direct, gate agent, roles I have a unique perspective to the gate agents responsibility. When I am asked "what do you do for the airlines?", my answer is always the same. I have the ultimate Rodney Dangerfield occupation, no respect!" Long live Rodney Dangerfield!

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