American Airlines has sent a not-so-subtle message to its passengers: Please don’t bring a carry-on bag with you on the plane. The move isn’t about boosting revenues with additional checked bag fees, though. The airline wants to speed up the boarding process and is allowing travelers to gate-check their carry-on luggage at no charge.  

To achieve this goal, American Airlines announced that passengers with only a small personal item, one that fits under the seat, will be allowed to board before group 2 boards, regardless of the group listed on their boarding pass. The idea is that the perk of early boarding will encourage travelers to gate-check their bags.

"For customers, departing on time and arriving at their destination on time is a huge factor in how they feel about their overall experience," said Carol Wright, American's vice president  for customer planning. "Our tests indicate that this new boarding process will improve our dependability and on-time performance, while being easier and more enjoyable for our customers. It's another example of our promise to put our customers at the center of everything we do."

I have traveled quite a bit over the past two years, at least compared to my previous travel schedule. I usually board early and then I sit and wait while dozens of passengers lug their big carry-on bags down the aisle. I’ve been bumped and jostled and even hit in the head by a piece of luggage that proved too much for its owner to handle as she heaved it into the overhead bin. I support the idea of fewer hazards — I mean suitcases — in the cabin.

Boarding has definitely become a much more tedious process, especially since the implementation of checked bag fees, so I commend this move by American Airlines. I’m looking forward to a follow-up report in a few months to see if this new policy will significantly impact boarding times.

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