Unless you're lucky enough to have priority boarding privileges, waiting to get on a plane is often a stressful tug of war between hating on all the lurkers crowding the gate area before the process even starts and joining the lurkers crowding the gate area to jockey for position in your respective boarding group. The typical boarding process is complete clusterfuck, but it looks like American Airlines is hoping to make it less confusing -- and, hopefully, less annoying -- with an overhaul of its method.
As of Wednesday, American Airlines' boarding process has been "simplified" to include nine -- yes, nine -- numbered boarding groups. The airline said the order by which it fills its planes with grumpy humans has not changed, but rather the names of the groups and, as a result, how they're announced at the gate. The biggest change: First Class, Business Class, and other priority boarding groups will no longer be called separately, but rather, as Group 1, Group 2, Group 3, and so on. Economy class boarding doesn't start until Group 5. Basically, everyone gets a group number now.
The idea, it seems, is to avoid confusion. Previously, passengers with Group 1 on their tickets would be called after First Class, Business Class, etc., but that didn't stop some people from incorrectly thinking they were supposed to board the plane first, according to a report by The Philadelphia Inquirer.
"We are not changing the boarding order, just the group names," Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for American, told the paper. "Customers would line up and say, 'I'm going to be the first to board. I'm in Group 1,' not realizing that there were additional groups who were going to board prior to them. This is just more transparent."
It doesn't look like new boarding system favors more frequent fliers over economy passengers any more than the old system did. For example, if your airline-branded credit card guaranteed you Group 1 boarding, it looks like the same amount of people will get on the plane before you, even though it's now called Group 5, per the report. There is, however, an all-new final boarding group -- Group 9 -- designated specifically for people who choose American Airlines' new "Basic Economy" fares.
Whether this makes getting on a plane any less stressful remains to be seen. It's probably safe to say the same people who swarmed the gate when they were in what used to be Group 4 will still swarm the gate now if they're in Group 8, all in the desperate fight for overhead bin space. American posted a helpful chart detailing the new boarding process right here.