It Just Got Easier To Standby For An Earlier Flight And Still Get Upgraded On American Airlines

American Airlines is using technology to cut down on staffing expense, in a way that I see as hurting customer service too. They have moved to single agent boarding for flights that are less than 80% full. The reduce the tasks the gate agent needs to do, ‘Agent Assist’ software is going to clear standby lists earlier on these domestic mainline flights.

That’s going to make it harder to run up to a gate and get on the standby list, getting to your destination earlier. That’s because empty seats may already have been given away – to other customers and to employees on nonrev travel – and because agents just won’t have time to deal with you when you show up after boarding has started.

However there’s one upside that I should be highlighting here: that standby customer has a much better chance of getting an upgrade.

  • In order to get upgraded from coach to first class, you first need to be confirmed on the flight.

  • Getting confirmed into coach an hour before departure, instead of at the last minute (often after upgrades have been given away) means that those former standby passengers listing for an upgrade are now positioned to get one.

You can standby for a flight, clear onto the flight at T-60, and then be on the list for when upgrades are processed. So while on the one hand it’s harder to just run up to a flight and get on it, if you’re standing by an hour in advance you may both get on the flight and get an upgrade if you’re an eligible elite customer.

According to an internal company memo on Friday,

Revenue and non-revenue customers waiting for an upgrade will be assigned seats in Main Cabin and agents will process upgrades, if available, based on current policy.

Once cleared off the standby list, Agent Assist will assign seats:

  • Front to back for elites and nonrevs, “including Main Cabin Extra and Preferred seats, prior to moving to standard seating.”

  • Back to front for non-elite passengers, “beginning with standard seats and, when necessary, Preferred and Main Cabin Extra (excluding exit row seating).”

While American is using technology to reduce the agent workload and reduce gate staffing, they’re also adding tasks at the gate too. In another company memo issued on Friday, agents were told they’ll have to start manually documenting the time that aircraft doors are closed in order to better comply with Department of Transportation tarmac delay rules.

Agents must document the door closure time after dispatching all mainline and regional flights using QIK in the C-Text:


This information will be critical to the Control Center team members monitoring flights in TarmacMonitor.

Note: Even if the door close time has been documented using ConnectMe Teams or GateReader, this entry must be completed in QIK to ensure it is placed in the C-Text.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Not sure where you get your information but we AA gate agents haven’t used CText in a long time.

    We also always have documented last pax, door closed and jet bridge off for the 20 years I’ve been an agent.

    No one got any memo about this. Maybe when we did CText ages ago, but again we don’t utilize CText anymore. We have a different mechanism which I will not divulge as you don’t need to know.

    You need a new resource. Why are you so fixated on AA? No airline is perfect, we are all just doing the best we can under extraordinary circumstances given the new travel climate. Why are you trying to make it more miserable for a working stiff to do their job?!

    You’re just not nice.

  2. The front to back, back to front here is actually very interesting too as it lays out a strategy if you are trying to vie for an open middle seat. Your best bet seems to be towards the back of the MCE cabin.

  3. @Leavegate agentsalone – ” we AA gate agents haven’t used CText in a long time.” and you’re now being asked to.

    “We also always have documented last pax, door closed and jet bridge off for the 20 years I’ve been an agent.” And now it’s being requested in a new place.

    “No one got any memo about this” It’s a new memo, you haven’t read it yet.

    “You’re just not nice.” That’s probably true.

  4. Gary: please never change! Your blog is the best. PLEASE ALSO DON’T DO SOME HORRIBLE REDESIGN FOR NO REASON *cough omaat* (your blog looks and works just fine)

  5. Gary you do an excellent, thorough job and are fantastic. Don’t alter anything or be dissuaded by a hater You are fair and reasonable. Keep doing what you do!

  6. Wow what a post from the AA gate agent.Good gosh
    Why do you say you are probably not nice?You call it out for what it is almost each and every time fair and reasonably with passion and always been fair long before your blog on Flyertalk.Well spoken at the end of the day.You don’t sugar coat either pointing out the good and the bad equally

  7. @ Leavegate agentsalone: “No one got any memo about this.” Well, Gary Leff did. Perhaps you would receive better access to American Airlines corporate memos if you subscribe to View from the Wing. By reading Gary’s blog, you can hear the news before it’s news.

    Please keep us informed when you receive this memo from the AA mothership, as our inquiring minds and other gate agents want to know.

  8. So, Gary Leff, is telling a veteran gate agent how to work a flight and use C text?

    You got a memo? Interesting. No one I know in any station got one. And one would think maybe at least one agent would.

    You do realize agents have a group communication that we share information and techniques for hacks to do things in Qik. Once again, C text is not what we use and no agents got any emails otherwise. It’s business as usual for us, but hey, thanks for the entertainment. Love when someone who never worked at a gate tells us how to do our jobs. It’s a miracle any flights ever get dispatched!!!

    Maybe ramp does, we don’t. Trust and believe.


    No, we don’t use C Text.
    Connect me is for some management users, agents use software that connects to connect me, again not saying what it’s called. And your QIK interpretation is actually amusing.

    Stay in your lane.

  9. @Leavegate agentsalone – what i wrote is 100% accurate, and most employees get their info from word of mouth and social media groups ignoring the memos, but that’s a whole different matter

  10. The comments section made my day. You Go GARY! A lot of us are AA loyalists but still get frustrated. It’s good to know the behind the scenes and keep doing what you do!

  11. I would just love it if AA gate agents knew how to properly list a passenger who purchased a proper paid first class ticket (whether J-C-D-R-I) on the stand by list who wanted to go earlier. Some do but most don’t. Most mistakenly list you as a coach customer desiring an upgrade which is just plain wrong. If there are seats in first remaining and you want to earlier, purchasing a first class fare will trump those trying to upgrade.

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