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American Airlines: Passengers without carry-ons get priority boarding

American Airlines is changing its boarding procedures to give priority to passengers who don’t have carry-on luggage that needs to be stored in the overhead bins.

The airline announced Thursday that passengers who have only a small personal item that will fit under the seat — such as a purse, backpack or computer — will board after Group 1 premium passengers, but before people who have roll-aboards.

People will be able to check their larger carry-on luggage at the gate for free.

The new process began Thursday.

American said it had tested the process at seven airports, including Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, and boarding had been faster and smoother.

“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,” Carol Wright, American’s vice president – Customer Planning said in a press release.

Since airlines started charging for checked bags, more people have switched to carry-on luggage, which slows the boarding process. “With on-time performance being a key factor in the airline’s dependability rating, every minute saved during boarding allows American to push back from the gate earlier, resulting in a more timely departure and arrival,” the announcement by the airline said.