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Understanding AA Boarding Groups – And How to Move Up A Group

Last updated: July 21,2022
Originally Published: January 31,2022
by Jestan Mendame

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American Airlines started rolling out its 9 AA boarding groups way back in 2017 and it has used the same boarding process up until today.

The new boarding groups were implemented to keep boarding procedures organized among the different fare classes. However, it can be too confusing for passengers since most airlines around the world only have two boarding groups – priority and non-priority passengers.

It’s unlikely that American Airlines will change its boarding groups now so the only solution is to understand the 9 AA boarding groups and the eligible passengers under each group.


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American Airlines has rolled out 9 AA boarding groups since 2017 and it has used the same boarding process up to this date.
(Image courtesy of Envato Elements)

What Are The 9 AA Boarding Groups?

There are 9 official AA boarding groups, with Group 1 being the first and Group 9 being the last. Groups 1-5 are considered priority boarding while Groups 6-9 would be regular boarding.

Typically, each boarding group is called separately but there are also times when groups are bundled together depending on the discretion of the people in charge during your flight.

While there are 9 official boarding groups, there’s one more boarding group that gets to board before Group 1, and that is the Preboarding Group. This group is composed of flyers requiring special assistance, people traveling with a child under 2 years old, and Concierge Key members. Concierge Key is an invite-only elite status that’s usually given to VIPs.

After the Preboarding Group gets on the plane, the following groups are next:

Boarding Group 1

Boarding Group 1 includes First-class passengers or business class passengers who are flying on a two-class international plane. A two-class plane is an aircraft that doesn’t have an actual first-class and its highest class is only the business class.

Other eligible passengers also include active-duty U.S. military with military I.D and AAdvantage Executive Platinum members. Executive Platinum is the highest tier among the four tiers in the AAdvantage loyalty program.

Boarding Group 2

Group 2 only includes three eligible people and these are AAdvantage Platinum Pro members (second-highest tier in AAdvantage), OneWorld Emerald members, and business class passengers on a 3-class plane.

Take note that OneWorld has its own loyalty program and it has three status tiers with Emerald being the highest tier.

Boarding Group 3

This group only includes AAdvantage Platinum members (third-highest tier in AAdvantage) and OneWorld Sapphire members (second-highest tier in OneWorld).

Boarding Group 4

People who are eligible for Boarding Group 4 are AAdvantage gold members (fourth highest tier in AAdvantage), OneWorld Ruby members (third highest tier in OneWorld), premium economy passengers, travelers who bought Priority boarding, and Airpass members.

Additionally, Citi / AAdvantage Executive cardholders will also be eligible for Boarding Group 4. A great example would be the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard. It offers other travel perks such as priority check-in and free checked baggage. 

Note: An Airpass membership automatically comes with an AAdvantage Gold elite status if you only paid a $10,000 upfront fee. A higher upfront fee means that you’ll have a higher elite status and of course, a higher boarding group. You can read our article about Airpass memberships to learn more.

Boarding Group 5 (aka Preferred Boarding)

This group includes people who are in Main Cabin Extra (excluding Basic Economy) and are Eligible AAdvantage credit cardholders.

Some examples of eligible cards would be the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard and the AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard.

Boarding Group 6 To 9

AA Boarding Groups 6 to 9 are the non-priority groups and it’s usually the airline that decides which group you belong to. This means that your boarding pass would specifically state which one of the AA boarding groups you belong to.

But aside from the airline’s decision, there are other factors that would also determine your boarding group. For example, AAdvantage members who don’t have elite status would typically get assigned to Boarding Group 6.

Also, Basic Economy passengers who are flying to/from Europe and South America would be assigned to Boarding Group 8 while Passengers in Basic Economy who are flying within the U.S., Canada, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean would be assigned to Boarding Group 9.


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How To Move Up On AA Boarding Groups Using Credit Cards

Getting into AA Boarding Groups 1 to 5 is not that easy because not all people are active-duty U.S. military and not all people can afford business class or first class flights.

Additionally, reaching elite status in One World or AAdvantage is also hard to do because you need to fly frequently and earn lots of tier points. If you want to get priority boarding here are two ways how to do it:

Get Eligible Citi/AAdvantage Cards

You can get into Boarding Group 4 if you have the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard. Apart from that, you will also get a series of travel perks such as complimentary Admiral Club access, in-flight discounts, free checked baggage, and priority check-in.

Meanwhile, you need to have one of these Citi/AAdvantage cards below to get into Boarding Group 5 (preferred boarding):

  • AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard
  • AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard
  • AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard
  • Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
  • CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
  • Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select American Express Card
  • Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select Visa Signature

Booking First-Class or Business Class Award Flights

The easiest way to get into Boarding Groups 1 to 3 is booking award flight redemptions on American Airlines business class and first-class flights. See award chart below.

Get priority boarding on AA Boarding Groups when you redeem your miles for a first-class or business class flight.
Get priority boarding on AA Boarding Groups when you redeem your miles for a first-class or business class flight.
(Image courtesy of American Airlines)

Rumors have circulated in the past with American Airlines planning to remove the award charts but fortunately, it didn’t. As of today, AA has three types of awards: MileSAAver awards, AAnytime awards, and Web Special awards. Each award type varies in availability and flexibility, hence the big price difference.

For example, MileSAAver awards are cheaper because there are limited redemptions for it and it costs $150 to change your flight dates. It’s basically for flyers with flexible dates. Meanwhile, AAnytime awards are more expensive because you can make multiple changes until the day of your flight at no cost.

As you can see, you can book first-class or business class flights for as low as 25,000 miles. If you’re flexible enough, there are multiple ways to find the best redemptions for your AAdvantage miles.

Frequently Asked Questions About AA Boarding Groups

Here are some answers to some FAQs:

Which Boarding Group Is Assigned To You If You Meet Multiple Criterias?

American Airlines will assign you the highest group that you qualified for. For example, if you booked a Basic Economy flight yet you’re a OneWorld Sapphire member, you will be assigned to Boarding Group 3.

Here’s another example, a passenger in a first-class flight who only has an AAdvantage Gold status will be assigned to Boarding Group 1.

Can You Still Get Priority Boarding If You Miss Your Boarding Group?

Yes. If you belong to Boarding Group 3 and you arrived late while Boarding Group 5 is already boarding the plane, just let the gate agent know and you can bypass the current group.

Can You Board With Other Boarding Groups?

You can board with other flyers as long as you are moving down. For example, a passenger from Boarding Group 1 can board with passengers from Boarding Group 3.


Read More: American Airlines Boeing 777 Business Class Flight Review


Bottomline

American Airlines isn’t the only major US carrier that has multiple boarding groups. In fact, Delta Airlines has 8 boarding groups while United Airlines has 3 boarding groups.

The reason why they are doing this is to have efficient and organized boarding procedures. While that may prove effective in their respective test environments, it doesn’t always play out in real-life situations.

Multiple boarding groups can confuse both passengers and gate agents which defeats the purpose of efficiency. Not to mention, uninformed passengers can get unruly which can even cause more delays.

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  • Phillard Milmore

    February 28, 2022

    There’s nothing to understand about AA boarding groups. You just form a loose gaggle as soon as you see your airplane pulling into the gate (be sure to block the concourse as much as possible), and then push through the crowd so you can get on and incorrectly store your carry-ons sonthat all the bin space is used up before the airplane is half full. It’s a very simple process!!