American Airlines is giving passengers another reason to travel light.On Thursday, the Fort Worth-based carrier announced a new boarding process that allows passengers with carry-on items that fit underneath the seat in front of them to board early.The new process, being rolled out system-wide, speeds up the boarding time by an average of two minutes per plane, said Kevin Doeksen, American’s director of customer planning.“Two minutes is a lot of time when you’re striving to make your on-time dependability targets,” Doeksen said. “Customers are focused on having an on-time airline.”Doeksen said it tested the process at airports in Austin, Baltimore, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Kansas City, Minneapolis and Washington Dulles in January and February, collecting data over a four-week period.Under the new process, first-class, executive-class, platinum and priority-access passengers are able to board planes first, as they have previously. Then passengers with small carry-on items will be allowed to board, before Group 2. Customers with larger, rolling bags that need to be placed in overhead bins will have to wait.Doeksen said customers with larger carry-ons who want to board before Group 2 can check that bag at the gate for no charge. But the carry-on bag must meet government requirements to fit in the overhead bins.Flight attendants already have to gate-check larger rolling bags once the overhead bins are full, but the new process may lessen the time involved.“We might get a few more bags gate-checked, but we’ll get them earlier in the boarding process for our ground handlers to place them in the aircraft,” Doeksen said.Separately, American Airlines’ parent company, AMR Corp., and US Airways want authorization for more shares of stock than originally proposed as part of their merger agreement. In documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission Thursday, the carriers said they want authorization for an additional 100 million shares of preferred stock.The amendment to the merger proposal now calls for authorization of 1.75 billion shares of common stock and 200 million shares of preferred stock.
Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631. Twitter: @Sky_Talk