American Airlines is said to be testing a program that would allow passengers… (Tom Fox / Associated Press )
American Airlines is testing a new boarding process that lets passengers with no carry-on bags for the overhead bins board early.
The airline confirmed it is testing the procedure to shorten the boarding time but declined to identify the airports where the testing was taking place.
[Updated at 2:40 p.m. PDT, March 21: American Airlines said it is testing the boarding process at Baltimore, Austin, Washington-Dulles and Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood international airports.]
On American Airlines' Twitter account, the airline confirmed to the travel website JohnnyJet.com the procedure was being tested at Washington area airports. JohnnyJet, headed by the site's editor John DiScala, reported the procedure was also being tested at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
DiScala reported the airline at the Fort Lauderdale airport let passengers without carry-on bags board after the elite travelers (first and business class) but apparently ahead of economy seat passengers with bags.
In a statement, American Airlines said: "We test many different concepts in an effort to continually improve the customer experience. With this in mind, we’re conducting a test for a boarding process whereby customers who do not have any baggage to stow in the overhead compartment will be boarded in a separate group. This is a limited test and results are still being analyzed."
Airlines have long studied new ways to shorten the boarding time to squeeze more flights into each work shift and cut staffing, fuel and other costs.
Every minute cut on boarding can save $30 per flight, according to a 2008 study in the Journal of Transport Management.
Those savings can add up for a carrier like American Airlines, which operates an average of 3,400 flights per day.
Denver firm designs airline seat that slides
American Airlines changes its boarding process
Airline fuel surcharges rising faster than fuel costs, study finds