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No carry-on luggage? Please board now

By Katia Hetter, CNN
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Mon March 25, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Passengers without carry-on luggage may board after first class and frequent fliers
  • American is testing the program in four airports
  • Other airlines already allow bag-free customers to board before those with carry-ons

(CNN) -- No carry-on luggage? No problem.

American Airlines may soon allow customers without carry-on luggage to board right after first class and elite status passengers -- and before other coach customers hauling luggage into the passenger cabin.

The airline has been quietly testing the program for several weeks to positive response at Dulles International Airport, Baltimore Washington International Airport, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, said an American spokeswoman.

"This boarding test is one more example of the progress we're making to provide our customers with an exceptional travel experience as we leverage innovation to evaluate and improve every step of the customer journey," said American spokeswoman Andrea Huguely, in a statement.

Huguely added that this is "a limited test."

"Should we decide to modify our regular boarding process, we will be informing our people and our customers first," she said.

The policy makes sense to travel blogger John DiScala of JohnnyJet.com, who first noticed and tweeted about the American test program during the boarding of a Chicago flight at the Fort Lauderdale airport last week.

"The plane doesn't make money when it's sitting on the ground," he said. "Having people without carry-ons board (first) makes the boarding process quicker. They're always waiting for people with bags (to stow their bags). And they're always trying to get people to check their bags (for a fee)."

Other airlines already reward passengers

American was the first airline to charge a checked bag fee in 2008. But it's not the first airline to give priority to passengers boarding bag-free.

Alaska Airlines has been offering early boarding for passengers with no carry-ons since October 2011. "We don't offer this on every flight, but do offer this on our fuller flights," said airline spokeswoman Bobbie Egan, via e-mail. Those passengers get to board after travelers needing assistance or traveling with children, uniformed members of the military, first class and frequent flier passengers.

In addition to allowing its frequent fliers and purchasers of premium seats to board first, Frontier Airlines also boards customers without carry-on luggage ahead of burdened passengers.

American carriers collected $2.6 billion in baggage fees in the first three quarters of 2012, according to Department of Transportation figures.

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