I flew American recently and was permitted to board earlier than my assigned zone because I had only a small carry-on that fit under the seat. I really liked that.
A recent Associated Press article describes the logic behind the new AA policy and explains other strategies that other airlines are testing as a means to speed up the boarding process.
The article doesn’t mention it, so please allow me to point out that the boarding process slowed down substantially when the airlines* imposed checked bag fees. Passengers now feel impelled to overstuff their carry-on bags, which then can’t be wedged into the overhead bins without a crowbar and a barrel of grease, which means the line backs up down the jetway while the passenger flails away at the American Tourister until a flight attendant confiscates it and gate checks it.
And I can’t blame the offending passenger because I’ll do the same to save $25, if I have to. And there’s actually no point to pointing that out because those fees will never, ever go away. But I feel a little better for reminding everyone of whose fault this is.
*Except Southwest and JetBlue.