If you're traveling light, you can board earlier on American Airlines. The airline said today that people carrying just a personal item that fits under the seat—no rolling suitcases—will be allowed to board before most other passengers. American said the change will speed up the boarding process because fewer passengers will stop in the aisle to hoist a bag into the overhead bins. The difference is about two minutes per flight, "which doesn't sound like much, but it adds up throughout the day," says an airline exec. As part of the move, the airline will let people check a bigger carry-on at the gate for free.
Airlines have been seeing a buildup in boarding times since they began charging fees for checked baggage as more people fight for limited space in overhead bins. American tested the new boarding procedure at several airports earlier this year and began applying it to all flights today. Passengers carrying just a personal item—a purse, backpack, or computer bag that will fit under the seat—will board right after "premium" passengers.