Confused by Qantas' main US partner American Airlines' boarding process when connecting through Los Angeles or Dallas? You're not alone. The new boarding process, launched in May, is unusual: passengers board not by seat row but by the order they checked in.
American Airlines says the changes "enhance the travel experience for our customers", but US flight attendant union APFA calls the enhancements "complete chaos in the cabin".
Top-tier oneworld frequent flyers (including Qantas frequent flyer Platinum, Gold and Silver members), business and first class passengers, and uniformed military board first, but then the scrum begins.
If you're not in any of those early boarding groups, you might want to drop US$9 (A$8.50) per flight to board early, especially if your tolerance for pushing, shoving and dodging massive American carry-on luggage is low after a 14-16-hour flight across the Pacific.
But that option, called PriorityAAccess, is only open if you've booked your flights through American Airlines. Passengers who buy codeshared tickets through Qantas aren't presented with that option.
On the plus side for Qantas passengers, Silver Frequent Flyers get to board before the masses, right after Qantas Platinum and Gold members and their oneworld Emerald and Sapphire equivalents.
American Airlines has an equivalent oneworld Ruby status (AAdvantage Gold), so allows priority boarding -- unlike, say, British Airways, which doesn't have a oneworld Ruby equivalent in its Executive Club frequent flyer program.
Don't forget to keep your ears open, though, because they're unlikely to say "Qantas Silver Frequent Flyers, board now".
Here's the boarding order, for reference:
- First Class, top tier frequent flyers: oneworld Emerald, Qantas Platinum Frequent Flyers and AAdvantage Executive Platinum members, plus uniformed military.
- Business Class, second tier frequent flyers: oneworld Sapphire, Qantas Gold Frequent Flyers and AAdvantage Platinum members.
- PriorityAAccess buyers, third tier frequent flyers: oneworld Ruby, Qantas Silver Frequent Flyers and AAdvantage Gold members.
- Everyone else, in order of check-in.