Not only standby passengers but they are closing flights earlier than they have in the past and leaving behind ticketed passengers with tight connections.
Jan 31st I arrived on and MKE-ORD flight 25 minutes before my scheduled departure, sat just off the gate for 15 minutes waiting for the aircraft at our arrival gate to depart, ran down 5 gates to arrive 6 minutes before the departure time according to the clock on the monitor behind the gate. The gate agent barely gave me the time of day, told me the flight was closed, my First Class seat had been given away and I could go to the rebooking station behind me so they could try to book me on the United flight that left in 40 minutes.
AA rebooking agent was very friendly and rebooked me on the United flight. As I ran to United terminal, I looked over at my gate and my AA flight was still sitting there 8 minutes after the departure time. I arrived in the United terminal to an overhead announcement telling me to report to my gate where I was welcomed by friendly smiling UA staffers telling me they were holding the flight just for me, gave me a seat with extra legroom and that they were hoping I liked their service as a loyal AA EXP flyer.
It was then that I realized how much the time have changed.
1. Never did I expect that AA's last ORD-MIA flight would leave before 7pm nor expect that United would have later flights on ORD-MIA than AA.
2. I'm also not accustomed to AA closing it's last flights of the night earlier than the scheduled departure times, stranding ticketed passengers.
3. Who would have thought UA employees would go out of their way to may a loyal AA EXP flyer feel more welcome on their UA flight, after missing his AA flight?
The agent might have been a bit negative on the attitude but she at least was trying to get you out that same night. You were then re-accommed onto another airline so that you could get there same day. I personally find it hard to believe that UA even had a shred of clue about you being an AA EXP other than that they saw the source of the reservation and just were trying to give you a good experience. Your outbound flight could have taken any numerous type of delay in the gate while waiting to push. Gate agents can't foresee these things and close on time to protect themselves.
As far as closing last flights of the night earlier than scheduled departure times, all flights "should" be closed at -10 and those flights are no different. There are agents who are good at their job and are able to routinely close at -5/-6 in order to give those hot connections those extra couple minutes but by no means is any flight routinely closing at departure time.
Unfortunately for you, you arrived past -10 and your flight was closed. You would be surprised at how many closes that go 1 or 2 minutes late end up causing a 1 or 2 minute delay just because of a simple issue or a human error from someone rushing. Personally, if I know I have a lot of hot connections and no official hold, I advise agents to hold for a minute or two if I know it will help a majority of our revenue passengers.