As usual with any airline that's not Southwest, boarding is a pain. People rush the line, desperate not to be the last on the plane and have to search for overhead space that might not be near their seat. That is, that's how it used to be.
Moving from inconvenience to outright abuse, American Air has started "gate checking" your carry-on baggage if you're boarding near the back of the plane (group 7 and up). Assuming they have competent engineers, there should be plenty of room for everyone's carry-ons even without their new practice of asking everyone to put their "personal item" under the seat in front of them. There's no excuse for American to not have plenty of overhead room for every passenger… but it gets worse.
The bags taken during the boarding process aren't guaranteed to be there when you land. They didn't lose them between the walkway and the tarmac, they deliberately separated them to go on a later flight. How do I know? Because the "lost luggage" counter where a full staff of 5 employees was ready and waiting told me so just before they handed me the "sorry, not sorry" toiletries bag (nicely embossed with the American logo).
It's pretty easy to put the pieces together. There's no legroom, there's no baggage room, and they won't even put the bags in the hold of the plane that was already there and had the baggage door open and waiting. This is about maximizing people on each flight and spreading the luggage weight around. Or, put simply, profit before service. Of course, I got my bag the next day because their contract-delivery service (which I imagine is busy every day), delivered it as promised, but that's no excuse for getting it right in the first place.
Besides my own two instances of issues, the other attendees of my business trip reported late luggage and cancelled flights; always on American. I will definitely be looking to fly with someone who doesn't play stupid games with passengers.
Update: My wife and daughter heard me ranting and presented an alternative that I didn't think possible: what if they literally screwed up? What if, though they took the bag and dropped it down a chute from the walkway to about where the nose of the plane was, the employees loaded all the bags on a cart and took it back to a terminal by mistake.
It's always a tough choice when determining if a problem is due to maliciousness or incompetence and normally I would never assume malicious, but that's pretty incompetent… too incompetent to believe. Which brings me to a third possibility.
My wife found an article talking about how the execs at American had implemented a new policy of punishing the employees for being late for any reason. Under the policy, employees were desperate to get out and made decisions that inconvenience the customers because they don't have much choice. And now I think we found the answer that makes sense.
Basically, execs who make spreadsheet decisions didn't realize the actual effects of the new policies and rules on the actual business. As I assumed from the start, this is NOT the fault of the employees or pilots or flight attendants – this is all due to American Air. Though I may have been wrong about the "why", the reality is that a company putting (theoretical) profit before customers and employees makes everyone lose… including them. It may take some time, but the losses from rushed employees and customer frustrations will become apparent and they'll have to make adjustments.