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Travel News The Ultimate Guide to American Airlines Baggage Fees and Policies

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The Ultimate Guide to American Airlines Baggage Fees and Policies

As is the case with many air carriers these days, rules related to American Airlines baggage are complex, and can change often. That's the bad news. The good news? After reading this page for just a few minutes, you'll understand these policies thoroughly—and you'll probably save money as a result.

Understanding the ins and outs of American Airlines baggage policies and fees can feel torturous—but it doesn’t have to be. First, we’ll outline fees for both checked and carry-on baggage. Then, we’ll list some facts you need to know about both, including maximum dimensions and weight. Next, we’ll call out important exceptions to established American Airlines baggage rules, including as they related to deeply-discounted “Basic Economy” fares.

Finally, we’ll give you easy-to-follow tips about how to save money on baggage fees, so you’ll have more to spend once you arrive at your destination.

What are American Airlines Baggage Policies and Fees?

American Airlines Checked Baggage Policies & Fees

American Airlines allows you to check up to 10 bags if you’re on a domestic, transatlantic or transpacific flight, and you can check up to five bags when traveling to most other destinations.

Currently, you can expect to pay $30 for your first American Airlines checked bag, $40 for the second, $150 for the third and $200 for the fourth. If bags go over the size or weight limit, which is a total of 62 inches and 50 pounds respectively (First and Business Class are allowed 70 pounds), you can expect to pay upwards of $100 for each piece of offending American Airlines baggage.

American Airline Baggage Policy Exceptions

Note that destination countries have different regulations and costs. Be sure to check directly with American Airlines to confirm policies and fees for your individual flight.

Along with charges you may accrue for checking bags, you could also end up paying oversize or overweight bag fees if you’re not familiar with the rules.

American Airlines Carry-on Baggage Policies & Fees

American Airlines allows one personal item and one carry-on item on board free of charge. This is true unless you buy a Basic Economy ticket on flights within the US, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean*. Your personal item should not exceed 18 x 14 x 8 inches and needs to fit under the seat in front of you. The carry-on can’t exceed 22 x 14 x 9 inches and needs to fit in the airport size check. Otherwise, it will be subject to American Airlines baggage fees.

*On Basic Economy within the US, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean you are only allowed one personal item that meets the above requirements. You are not allowed access to the overhead bin. All other bags (except pets, instruments, etc. that are still subject to their regular fees) must be checked at the check-in ticket counter. 

To Note: For international travel to the U.S., powder-like substances over 12 oz. / 350 mL should be placed in checked bags. Powders over 12 oz. / 350 mL in carry-on bags may be prohibited.

American Airlines Carry-on Policy Exceptions

American Airlines also allows you to bring “diaper bags (1 per child), soft-sided cooler bags with breast milk, child safety seats, strollers and medical or mobility devices” that don’t count against your allotment under the American Airlines carry on policy.

American Airlines business class passenger
Flying first or business class can reduce or eliminate American Airlines baggage fees

Bringing your pet on board counts as your carry-on item, but you should be aware that additional carry-on pet fees apply as compared to ordinary American Airlines baggage.

American Airlines carry on baggage
Packing only carry-on luggage is a great way to pay less for American Airlines baggage

To help you keep the cost of your trip under control, continue reading. These tips can reduce checked bag fees, or help you get out of paying them all together!

American Airlines Baggage Fee Tips

  • Baggage check fees can add hundreds of dollars to the cost of a flight
  • Be familiar with the American Airlines baggage policy before you take off
  • Limit the number of bags you take and reduce the potential for additional baggage fees by sharing luggage
  • Pack light and consider using a compression device to fit all of your items into a smaller space
  • Join a frequent flier program, either American AAdvantage or one of a partner airline. This may allow you to check bags for free, particularly if you’ve achieved elite status.

Pack Light to Reduce Fees You Pay For American Airlines Baggage

One easy way to reduce the amount of luggage you use is to pack light. This means packing outfits that can easily be mixed and matched or planning on washing laundry while you’re away. Depending on what you’re bringing, you may also be able to store some of your luggage in a carry-on bag.

Use as Few Suitcases as Possible

Provided you don’t go over the American Airlines baggage limit, it may be better to try to pack all of your clothing into one suitcase. If you’re going on a trip with another person, consider sharing a large suitcase instead of using two separate bags. This is especially helpful if you’re traveling on a budget.

American Airlines carry on bag
Pack small carry-on bags efficiently to avoid having to check them

Consider Compression Packing

Compression packing involves putting your clothing in plastic bags and using a vacuum to remove all the excess air. This can greatly reduce the amount of space that your clothing takes up. It gives you more room in a suitcase! This can help you reduce the number of bags you need to check, but be sure that you don’t go over the baggage weight limit.

Ship Your Luggage

If you’re going on an extended trip or you simply need to pack a lot of things, consider shipping your luggage to your destination. Depending on the size and weight of your bags, ground shipping may be far cheaper than American Airlines baggage check fees. If you ship your bags a few days before you leave, your luggage should be waiting for you when you arrive.

Become a Member of American Airlines Rewards or Frequent Flier Program

If you fly regularly or have a credit card that offers a frequent flier program, it’s likely that you’ll be able to reduce or completely avoid baggage check fees. This is not just true for members of American’s own AAdvantage program, either. Frequent fliers of oneworld alliance member airlines may be eligible, too, depending on their elite membership tier. Additionally, Alaska Airlines MVP program card holders can check between one and three bags free of charge. Individuals who fly business or first class, or are members of the military are also eligible to have baggage check fees waived.

American Airlines Baggage FAQs

Do you get a free checked bag with American Airlines?

In some cases, yes. For example, if you are traveling in first or business class, if you hold an American Airlines co-branded credit card or if you are an elite frequent flyer with American AAdvantage or a oneworld alliance member airline.

How many bags are free with American Airlines?

For the majority of travelers, there is no free checked baggage allowance; you can only carry on one bag and a personal item. However, first- and business-class passengers enjoy free checked baggage allowances, which vary depending on your destination.

How do I avoid baggage fees on American Airlines?

The easiest way to avoid baggage fees is not to check a bag. Apart from this, traveling in a premium class, carrying a co-branded credit card or achieving elite status are some of the easiest ways to avoid American Airlines baggage fees.

How much does American Airlines charge for extra baggage?

As of August 2020, American Airlines charges between $30-200 for extra baggage, depending on the size of your bag and how many extra bags you carry. To avoid a surprise at the airport, consider communicating with American Airlines via an official channel, such as Facebook or Twitter.

Conclusion

The rules and regulations surrounding American Airlines baggage can be oblique or even confusing. That’s why we put together this easy-to-follow guide. The preceding paragraphs clearly outline fees for bags on American Airlines, as well as the specifications that types of baggage need to meet. Moreover, we’d provided tips for how to save on American Airlines baggage fees. No matter where you’re traveling (TIP: search flights on Skyscanner below for inspiration 👇) or how many items you plan to bring with you, please enjoy your next trip!

Information correct as of 29th July 2020. Please check with American Airlines directly for the latest updates.