American Airlines baggage fees and how to avoid paying them - The Points Guy (2023)

American Airlines has a fairly comprehensive policy regarding checked baggage fees and carry-on guidelines. As a large domestic airline, the American Airlines baggage policy more closely resembles that of United and Delta than Spirit and Frontier.

In many cases, American Airlines customers will enjoy a free first checked bag or even two. However, that depends on many factors, including where you're flying and whether you have elite status or carry one of the American Airlines credit cards. This guide will cover all the information you need to know about the American Airlines baggage policy.

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American Airlines carry-on guidelines

American Airlines baggage fees and how to avoid paying them - The Points Guy (1)

American Airlines is more generous with its carry-on policy than United. Virtually everyone is entitled to bring a full-sized carry-on bag and a personal item onto every flight, even customers who booked an American Airlines basic economy fare.

According to American, a personal item should be no larger than 18 inches by 14 inches by 8 inches and fit underneath the seat in front of a passenger. Examples of personal items are backpacks, purses, briefcases, laptop bags and approved pet carriers.

The maximum size of a carry-on bag allowed on an American Airlines flight is 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches.

Related: How to change or cancel an American Airlines flight

(Video) Travel Hack: How to Avoid Airline Change & Cancellation Fees | Ep 05 | To The Point

American Airlines baggage fees

American Airlines baggage fees and how to avoid paying them - The Points Guy (2)

The American Airlines checked bag policy is more complex than the airline's carry-on fees. Checked bag fees vary based on what region you're flying to, the weight of your bags, whether you hold a co-branded credit card such as the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® and whether you have AAdvantage elite status.

American Airlines baggage fees for flights within the U.S., Central America and the Caribbean

American Airlines checked bag fees for flights within the U.S., Central America and the Caribbean are pretty straightforward, as you can see in the following table:

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First bagSecond bag
General member$30.$40.
AAdvantage Gold elite memberFree.$40.
AAdvantage Platinum elite memberFree.Free.
AAdvantage Platinum Pro elite memberFree.Free (and third bag free).
AAdvantage Executive Platinum elite memberFree.Free (and third bag free).

The American Airlines baggage weight limit before incurring overweight fees is 50 pounds per bag for economy class passengers and 70 pounds per bag for premium cabin passengers.

(Video) How to avoid baggage fees at the airport

The airline has detailed rules for checked bags to Cuba and Haiti on its website.

American Airlines baggage fees for other flights

If your flight takes you outside North America, the American Airlines baggage fees get more expensive. Generally speaking, you can expect:

  • Fees for checked bags on travel to/from South America start at $45 for a first bag and $65 for a second bag.
  • All passengers (except those on basic economy fares) get one free bag for transatlantic and transpacific trips.
  • Fees for a second bag are generally $100, while fees for a third bag or more are $200 per bag.

Overweight and oversized American Airlines baggage fees

American Airlines charges both an overweight and oversize fee, and the fees can add up quickly. The American Airlines baggage weight and oversize fees are as follows:

  • Overweight fee: Starts at $100 per bag for 51 to 70 pounds and starts at $200 per bag for 70 to 100 pounds.
  • Oversized fee: Starts at $200 per bag for 63 to 126 inches, including wheels and handles.

Sports equipment

American Airlines maintains an extensive list of items that you can check. Skis, snowboards, hang gliding equipment, parachutes and many more items can count as a checked bag as long as they meet the overall size and weight requirements.

In most cases, there are no additional fees beyond any applicable checked bag fees. Scuba tanks and windsurfing boards are two notable exceptions where there is a fee regardless of whether you're entitled to any free checked bags.

You can check out the requirements and fees for checking sports equipment on American Airlines' website.

Related: The ultimate guide to flying with sports equipment

How to avoid American Airlines baggage fees

American Airlines baggage fees and how to avoid paying them - The Points Guy (3)

Luckily, there are several ways you can avoid paying American Airlines baggage fees if you want to check a bag.

(Video) Flying Delta Air Lines Can Be Better with... Credit Cards?! (How Easy!) | TPG

Elite status allowances

All four elite status tiers in American Airlines' AAdvantage program offer checked bag benefits.

  • AAdvantage Gold members receive a free first checked bag on all flights for themselves and up to eight traveling companions on the same reservation, up to 50 pounds per bag.
  • AAdvantage Platinum members can check up to two bags for free on all flights for themselves and up to eight traveling companions on the same reservation, up to 50 pounds per bag.
  • AAdvantage Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members can check three bags of up to 50 pounds apiece on all itineraries for themselves and up to eight companions on the same reservation.

Additionally, Oneworld elite members receive at least their first checked bag free on all American-operated flights.

Related: What is American Airlines elite status worth?

Credit cards

American Airlines has two primary card issues, Barclays and Citi. With various cards across multiple issuers, the checked baggage benefit varies widely based on what credit card you hold.

AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard and Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® holders get a first free checked bag for themselves and up to four traveling companions on domestic flights operated by American.

The information for the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Meanwhile, the premium Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® comes with a free first checked bag for yourself and up to eight traveling companions on domestic flights operated by American Airlines.

But some American Airlines cards, including the American Airlines AAdvantage® Mile Up® Card, don't offer any checked baggage benefits.

Related: These 27 credit cards can get you free checked bags

(Video) Airline Fees | What to Expect & How to Avoid These Charges

Book a premium cabin

Whether you're flying in domestic first class, international premium economy, international business class or Flagship First, you'll receive an increased baggage allowance. Passengers traveling in a premium cabin will get at least two checked bags for free, while Flagship First customers can check up to their first three bags for free.

Related: Chasing American Airlines elite status? Here are 14 ways to earn Loyalty Points

Use card travel credits to cover fees

Several travel rewards cards come with annual statement credits toward travel purchases. Some cards offer a credit that you can use for various travel purchases, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve and its $300 annual travel credit.

On the other hand, many American Express cards, like The Platinum Card® from American Express, offer annual airline fee credits, which are specifically for airline incidental fees. So long as you enroll in this benefit and select American as your airline of choice, you can get American Airlines baggage fees reimbursed by the credit.

Bottom line

The American Airlines baggage policy is somewhat less complicated than its competitor United. Where United uses a dynamic tool to help you understand your baggage allowance on certain flights, American Airlines has simpler charts (and rules) for customers.

American provides several ways to avoid checked baggage fees for passengers, and it allows a full-size carry-on bag and a personal item on all tickets.

However, note that free bags are for the first and second checked bag fee and can't be "stacked" on top of each other. For example, an American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum member who also holds the AAdvantage Aviator Red card can't get a total of three free checked bags when traveling domestically, even though they're entitled to two as a Platinum member and one free checked bag with the credit card.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.


How do I get American Airlines baggage fee waiver? ›

To avoid paying a checked bag fee, you need to have an eligible American Airlines credit card, at least AAdvantage Gold elite status, Oneworld Ruby status, fly in a premium cabin or as a military member in uniform. Many international destinations include a free checked bag, so check your route for exact information.

How can I get out of paying my baggage fees? ›

If you fly enough to earn elite status with a major US carrier, you won't have to worry about paying to check your bags. And once you reach higher levels of elite status, you'll be able to check more — and heavier — bags without incurring extra charges.

Do AAdvantage members pay for bags? ›

Your first checked bag is free on domestic itineraries for you and up to 4 travel companions on the same reservation – that's savings of up to $300 per round trip with the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® card. Terms apply.

Do MileagePlus members get free baggage? ›

United's MileagePlus program offers perks including free checked bags if you're a Premier member. To reach this status, you'll need to earn a certain number of Premier qualifying miles (PQM) or Premier qualifying segments (PQS).

Who gets free bags on American? ›

1st and 2nd checked bags are complimentary for:

AAdvantage Platinum. oneworld® Sapphire members. TrueBlue Mosaic members. Confirmed Domestic First customers.

Is it cheaper to check bags online American Airlines? ›

The price is the same as travelers would pay at the airport, $30 for the first bag and $40 for the second bag. The airline already lists details about prepaid bags on its website. Travelers who prepay for a bag and don't bring one do not receive a refund, for example.

Does American allow 2 free checked bags? ›

American Airlines's loyalty program, AAdvantage, has four elite tiers. Each offers one to three complimentary checked bags on American-operated flights.

How many free bags can you take on American Airlines? ›

1 personal item and 1 carry-on.

Do you get free checked bags with American credit card? ›

You don't have to pay for your flight with an American Airlines credit card to get the free checked bag, but your account must be open at least seven days prior to the date of your flight in order to be eligible.

What benefits do MileagePlus members get? ›

The best MileagePlus perks include:
  • Bonus mile earnings on United flights.
  • Free checked bags.
  • Free access to Economy Plus seating for you and your travel companions.
  • The ability to change or cancel a flight without a fee on the day of departure.
  • A free snack and drink in economy for top elites.

Is a backpack a personal item or carry-on? ›

The short answer: Yes, a backpack is generally considered a personal item if it fits under the seat in front of you. Most airlines offer a few examples of things that fit into the “personal item” category, such as a purse, laptop bag, or a briefcase, but they don't usually include “backpack” on those lists.

Do MileagePlus members get lounge access? ›

Since Jan. 1, 2021, United's invite-only Global Services members can enjoy lounge access on all United-operated flights, including those operating exclusively within the United States.
Paid membership.
MileagePlus Premier statusAnnual membership
Premier 1K$550 or 75,000 miles
4 more rows
Feb 9, 2023

Is it cheaper to pay for checked bags online or at the airport? ›

However, if you simply cannot do without your checked luggage, try to pay for the bag online, as it is typically much cheaper to purchase your bag on the airline's website rather than pay up front at the check-in counter.

Why did airlines start charging baggage fees? ›

For decades, it was free on major airlines to check at least one bag (some discount airlines got a head start on charging). But in 2008, amid rising fuel prices and economic turmoil, that started to charge. Airlines such as American and United began tacking on a $15 charge to get your bag checked to your destination.

Which airlines charge no baggage fees? ›

Southwest charges absolutely no bag fees. American, Alaska, Delta and Hawaiian charge $30 for a checked bag, while JetBlue and United charge $35 for the same. Low-cost airlines Spirit and Frontier separate from the pack here, as they charge customers for all overhead carry-on items.

Do you have to pay for checked bags twice on a round trip? ›

Baggage fees are per bag and per direction. So one way = one charge. Round trip = two charges. If your flight has a connection, bags will generally transfer from flight to flight and no additional fees will apply.

What airlines allow 2 free checked bags? ›

Southwest is the only airline that provides 2 FREE CHECKED BAGS for all fares.

Should you wrap your luggage? ›

There's a reason for plastic-wrapping your luggage, and it's extra protection. It's a great deterrent against baggage theft, especially when you realize that bag thieves don't steal bags as much as they take individual items of value from bags. A fully-wrapped bag is often too much trouble for them.

How much is it to check a bag with American basic economy? ›

Including these bag fees: American charges $30 for the first checked bag, $40 for the second, and $150 for the third (each way). You can offset these bag fees with an American credit card. Despite the restrictions, booking basic economy on American Airlines doesn't have to be a bad experience.

Is it cheaper to prepay for checked bags? ›

For select destinations, you'll even save money on checked bag fees when you prepay. Make the check-in process easier by paying online before your flight.

How much does American charge for carry-on bags? ›

More American Airlines baggage fees
Baggage categoryFeeMax Weight
LugLess carry-on$14-$3925lbs
First checked bag$3050lbs
Second checked bag$4050lbs
Third checked bag$15050lbs
6 more rows

Can I bring 2 backpacks on American Airlines? ›

American Airlines (AA) allows 1 carry-on bag and 1 personal item (purse, briefcase, laptop bag) per passenger fee free. Carry-on should not exceed the following size and weight restrictions: 45 linear inches (22 x 14 x 9 in) or 115 centimeters (56 x 36 x 23 cm) including handles and wheels.

Is a backpack a personal item American Airlines? ›

Personal items and American Airlines

In addition to a carry-on bag, American Airlines allows passengers to carry one personal item, such as a small backpack, laptop bag, camera bag, briefcase, or purse. No matter what kind of personal item you choose, it must be able to fit securely underneath the seat in front of you.

Can I bring two bags for carry-on? ›

Typically in economy, you can bring one carry-on and one personal item. If you bring two bags, one must fit underneath your seat and the other can go into the overhead bin. If you're flying in an upgraded class like business or first, you may be allowed an additional carry-on bag.

Does toothpaste count as a liquid? ›

Each passenger is limited to one quart-size bag of liquids, gels and aerosols. Common travel items that must comply with the 3-1-1 liquids rule include toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash and lotion.

Is a duffle bag considered a carry-on? ›

Can You Use a Duffle Bag as a Carry On ? Yes. As long as your duffle bag is within the airline's size requirements for carry on luggage, you can use a duffle bag as a carry on item.

Can a duffel bag be a personal item? ›

The short answer is yes. A duffle bag can count as a personal item. However, a duffle bag isn't the most common type of personal item. Briefcases, handbags, and small backpacks are more popular formats for personal items.

How do I know if I have to pay for my checked bag in American Airlines? ›

Is there a baggage fee? On American Airlines, customers seated in economy pay $30 for their first checked bag on all domestic — and most Caribbean, Mexico, Central American, and South American — flights. If you're flying elsewhere internationally, say Hong Kong or Paris, the first bag is free.

What does first checked bag free mean? ›

The first bag of each passenger in the reservation will be automatically waived of fees at check-in. This benefit can only be used with bags that are not overweight or oversize under Delta's applicable rules.

What is a complimentary bag check? ›

When overhead bins fill up, travelers with carry-ons that don't fit under the seat will be asked to gate check their bag. Gate checking is always free of charge, and basically means your carry-on will be put into the cargo hold with all the other checked luggage.

How do I claim American Airlines reimbursement? ›

The easiest way to submit a claim for FSA reimbursement is to visit the Benefits Service Center and select the Reimbursement Accounts tab.
  1. Click on Get Reimbursed and select the account you wish to submit a claim for.
  2. Choose to either submit your receipts/documentation either by uploading a file or through fax or mail.

Does a backpack count as a personal item? ›

The short answer: Yes, a backpack is generally considered a personal item if it fits under the seat in front of you. Most airlines offer a few examples of things that fit into the “personal item” category, such as a purse, laptop bag, or a briefcase, but they don't usually include “backpack” on those lists.

What is an airline fee waiver? ›

Airline waivers typically waive the fare rules on qualifying tickets issued so no change fees, additional collections, or penalties for refunds are charged in times of major disruption.

How many bags can I take on American Airlines for free? ›

1 personal item and 1 carry-on.

Which airline loses the most luggage? ›


What is a baggage claim check? ›

BAGGAGE CLAIM means notification by a passenger that his baggage has been lost, damaged, delayed, pilfered or stolen and may originate in the form of a report prepared on behalf of the passenger by airline personnel, which may or may not entitle the passenger to receive compensation.

Is it cheaper to add baggage at the airport? ›

If you're concerned that your baggage might exceed the allowed limit, pay for additional luggage weight online in advance of your trip. Sure, it's an extra cost, but it's always much cheaper to pay for it online than at the airport. This will help you to sail through check-in and avoid the stress.

What should you not pack in a personal item? ›

  • Sharp objects (scissors (except for nail scissors), knives, straight razors, and safety razor blades, etc.)
  • Sporting equipment.
  • Self-defense items like pepper spray or brass knuckles.
  • Tools of any kind.
  • Flammable and explosive items.

Can I bring two backpacks as a carry-on and personal item? ›

Airline rules allow for one carry on bag and one personal item, unless you're flying on a basic economy fare. But we've all seen people selfishly putting two bags in the overhead bin or carrying on more luggage than could possibly be allowed.


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