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American Airlines baggage fees and policies: Here’s what you need to know

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American Airlines baggage fees and policies: Here’s what you need to know

Meghan HunterAmerican Airlines baggage fees and policies: Here’s what you need to knowMillion Mile Secrets Team

Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

American Airlines’ baggage policies are straight-forward and are more or less in line with that of the other major carriers. That said, it’s best to familiarize yourself with their rules regarding luggage because if you’re not careful, you could end up paying unwanted fees. 

We’ve broken down everything you need to know about American Airlines’ baggage policies, including checked baggage fees, baggage size limits and how to avoid those pesky checked baggage fees altogether. 

The good news is American Airlines’ baggage policies are similar to those of the other major airlines. (Photo by Tupungato/Shutterstock)

American Airlines baggage policies

Carry-on bags

American Airlines allows passengers at least one carry-on and one personal item (note: basic economy tickets only allow for a personal item). Your carry-on bag has to fit in the overhead bin. The maximum dimensions are 22 x 14 x 9 inches (56 x 36 x 23 centimeters). The rules for the personal item state that it must fit under the seat in front of you. If your bags don’t fit under the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin, you risk violating American Airlines’ carry-on restrictions.

Keep in mind that musical instruments carried on the plane must follow these same rules. If you’re bringing a pet onto the plane, their carrier counts as your carry-on and will incur an additional pet fee. 

That said, most baby-related (strollers and diaper bags) and medical-related items will not count as a carry-on. American Airlines also restricts certain items from travel, per TSA rules, like some electronics and smart bags that don’t have a removable battery. You can find a more comprehensive list on American Airlines’ website

Checked bags

If you’re traveling domestic, transatlantic, and transpacific, you can check up to 10 bags. If you’re traveling to, through, or from Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, or South America, you can usually check up to five bags. However, these policies may change seasonally, so always check the American Airlines website before you fly.

No matter where you’re flying, your bag must meet the size requirements to be checked. The dimension (length + width + height) may not exceed 62 inches or 158 centimeters. The weight cannot exceed 50 pounds or 23 kilograms. If you’re flying first class, the weight limit is 70 pounds or 32 kilograms. If your bags exceed these measurements or limits, you’re at risk for an oversize bag fee.

Checked baggage fees

American Airlines’ checked baggage fees depend mostly on your class of service, where you’re traveling and your elite status.

For domestic travel, the first bag is $30, the second bag is $40, the third bag is $150, and the fourth bag and beyond are $200 each. For transatlantic and transpacific flights, the first bag is usually complimentary. 

Fees for traveling to or from places like the Caribbean and South America vary a little bit. Some will incur no cost for the first bag, but check American Airlines’ website for the exact cost breakdown. These prices may also change if you have elite status through the AAdvantage program or if you have a travel credit card that offers free bags.  

It’s always wise to check the baggage policies for each ticket you purchase. Rules and fees can vary by route and date of travel. (Photo by Have a nice day Photo/Shutterstock)

Excess baggage fees

Bags that are overweight or oversize will incur additional fees.

Bags that are 51 pounds to 70 pounds (23 kilograms to 32 kilograms) are $100, and bags from 71 pounds to 100 pounds (32 kilograms to 45 kilograms) will cost $200 on some flights. Some travel routes will not allow bags over 70 pounds, and transpacific flights will charge $450 for bags over 70 pounds. The airline will not accept bags over 100 pounds.

Oversize bags that are 62 inches to 126 inches (158 centimeters to 320 centimeters) are $150 on some routes and $200 on other routes. Bags larger than 126 inches may are not allowed. Keep in mind that a bag may be subject to all three fees — checked bag, overweight, and oversize. For the exact fees you could incur, check American Airlines’ website

How to avoid baggage fees

There are a few ways to get around paying American Airlines’ baggage fees. 

One is to have elite status. For example, those with Gold elite status or higher will get at least one complimentary checked bag — more if you have top-tier status. You can read the details of American Airlines elite status here.

Another is to be flying in a class other than basic economy or economy. Confirmed premium economy and business class customers are eligible to check their first and second bags free on most routes. And first class passengers are allowed two to three free checked bags, depending on the route. 

It’s also worth noting that active U.S. military and their dependents with ID traveling on orders may check up to five bags free. And active U.S. military on personal travel with ID may check up to three bags free.

Lastly, if you have either a CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® or a Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®: you and up to four companions on your reservation will all get your first checked bag free on domestic flights. That adds up, seeing as American Airlines charges $30 one-way for a first domestic checked bag.

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

In considering MMS team member Joseph’s American Airlines flights from the previous three years that he’s carried an American Airlines credit card, for example, he estimates he has checked a bag for ~19 one-way flights. At that rate, he has easily saved over $550 on checked bag fees, just by holding the right American Airlines credit card.

Even if you don’t necessarily need to check a bag, doing so can be incredibly convenient when you’re traveling with little ones that need attention. (Photo by FluxFactory/iStock)

Bottom line

American Airlines’ baggage policies are easy to understand and similar to the policies of the other major airlines.

If you make sure you stay within your weight and size limits, you’ll avoid paying any excess fees. And always remember that most transatlantic and transpacific flights will grant you a complimentary bag (regardless of your status) so you don’t have to worry about lugging everything onto the plane!

Economy passengers will pay $30 for each one-way flight ($60 round-trip) for your first checked bag. And if you stay within your weight and size limits, you’ll avoid paying any excess fees. Remember, too, that most transatlantic and transpacific flights will grant you a complimentary bag (regardless of your status) so you don’t have to worry about lugging everything onto the plane.

Otherwise, you’ll need to fly in a class other than economy (like business or first), have status, or hold the right credit card to avoid checked baggage fees.

If you fly just a couple of times per year on American Airlines, you could save a lot with the  CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® or the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®. Especially if you travel with a group! These cards give you and up to four companions on the same reservation the first checked bag free — which can really add up.

Have you ever accounted for how much do you pay for checked bags each year?

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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