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Updated June 18, 2019

American Airlines Baggage Fees

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Planning travel with American Airlines? Learn the luggage fees before you take off to avoid unpleasant surprises. We breakdown how much you'll pay and the best ways to save.

© Cory W. Watts (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

Long gone are the days of free luggage from most airlines. If you want to pack more than a carry-on for your trip, be prepared to open your wallet.

At American Airlines, baggage fees vary depending on the destination and how many bags you're bringing along. Keep reading to learn more.

American Airlines Baggage Fees

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American allows each passenger one free carry-on bag and one free personal item.

Carry-on bags must be smaller than 22 x 14 x 9 inches. Personal items, such as a purse or briefcase, must be smaller than 18 x 14 x 8 inches and fit under the seat in front of you.

A few things to remember about carry-on bags:

  • Diaper bags, cooler bags for breast milk, car seats, strollers and medical and mobility devices don't count against your carry-on/personal item limit.

  • You may carry on a soft-sided garment bag but it must fit under the seat or in the overhead bin.

  • Any liquids you bring in your carry-on must follow the TSA's liquids rule - all liquids must be less than 3.4 ounces and fit in one clear quart-sized bag.

Most airports have tester displays at check-in to make sure your bag is small enough. Even if you do sneak it past, modern airplanes simply don't have space for larger carry-ons.

DON'T be the person trying to squeeze a full-size bag into the overhead compartment while everyone onboard waits to take their seats.

Checked luggage prices vary by location:

DestinationFirst BagSecond BagThird Bag
United States$30*$40**$150
Mexico$30*$40$150
Haiti$0$40*/$70**$150
Caribbean$30*$40*/$70**$150
Panama$0$40$150
Central America (except Panama)$30*$40/$55**$150
Brazil$0$0$150
Colombia$0/$30*$55$150
Ecuador$0$40$150
Venezuela$0$55$150
South America (except above)$0$0$200
Trans-Atlantic$0/$60^$100$200
Trans-Pacific$0$0$200

Exceptions defined by American Airlines are as follows:

Bag fee based on travel date and destination. Seasonal pricing applies for travel on June 15, 2019 - August 12, 2019 and for tickets issued on / before April 17, 2019 for travel on December 8 - 24, 2019 or for tickets issued on / after April 18, 2019 for travel on December 7, 2019 - January 12, 2020.

*1st checked bag fee of $25 applies for tickets issued on or before September 20, 2018 and $30 for tickets issued on or after September 21, 2018. For travel to/from El Salvador, the 1st bag fee of $30 applies seasonally. For travel to / from Cali, Colombia the 1st bag fee applies seasonally for tickets issued on or before April 2, 2019. There is no 1st bag fee to / from Cali, Colombia for tickets issued on or after April 3, 2019.

**For domestic travel a 2nd checked bag fee of $35 applies for tickets issued on or before September 20, 2018 and $40 for tickets issued on or after September 21, 2018. For travel to/from Honduras, a $55 2nd bag fee applies seasonally. For travel to/from Port au Prince, Haiti a $55 2nd bag fee applies seasonally for tickets issued on / before November 12, 2018 (no seasonal increase for Cap Haitien) and a year-round 2nd bag fee of $70 applies for tickets issued on / after November 13, 2018 and for travel beginning January 14, 2019 for Port au Prince and Cap Haitien.

^$60 1st bag fee applies to Transatlantic Basic Economy tickets

When traveling to Cuba from:

  • United States (Domestic U.S., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands)
  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Caribbean

Passengers pay the applicable bag fee as defined in the above table; when returning from Cuba, 1st and 2nd bags are free.

When traveling round-trip to Cuba from:

  • United States (Domestic U.S., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands)
  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Caribbean

Passengers pay the applicable fee as defined in the above table; when returning from Cuba, 1st and 2nd bags are free.

Baggage fees to all destinations are non-refundable. American Airlines charges the fee per bag and per leg of the trip, so round-trip flights require paying for each bag for both the outbound and returning flights.

If you're moving rather than simply traveling, remember: you can check up to TEN bags for domestic, transatlantic and transpacific flights.

Five checked bags are allowed on flights to/from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.

Baggage Weight, Size Limits and Fees

A customer service rep will calculate your bag's size by adding the outside dimensions (length plus width plus height) when you check-in.

For all regions, your bag must be:

  1. Under 62 inches
  2. Weigh less than 50 pounds for economy tickets.
  3. Weigh less than 70 pounds for first-class/business tickets.

American will not transport any bag larger than 126 inches or heavier than 100 pounds.

Oversize bags:
Passengers traveling with an oversized bag can expect to pay $200 per bag per leg of the trip ($150 for travel to Europe or Brazil).

Overweight bags:
Bags that weigh 20 pounds over the limit have a $100 fee per bag per leg. Those that weigh more than 20 pounds over the limit come with a $200 fee per bag.

Flights to Europe, Cuba and Australia cannot accept any bag over 70 pounds. For transpacific flights, the fee for 70 pounds or more is $450.

Remember: Each bag can have multiple fees:
An overweight AND oversized bag will incur the original baggage fee plus the overweight fee plus the oversized fee.

Want to avoid baggage fees? We'll show you how below.

Credit Cards That Cover AA Baggage Fees

Several credit cards offer free checked bags when flying on American Airlines. You must have the card for at least seven days to use the free baggage fee credit. The benefit ends as soon as you close the card.

Cardholders receive one free checked bag with the following cards:

  • Eligible AAdvantage® Aviator® and Citi® / AAdvantage®
  • AAdvantage® Gold
  • Oneworld® Ruby

Receive up to two free checked bags with these cards:

  • AAdvantage® Platinum Pro
  • AAdvantage® Platinum
  • Oneworld® Sapphire members

These cards come with three complimentary checked bags:

  • AAdvantage® Executive Platinum
  • Oneworld® Emerald

Several non-branded cards can be used to help cover baggage fees, including the American Express Gold, a CreditDonkey partner:

  • American Express Gold earns 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months. This card earns 4x points at restaurants worldwide. 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000/year in purchases, then 1x). 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com. You can earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations (enrollment required). There is a $250 annual fee (See Rates & Fees).

    This card includes benefits for travelers: There is no foreign transaction fee (See Rates & Fees) and a $100 airline fee credit to cover up to $100 per calendar year in incidental fees (such as baggage fees) at one selected qualifying airline. Terms apply.

  • American Express Platinum offers 60,000 Membership Rewards points if you spend $5,000 on purchases with your new card within the first three months of opening your account. You earn 5x Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. This is a charge card so you will have to pay your balance in full each month. There is a $550 annual fee (See Rates & Fees).

    This card includes several benefits for travelers: This card offers Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings. This card also offers up to a $200 airline fee credit per calendar year to cover baggage fees and more at your selected qualifying airline. This card gives you access to 5 airport lounge networks including The Centurion® lounge network, The International American Express lounges, Delta Sky Club® lounges, Priority Pass(TM) Select, and Airspace Lounge. Enrollment required for Priority Pass Select. There is no foreign transaction fees (See Rates & Fees). This card also gives you access to Platinum Card® Concierge. You can enroll to get complimentary Hilton Honors Gold Status and complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Status. Terms Apply.

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve lets you earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. This card offers a $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.

    This card earns 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. The points can be transferred 1:1 to leading frequent travel programs including airline transfer partners. The card has $0 foreign transaction fees. The card comes with access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select. There is a $450 annual fee.

Other Ways to Avoid Baggage Fees

You don't need a credit card to avoid baggage fees. Here are some other smart tips:

Earn elite status with American: Elite status comes with many perks, including no baggage fees.

If you gain Elite status after you book your flight, show your ticket receipt to the gate agent to get reimbursed for your baggage fees. As long as you booked the flight under Elite status, you'll receive the free luggage benefit, even if you lose the status between the time you book and the time you fly.

  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum: 3 free checked bags.
  • AAdvantage Platinum Pro: 2 free checked bags.
  • AAdvantage Platinum: 2 free checked bags.
  • AAdvantage Gold: 1 free checked bag.

Book a first class, business or premium economy ticket: All business class tickets include up to two free checked bags per person.

Premium economy allows for one free checked bag. Traveling on a first class ticket in a three-cabin aircraft means you get up to three free checked bags.

Be an active U.S. military personnel: AA gives active U.S. military personnel and their dependents up to five free checked bags when traveling on orders.

Active U.S. military traveling for personal reasons get three free bags.

Pick and choose your travel destinations: If you're REALLY determined to skip baggage fees, you can book your travel to avoid them. American Airlines allows one free checked bag when traveling to:

  • Columbia
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Panama
  • Venezuela

Your ticket includes two free checked bags if you're traveling to:

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Peru
  • South Korea
  • Uruguay

Ship your luggage: Consider sending your luggage ahead of you through FedEx, UPS or the United States Postal Service. Numerous companies, such as LugLess and Luggage Forward, also specialize in shipping luggage, with fees varying depending on size, weight, distance and how soon you need it to arrive.

Learn to pack light: Invest in lightweight luggage to cut down on your baggage weight and avoid additional fees.

You can also use packing tips like rolling up clothing, using vacuum-sealed bags and wearing as much as you can on the plane.

When planning your outfits, choose versatile pieces that you can mix and match, limiting the number of items you need to pack.

Check weight and size at home: Don't be surprised by extra fees at the airport - measure and weigh your luggage at home before you leave.

You can use a household scale or purchase a specialty luggage scale on Amazon.

Condense luggage: Families traveling together can avoid luggage fees by condensing their belongings into just one or two bags.

Since car seats fly for free, purchase a car seat bag and fill it with belongings beside the car seat. This can save valuable room in your suitcase.

Leave These Items at Home

Travelers coming into the United States must keep all powder-like substances over 12 ounces in a checked bag.

Other Restricted Items:
  • Alcoholic beverages over 140 proof
  • Mace, tear gas or pepper spray
  • Any type of explosive
  • Flammable liquids and solids
  • Household cleaners
  • Hoverboards
  • Marijuana
  • Pressurized containers of any kind
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 7
  • Self-heating meals

Items restricted as a carry-on but allowed in a checked bag:

  • Alcoholic beverages under 140 proof
  • Knives, box cutters, ice picks or straight razors
  • Vapor or e-cigarettes
  • Firearms and ammunition
  • Gas-powered tools
  • Scissors

Seasonal Limitations

More people flying equals more luggage. During peak travel seasons, American Airlines limits the number of checked bags a person can bring.

The exact dates of peak season change from year to year. But typically they are early June through mid-August and mid-November through mid-January.

During peak times, passengers may bring:

  • First Class: Three free bags on 3-cabin planes and two bags on 2-cabin flights.
  • Business and Primary Economy: Two free bags.
  • Main Cabin: Two bags. First bag is $30, second is $40

All passengers may also bring one carry-on and one personal item, plus sports equipment, disability assistant devices and overweight bags weighing under 70 pounds.

When traveling to select cities in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central or South American during peak times, these items are restricted:

  • Overweight bags over 70 pounds
  • Oversized bags
  • Boxes such as plastic tubs, containers or coolers

Traveling with Sports Equipment and Other Special Items

While you can often rent sports equipment at your destination, sometimes you might need to travel with your equipment or other special items.

These items are considered checked luggage and follow the fee schedule for checked bags:

  • Archery equipment
  • Backpack or knapsack
  • Boogie, skim or speed boards
  • Bowling balls
  • Camping equipment
  • Fishing gear
  • Golf clubs
  • Hockey or lacrosse
  • Oars

  • Scuba gear (without tanks)
  • Shooting equipment
  • Skateboard
  • Snow skis
  • Snowboards
  • Tennis rackets
  • Tent or sleeping bag
  • Water skis

These items incur a flat $150 fee:

  • Antlers
  • Bicycles
  • Hang gliders
  • Kiteboards
  • Kitesurf
  • Scuba gear (with tanks)
  • Surfboards
  • Wakeboards
  • Wave ski
  • Windsurf

American Airlines is only liable for damage to sports equipment if it's stored in a hard case AND the case is visibly damaged.

Other special items that you may fly with include:

Musical Instruments: Must fit in the overhead bin or under your seat. You can also choose to buy an additional seat for the instrument. Or you can check it and pay the associated fee depending on your class of ticket and destination.

All checked instruments must be in a hard case and may not weigh more than 165 pounds or be larger than 150 inches.

Car Seats and Strollers: You can carry on a car seat and stroller for each child traveling. Passengers must check any strollers that are heavier than 20 pounds and non-collapsible.

Traveling with Pets

American Airlines does allow you to travel with your pet, as long as you follow the rules and regulations for pet travel.

Your pet's breed and size determine how they can travel, whether as a carry-on, as checked luggage or with American Airlines Cargo.

Pets are allowed on all flights shorter than 12 hours traveling to/from:

  • United States
  • Canada
  • Central America
  • Mexico
  • Puerto Rico
  • St. Croix
  • St. Thomas

Some cities impose restrictions on pet travel, so check with a customer service agent before booking your flight.

AA protects animals by restricting travel when the temperature will be above 85 degrees Fahrenheit or below 45 degrees Fahrenheit at any destination on the itinerary.

Checked pets cost $200 per kennel, per leg. Carry-on pets have a $125 per kennel, per leg charge.

Tips for bringing along pets as checked luggage:

  • Checked pets many not travel to/through/from Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas or Palm Springs from May through September.

  • If your dog or cat is a brachycephalic or snub-nosed breed or mix (e.g., pug, pit bull, Burmese, Himalayan), they may not travel as checked luggage because of the danger of asphyxiation in the cargo hold.

  • All dogs and cats must be at least eight weeks old when traveling within the U.S. and 16 weeks old when traveling to the U.S. from other countries.

  • Contact AA Reservations at least 48 hours in advance - each passenger is allowed two checked animals.

  • Allow extra time for check-in to go over the checklist with the reservation agent and provide the necessary health certificate from your vet and written certification that your pet has been fed and watered in the previous four hours.

  • Animals may fly on any direct flight and may only fly on tickets that have connecting flights in Charlotte, Chicago O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, New York Kennedy and LaGuardia, Miami, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Washington Reagan.

  • Kennels must be large enough for your pet to stand, turn, sit and lie down, and must be secured with cable ties on all four corners.

  • Include enough food for 24 hours with the kennel - each kennel must have an attachable food and water dish inside the kennel.

Remember these guidelines when bringing a pet on the plane:

  • The pet may be carried on as its kennel fits under the seat in front of you. The animal must be able to stand up and turn around in the kennel.

  • The pet must stay in the kennel the entire flight.

  • Only seven kennels are allowed on AA flights at a time. Make arrangements for your pet to fly well ahead of time to assure it has a spot.

Service animals are always free but must fit under your seat, at your feet or in your lap. Some animals are not allowed as service animals, including:

  • Amphibians
  • Ferrets
  • Goats
  • Hedgehogs
  • Insects
  • Reptiles
  • Rodents
  • Snakes
  • Spiders
  • Non-household birds
  • Animals with tusks, horns or hooves

Luggage Delivery Service

American Airlines also offers luggage delivery service. This allows you to bypass baggage claim and get right to your final destination. You don't even have to be present to sign for your bags.

Here's how it works:

  1. Sign up for luggage delivery online through the American Airlines website at least two hours before your departure time.

  2. When you drop off your luggage with the ticket representative, they'll mark it with a special tag.

  3. After you land, skip the baggage claim and head right for your hotel, resort or other destination, anywhere within 100 miles of the airport. Your bags will arrive within four to six hours.

VIP Luggage Delivery: Offers the services and charges $29.95 for the first bag, $39.95 for the second, and $49.95 for any bags over three, up to ten bags per person.

If your destination is farther than 40 miles from the airport, the company also charges an additional $1 per mile.

Delivery charges are in addition to any baggage fees American Airlines charges. The service is available between all U.S. domestic locations, as well as the cities of Aruba, Calgary, Dublin, Freeport, Montreal, Nassau, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.

Delayed or Damaged Bags

While the airline takes every precaution to take care of your luggage, accidents do happen. If your luggage is delayed or damaged, American Airlines offers solutions to resolve the issue.

If you've been watching the baggage claim go round and round and still haven't spotted your bags, visit the American Airlines baggage desk. Ask for your bag's 13-character file reference number.

Don't leave the airport without this number; you'll need it to check the status of your bag online at the Delayed Bag Search website.

Passengers with bags that are delayed more than five days can file a Passenger Property Questionnaire to start the process of locating the lost luggage.

You can submit this information online and the Central Baggage Resolution Office will work on finding your bag. During this process, you can also check on the status of your bag online by using your 13-character file reference number.

Filing for Reimbursement
Sometimes missing bags are never located. In these cases, a passenger can file for reimbursement online by submitting:

  • The13-character file reference number
  • A copy of their ticket receipt
  • Baggage claim checks
  • Any dated, itemized receipts for the items in the missing bags.

You must file this within 45 days of the delay.

American Airlines pays the actual value of the losses up to $3,500, or $5,000 if a passenger declares extra value.

The company will not cover loss or damage to:

  • Antiques
  • Artwork
  • Books or documents
  • China or silverware
  • Computers and other electronics
  • Furs
  • Jewelry
  • Keys
  • Medication
  • Money
  • Perishable items
  • Precious metals

It's a good idea to never check anything that's irreplaceable; either leave it at home or carry it on with you.

Damaged Bags

While AA doesn't cover normal wear and tear to luggage, if your bag sustains major damage, you can file a Passenger Property Questionnaire. File any claims within 24 hours for domestic flights and seven days for international flights.

American does not cover damage from TSA inspections. If your bag is damaged by TSA, you'll need to contact them directly.

Bottom Line

Baggage fees have become a fact of life with most airline travel. American Airlines charges vary based on destination and other factors.

You may be able to save money by carrying the right credit card or finding ways to cut back while packing. But make sure you know what you can or cannot take with you when you travel.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

For rates and fees of the American Express Platinum card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express Gold card, please click here.

More from CreditDonkey:


How to Travel with Pets


How to Earn American Airlines Miles


Redeem American Airlines Miles

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