No traveler ever looks forward to annoying baggage and incidental fees, but airline charges are even worse when they are unexpected.
If you’re planning on flying with American Airlines in the near future make sure you know what the baggage rules are and what traveling with (additional) bags will cost you in 2021.
For all the information you’ll want to know before checking in at American Airlines, keep reading.
In this post you'll learn:
American Airlines Carry-On Allowance
Like many airlines, American Airlines allows passengers to board with one personal item and one carry-on bag, free of charge. That is, at long as luggage meets size and weight requirements.
Carry-on bags may not exceed:
- 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches or 56 centimeters x 36 centimeters x 23 centimeters.
If you’re not quite sure whether or not your bags are within these restrictions, you can test them in a carry-on sizer at the American Airlines check-in. This will ensure that your bag fits either in the overhead bin or under your seat. If it does not, you will need to check it and pay the associated fees (more on that below).
Exceptions to the Rule:
One exception is that soft-sided garment bags are allowed to measure up to 51 linear inches or 130 centimeters and still qualify as complimentary carry-on luggage.
As for personal items, dimensions should not exceed 18 inches x 14 inches x 8 inches or 45 centimeters x 35 centimeters x 20 centimeters. Purses, laptops, and small handbags are typical.
Child restraint devices and mobility devices such as walkers and wheelchairs do not count toward your personal item and carry-on limit and can be brought with you at no additional cost.
Carry-On Allowance for Toddlers and Children
Children over the age of two must have their own ticket – purchased at the adult fare.
Children under the age of two are allowed to travel on the lap of an adult and have one carry-on diaper bag with them. Strollers and safety seats count as checked luggage.
The only way to carry on a safety seat is to purchase a seat next to you or hope for one to be open when you board. Otherwise, it will not travel with you in the cabin.
Bringing Pets OnBoard
Small domestic cats and dogs may accompany you on your next American Airlines flight. Depending on their size, they will count toward either your carry-on or checked baggage allowance. If they don’t fit in either, they’ll be transported in Cargo.
The following destinations allow pets:
- The 48 contiguous U.S. states and Alaska
- Flights between the U.S. and Canada (with restrictions)
- Central America (with restrictions)
- Mexico (with restrictions)
- Puerto Rico
- St. Croix
- St. Thomas
For a complete list of restrictions on the above destinations as well as information about locations not included, visit this American Airlines page.
If you do bring a pet with you in the cabin, their crate or kennel will count as your free carry-on. Carried-on pets and their travel containers are not to exceed the under-seat dimensions previously mentioned (unless they are soft-sided/collapsible, in which case they may slightly exceed these dimensions as long as this is safe for the pet).
There is limited space for pets on each plane (7 kennels on American flights, not counting service animals, and 5 kennels on American Eagle flights), so you’ll want to arrange for their travel as far in advance as possible.
You may travel and check up to two pets per flight. You will need to provide a health certificate for all pets and allow for extra check-in time.
Each checked pet incurs a charge of $150 within the U.S. and between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.
Carry-on pets cost $125 per kennel. Service animals may accompany you on any flight route and do not cost extra.
Certain dog breeds are restricted from traveling. These include but are not limited to Boxers, Bulldogs, Chow Chows, Pit bulls, and Shih Tzus. Burmese, Persian, Himalayan, and Exotic Shorthair cats are also not allowed.
Musical instruments fall under the category of carry-ons and therefore must meet the same dimension requirements as carry-on luggage.
If an instrument does not fit in the overhead bin or beneath the seat in front of you, you will need to check it or buy an additional seat for it.
You will also need to pay extra if it exceeds size and/or weight restrictions. The maximum size for checked instruments is 150 inches or 381 centimeters.
There are many items prohibited to travel by the TSA for safety reasons. These include many types of:
- high proof alcoholic beverages,
- large sports equipment,
- sharp objects, and
- other potentially dangerous or overly bulky items.
This page provides a complete list of all restricted items on American Airlines flights.
American Airlines Checked Baggage Allowance
For all regions and routes, the American Airlines checked bag allowance—which pertains to not only how many bags you can check but how much each of these may measure and weigh—is determined by a combination of elite status and flight class.
Checked bags are permitted to measure up to 62 linear inches and weigh up to 50 pounds for most passengers. But if you are flying First or Business class, this weight restriction becomes 70 pounds.
Many flights will allow you to check up to 10 bags and others only five. Every additional bag costs more than the last until you get up to four bags.
On the majority of flights, the first checked bag costs $30, the second costs $40, the third costs $150, and the fourth (and every bag in excess of this) costs $200.
Checked Baggage for Children
If you’re traveling with a child, you may check one collapsible stroller and one government-approved safety seat for free. These must be checked at the ticket counter or gate.
Those traveling with both a car seat and stroller may check only one at the gate—most likely the car seat—and will need to check the other—most likely the stroller—at the ticket counter (strollers weighing more than 20 pounds or 9 kilograms need to be checked at the ticket counter). All other items are included as regular checked baggage.
Excessive Baggage Fees
Checked bags over the size of 62 linear inches will incur an additional fee of either $150 or $200, depending on where you’re flying to. No checked bags may exceed 126 linear inches or 320 centimeters.
First and Business flyers as well as Executive Platinum and oneworld Emerald elite members can check bags weighing up to 70 pounds without being charged extra. All others must pay $100 for every checked bag between 51 and 70 pounds and $200+ for every bag weighing in excess of 71 pounds.
No bags weighing over 100 pounds will be permitted on any flights. Overweight checked luggage is not accepted on European (transatlantic) flights, flights to/from Cuba, or flights to/from Australia. Bags on flights to/from China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Australia (transpacific) weighing more than 71 pounds cost $450 each.
Here’s a full breakdown of checked baggage fees for American Airlines customers flying in the main cabin:
|Country/Region||1st Bag||2nd Bag||3rd Bag||4th Bag +|
|Cuba||$0/$30||$0 / $40||$150||$200|
|Caribbean (except Cuba and Haiti)||$30||$40||$150||$200|
|Central America (except Panama)||$30^||$40 / $55**||$150||$200|
|South America (except Colombia, Ecuador, and Guyana)||$0/$30*||$65**||$150||$200|
All published bag fees are base rates according to travel dates and destinations. The applicable taxes are not shown and will add to the overall cost.
Seasonal pricing applies for travel on June 1, 2021 – August 19, 2021.
*Free bag excludes Basic Economy which is their lowest priced cabin. For travel to and from Panama, Colombia and Ecuador, a $30 bag fee applies to your first bag. For travel to and from South America (excluding Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana) a $45 bag fee applies to your first bag. For Transatlantic Basic Economy travel, a $60 bag fee applies for tickets issued on or before April 20, 2020, and $75 for tickets issued on or after April 21, 2020.
^ For travel to / from El Salvador, a $30 baggage fee applies to your first bag seasonally only.
**For travel to and from Honduras, you will pay $55 for your second bag seasonally only.
For travel to and from South America (excluding Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana) for all Basic Economy tickets a $65 bag fee applies to your second bag.
For travel to and from South America (excluding Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana) for Main Economy tickets issued on or before January 27, 2020 your second bag is free and for Main Economy tickets issued on or after January 28, 2020 a $65 bag fee applies to second bags.
Exceptions and Waivers
American Airlines waives checked baggage fees for many of its passengers. Active-duty U.S. military personnel and their dependents can check between one and five bags free of charge. Those traveling on orders can check up to five bags for free and those on personal travel can check up to three.
Confirmed first-class flyers on 3-cabin aircraft receive three complimentary checked bags as well and so can certain credit cardholders (more on this below).
Finally, those with elite status at this airline can take advantage of complimentary checked baggage. AAdvantage is the American Airlines frequent flyer program and oneworld is an airline alliance that links 13 global airlines to help flyers access international flights and benefits more easily. Those with the highest status in either of these programs are favored by American Airlines and rewarded with free bags.
AAdvantage Gold members and oneworld Ruby members, for example, get one checked bag for free. Platinum and Platinum Pro members get two and AAdvantage Executive Platinum and oneworld Emerald members get three. Basically, every AAdvantage or oneworld premier tier will get you at least one checked bag for free.
Credit Cards That Give You a Free Checked Bag
Being an active-duty military member or American Airlines elite passenger is not the only way to score free checked baggage. There are several American Airlines affiliate credit cards to choose from, and many of them offer anywhere from 1 to 3 free checked bags.
- Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard and
- AAdvantage Aviator cards