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American Airlines Baggage Fees Hike: How to Avoid Paying Extra

Passengers on domestic flights will now be charged $40 for their first checked bag and $45 for their second

by Fergus Cole

February 21, 2024

Photo: Courtesy of American Airlines

American Airlines has increased its baggage fees, with the cost of checked bags increasing by up to 33%. The new fees came into effect on February 20 and apply to flights booked or reserved on or after that date.

Domestic passengers will now have to pay $40 for their first checked bag at the airport, including flights to Alaska and Hawaii and to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. If they check-in online beforehand, this fee will be reduced to $35. 

Previously, domestic passengers were charged $30 for their first checked bag, regardless of whether they checked in online or at the airport.

Photo: Economy Cabin. Courtesy of American Airlines

The cost of a second checked bag has also increased on domestic flights, from $40 up to $45, while the fees for checking in a third and fourth bag remain at $150 and $200, respectively.

Short-haul international flights have also seen an increase in baggage fees. Passengers flying from the U.S. to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean (except Cuba and Haiti), Central America (except Panama), Guyana, or Suriname will now be charged $35 for their first checked bag and $45 for their second.

Passengers who booked their flight before February 20 will not be affected by the new fees.

JT Genter, Editor-in-Chief of AwardWalletprovided some tips on how to reduce or avoid them. He advised passengers on domestic flights to check their bags online, where the prepayment option can result in a saving of $5 for the first checked bag. 

This prepaid option is available between 24 and 4 hours before departure and up to 2 hours before departure for flights out of Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) or Washington Reagan National (DCA).

Photo: American Airlines gates. Courtesy of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

Genter also advised waiving baggage fees entirely, such as getting an AAdvantage credit card. These are particularly useful for groups and families, as they have the added benefit of providing a free checked bag for other passengers on the same reservation.

Passengers can get up to three free checked bags by gaining elite status on frequent flyer loyalty programs. These include the American Airlines AAdvantage program, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, and other Oneworld member airlines programs.

“American Airlines just increased the cost of checking a bag by up to 33%,” said Genter. “This new $40 rate is the highest of any legacy airline. You can slash this increase in half by prepaying your bag online through the American Airlines website or app… or you can avoid it entirely by holding an AAdvantage credit card or Oneworld elite status.”

American Airlines is not the only carrier increasing fees for checked baggage. In early January, Alaska Airlines started charging $35 for the first checked bag and $40 for the second checked bag—a $5 uptick from the previous pricing.

Changes on how to earn miles

Also on Tuesday, American Airlines announced a significant update to its AAdvantage loyalty program. From May 1, only passengers who book their flights directly with American Airlines, eligible partner airlines, ‘preferred’ travel agencies, or as an AAdvantage Business member will earn miles and Loyalty Points.

The airline said it will release a list of its ‘preferred’ travel agents in late April.

American Airlines AAdvantage / Photo: Courtesy of American Airlines

“We want to make it more convenient for customers to enjoy the value and magic of travel,” said Vasu Raja, Chief Commercial Officer at American Airlines. 

“Not only does booking directly with American provide the best possible experience, it’s also where we offer the best fares and it’s most rewarding for our AAdvantage members.”