When it comes to customer service, baggage fees, check-in process and more, how does American Airlines stack up?

By Maya Kachroo-Levine
February 12, 2019
American Airlines
Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The first American Airlines flight was from St. Louis to Chicago in 1926. To be clear, it wasn’t a passenger plane — it was a flight carrying U.S. mail. But in the 1930s, American Airlines forayed into commercial flights, starting with domestic routes like New York to Chicago. Today, American Airlines (with regional use of American Eagle) operates 6,700 flights daily and flies to 50 countries worldwide. And U.S. Airways and American Airlines have been operating as one entity since 2015.

Most American travelers know American Airlines as an institution, whether it’s their go-to airline or a flight option they occasionally default to. Travelers partial to flying American even choose American Airlines credit cards as a way to maximize their travel benefits. The credit card comps American Airlines baggage fees, which is why brand loyal travelers will skip aggregate booking sites and just go straight to American Airlines when they need a flight.

But when you’re getting ready to book a big trip, have you ever wondered how American Airlines customer service stacks up? And how American Airlines check-in compares to other airlines? We’ve read all the reviews out there, and here’s what the travelers of the internet have to say about flying American Airlines:

What do I need to know about American Airlines check-in?

Fortunately, not much that you don’t already understand. First, you’ll want to keep in mind that “American Airlines (AA) does not charge a fee for selecting a standard seat assignment,” as confirmed by Seat Guru. This may sound like common knowledge, but if you’ve ever flown a budget airline, you know that your preferred seat isn’t always a guarantee.

Seat Guru continued to point out that “you may check-in for your American Airlines flight online starting 24 hours and ending 45 minutes before the scheduled departure time (depending on your departure city and destination) to receive a mobile boarding pass on your mobile device or a printable boarding pass.”

How does American Airlines customer service stack up?

An airline customer service experience is just as much about the staff as it is about the passenger. If the passenger walks onto the aircraft assuming it will be miserable, it’s probably not going to be a great flight. However, there’s no denying good customer service on an airplane can make or break the flight experience.

One Yelper, Brandon T., was agitated by the lack of effort put in to make things right after his flight was canceled. “From check in at the departure airport to arrival at the destination, the staff is excessively rude. After canceling my departure flight which kicked off a 2 week, 3 city trip, no solution was sought after. Not one representative attempted to make things right and the only option for my girlfriend and I to maintain our travel schedule was to purchase two new tickets out of pocket, day of,” he wrote.

On the other hand, semi-regular American Airlines passenger Steven H. said, “I fly American a couple times a year and we have always been on-time and received great service. We did have to wait about 30 mins for our gate in LAX but the Captain kept us updated about the wait. Our connecting flight to Maui left right on time. The gate agents were friendly and the flight attendants very welcoming and provided excellent service from gate to gate.”

What should I know about American Airlines baggage fees and allowances?

Those flying economy can bring one carry-on and a personal item on board. While basic economy used to require that passengers only bring a personal item, the rules changed in September 2018 to allow basic economy customers to bring a carry-on bag into the cabin free of charge.

“On domestic flights, Economy passengers may check baggage up to 62 inches/158 cm in total dimensions and 50 lbs/23 kg in weight. The cost is $30 for the first bag, $40 for the second, $150 for the third, and $200 for any additional bags,” said Send My Bags.

What American Airlines credit card should I look into if I fly American regularly?

NerdWallet compared four popular co-branded American Airlines credit cards, which each offer “sign-up bonuses and enhanced earnings rates on American Airlines purchases, not to mention in-flight discounts on food and drink.” The most popular American Airlines cards are:

  • AmericanAirlines AAdvantage MileUp Card
  • Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite
  • Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
  • AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard

It all depends what kind of card you’re looking for, but the most important rule of thumb when choosing an airline credit card is that the rewards should (ideally) pay for themselves. So if you’re going to pay a $100 fee for a credit card, you should be getting at least $100 of additional value from the rewards.

The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, for example, has a $450 annual fee. It covers you and eight guests’ checked bags when you fly, and comes with 50,000 bonus points if you spend $5,000 in the first 90 days. If you’ll take advantage of those offerings, it could be worth it to spring for a premium card. However, if you’re more interested in a 50,000 point signing bonus for spending $2,500 in the first three months and free checked bags for you and four traveling companions, the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard might be a better fit.