Everything You Need to Know About American Airlines Baggage Fees

From what's included to how much it will cost to pack extra, here's what to know before you go.

Baggage fees are a tricky business, largely because each airline seems to have its own rules. But when it comes to traveling with American Airlines, things are pretty straightforward: If you must check a bag, keep it below 50 pounds to avoid a penalty charge on top of the usual baggage fees listed below. Looking to skip the fees altogether? You'll need to gain elite loyalty status or pack very, very light — if you're flying in basic economy or economy class, you'll be able to bring a carry-on and a small personal item with you for free. Let's take a closer look at AA's various baggage fees.

American Airlines Baggage Fees

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Is there a baggage fee for economy?

On American Airlines, customers seated in economy pay $30 for their first checked bag on all domestic flights and most flights to the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and South America. If you're flying elsewhere internationally, say Hong Kong or Paris, your first bag will be free. A second bag will cost you $40 on all domestic flights, though that fee goes up to $65 if you're traveling to Haiti, select countries in Central America, or South America (there are exceptions, too, so be sure to check). If you're flying to Europe or Asia, the second bag fee jumps to $100.

Is there a baggage fee for basic economy?

The fees above reflect the situation for passengers seated in economy class. If you're flying in a basic economy seat, it's a different story. Prepare to pay $75 for your first checked bag on transatlantic flights and $45 to most of South America. In certain cases, the reduced fare of the basic economy ticket may be greater than the baggage fee itself, so use your best judgment when deciding how many bags to haul.

Bag Fees Broken Down by Destination

AA Baggage Fees for Economy and Basic Economy
Carry-on (plus a personal item) Checked Bag #1 (for both classes, unless indicated otherwise)  Checked Bag #2 (for both classes)
Flights within the U.S., Puerto Rico, U.S.V.I., and Canada. Free $30 $40
Most flights to Mexico, the Caribbean, parts of Central and South America (except Panama, Cuba, and Haiti) Free $30 $40
Most flights between Panama and the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, U.S.V.I., Central America, South America, and the Caribbean (except Cuba and Haiti) Free Free ($45 for Basic Economy) $65
Most flights to Cuba and Haiti Free  $30 $65 for Haiti; $150–$200 for Cuba
Most flights to Israel and Qatar Free Free $100
Flights Across the Atlantic Free Free ($75 for Basic Economy) $100
Flights Across the Pacific Free Free $100
Here's a look at the cost of a carry-on, and your first two checked bags.

American Airlines' Checked Baggage Policy

Like with most airlines, American Airlines' baggage fees only apply to checked bags. According to the carrier's checked baggage policy, you're allowed to take up to 10 checked bags with you on domestic, transatlantic, and transpacific flights, and up to five checked bags on flights operated by American Airlines to and from Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America (though seasonal and year-round baggage restrictions vary, so check first). That said, bringing along that many bags can really add up, especially since the prices increase more for each additional checked bag.

Pay attention to how much your bag weighs, as the golden rule for American Airlines is to keep it under 50 pounds (23 kilograms) and within the dimensions of 62 inches (158 centimeters). For transpacific flights to or from Australia and New Zealand — and for passengers traveling in business or first class anywhere — those limitations go up to 70 pounds (32 kilograms) for free checked bags and revert back to 50 pounds for additional checked bags.

American Airlines' Carry-On Bag Policy

According to AA's carry-on policy, every passenger in every class is entitled to one carry-on, measuring 22 x 14 x 9 inches (56 x 36 x 23 centimeters) and one personal item, like a purse or a small backpack, measuring 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 centimeters). A musical instrument is considered to be a carry-on item as long as it fits under the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin. Soft garment bags measuring up to 51 inches (130 centimeters) can also be counted as a carry-on item. Pet carriers are considered carry-ons, and additional fees apply to place them under your seat — but never in the overhead compartment.

Diaper bags (one per child), strollers, child safety seats (car seats), breast pumps, medical and mobility devices, and small soft-sided coolers holding breast milk are all allowed, and will not count toward your carry-on limit.

If you're traveling carry-on only, pay close attention to the TSA's rules regarding liquids, which limit what you pack to small containers measuring 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less that can be packed into one 1-quart-sized resealable bag. That 1-quart bag of gels, aerosols, pastes, creams, or other TSA-approved liquids must then pass through the security checkpoint, separated from the rest of your carry-on luggage. Keep in mind that medications, baby formula, and other child-nourishment-related liquids such as breast milk are handled differently — just alert the TSA officer you're carrying them and allow time for additional screening.

Fees for Excess and Overweight Baggage

Planning to bring a third or fourth bag? Checking those will set you back $200 apiece, unless you're flying domestically, in which case it'll cost $150 for your third bag (it's still $200 for your fourth bag on domestic flights). Additional bags beyond that will cost you $200 each no matter where you're flying.

As far as overweight baggage goes, American Airlines won't accept anything over 100 pounds (45 kilograms) on any flights operated by the carrier. That said, passengers with elite airline status can check up to three bags weighing up to 70 pounds (32 kilograms) each for free, while those traveling in business class or in first class on domestic flights are allowed to bring two with the same measurements.

Like we said earlier, the goal for everyone else traveling in economy or basic economy is to keep any checked bags under 50 pounds. Once they hit the 51-pound mark, you're looking at fees of $100–$200 for bags between 51 and 70 pounds, and $200 for bags between 71 and 100 pounds. If your bag is over 70 pounds, it'll cost you $450 on flights to Asia (namely Hong Kong, China, South Korea, and Japan), India, and New Zealand. And it won't even be accepted on flights to Cuba, Europe, Israel, Qatar, or Australia.

Ways to Avoid Baggage Fees

You can usually avoid having to pay baggage fees on American Airlines by booking your flight in business or first class, securing elite status within its loyalty program, or by using American Airlines co-branded credit cards, which will waive the fee for your first checked bag.

Of course the best way to avoid having to pay baggage fees at all is to master the art of packing light and stick to traveling carry-on only (plus your personal item). Try to pack your outfits by folding them professional-style, then rolling and placing them into compression packing cubes to give you the most space without causing too many wrinkles. Store your socks in your shoes. Try to wear your heaviest items, like jeans and sneakers, so you can carry all your lighter items in your bag. Before your next trip, check out these Travel + Leisure stories for more expert packing tips.

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