The American Airlines cabin baggage allowance is simple to understand, whereas the check-in baggage policy is very complicated, and you should carefully check this for your specific booking, noting that on certain routes seasonal limitations apply which override the normal allowances.
In this article, I will explain American Airlines’ free cabin and check-in luggage allowances and I describe how you can purchase any additional baggage allowance that you may require.
Given the complexity of the American Airlines check-in baggage policy please consult the American Airlines website for any latest information, and carefully check the conditions of travel before you book and confirm your ticket.
American Airlines Cabin Baggage
Number of Cabin Baggage Items
When you fly with American Airlines you can carry one carry-on bag and one personal item (such as a purse or small handbag) into the cabin with you. You must be able to stow your carry-on bag or personal item securely in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you.
Cabin Baggage Size Limitations
Carry-on bags cannot exceed 22 x 14 x 9in (56 x 36 x 23cm), including handles and wheels, and they must fit in the sizers located at airport check-in.
Source: American Airlines
If your items do not fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat, they may need to be checked in as part of your free or purchased check-in allowance.
Soft-sided garment bags up to 51in (130cm) total length + width + height can also be taken as an alternative to your carry-on item.
Regional flights on American Eagle aircraft have limited overhead bin space. If your carry-on bag is larger than the maximum personal item dimensions, you must ‘valet’ your bag before boarding the aircraft. American Airlines will tag and check your bag at the gate for you free of charge. When you arrive at your destination, you will receive your bag after you exit the aircraft.
Personal item dimensions should not exceed 18 x 14 x 8in (45 x 35 x 20cm).
American Airlines Check-in Baggage
It’s complicated. You should check your allowance for your specific route and class of travel when you book, and double-check your ticketing conditions before you fly.
Certain travelers receive a free baggage allowance – frequent flyers, military personnel, and those traveling in premium cabins. Some destinations receive a free check-in bag allowance, and certain other destinations receive a free check-in bag allowance as long as you are not traveling on an Economy Basic Fare.
Free Check-in Baggage Allowances
One free check-in bag is allowed for the following:
- Eligible AAdvantage, AAdvantage Aviator and Citi/AAdvantage credit card members (on domestic American Airlines operated itineraries)
- AAdvantage Gold frequent flyers
- OneWorld Ruby frequent flyers
- When traveling to certain destinations – Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Qatar, and South Korea
- When traveling to other destinations (excluding Basic Economy fares) – Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, transatlantic, and Uruguay.
Two free check-in bags are allowed for the following:
- AAdvantage Platinum frequent flyers
- Oneworld Sapphire frequent flyers
- JetBlue TrueBlue Mosaic members (when checking in at an American Airlines desk)
- Confirmed Domestic First Class customers
- Confirmed Business Class customers
- Confirmed Premium Economy Class customers
Three free check-in bags are allowed for the following:
- Confirmed Flagship First customers on transcontinental and international services
- AAdvantage Executive Platinum frequent flyers
- AAdvantage Platinum Pro frequent flyers
- Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers
- Active US military with ID on personal travel
Four free check-in bags are allowed for AAdvantage Executive Platinum, AAdvantage Platinum Pro, and Oneworld Emerald members when traveling in Flagship First Class.
Five check-in bags are allowed for active US military personnel and/or dependents with ID traveling on orders.
The exception to the above rules is for flights to Cuba where only a maximum of two check-in bags with a maximum weight of 32kg each are allowed, and fees may apply.
Seasonal Check-in Baggage Limitations
If that wasn’t complicated enough, there’s another factor to consider. American Airlines applies seasonal restrictions to check-in baggage to certain destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and South America, either during certain summer months or year-round.
When the restrictions apply, a maximum of only two check-in bags are allowed regardless of frequent flyer status. The one exception is for travelers in Flagship First where a maximum of 3 check-in bags are allowed.
Please check here:
When seasonal restrictions apply, excess baggage (overweight/oversize) is not permitted.
Check-in Baggage Size and Weight Limitations
American Airlines defines the size limits of check-in baggage by adding the total outside dimensions of each bag (length + width + height).
For all regions, except to/from Australia or New Zealand, American Airlines check-in bag limits are as follows:
- Total dimensions – 62in (158cm)
- Weight – 50lbs (23kg)
- For First and Business Class travelers, the weight limit is 70lbs (32 kg) for bags within any free allowance, and 50lbs (23kg) for any excess baggage
For all confirmed customers on flights to/from Australia or New Zealand the limits are as follows:
- Total dimensions – 62in (158cm)
- Weight – 70lbs (32kg) for bags within any free allowance and 50lbs (23kg) for any excess baggage
You can check-in up to ten bags on American Airlines-operated domestic, transatlantic and transpacific flights.
You can check-in up to five bags on American-operated flights if you’re traveling to/through/from Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, South America, and Brazil, subject to any seasonal restrictions that may apply to your particular destination.
If you want to purchase additional check-in bags up to these limits, beyond any free allowance that you may be entitled to, fees apply.
Additional baggage fees vary by region and are charged per person, each way:
- Domestic (including Canada)
- The Caribbean
- Central America
- South America
The fees vary from $US30 to $US200 per bag and there are quite a few exceptions, please check here:
You can pay for your additional bags online or via the American Airlines app, before or when you check-in online, up to a maximum of three bags. If you want to take more than three bags and you need to purchase an additional allowance you can do this at check-in.
Note that if you are traveling within the USA you can only pay for additional bags online between twenty-four and four hours prior to your flight departure time.
Excess baggage fees vary by destination, and note that more than one fee may apply to a bag – the standard checked bag fee plus an oversize fee plus an overweight fee.
For bags in excess of total dimensions 62in (158cm), up to the maximum accepted total dimension of 136in (320cm), the following fees per person, each way apply:
For overweight bags there are two fee tiers:
- 50lb (23kg) – 70lb (32kg)
- 70lb (32kg) – 100lb (45kg)
Bags in excess of 100lb (45kg) are not accepted by American Airlines.
Business Class and Domestic First Class confirmed passengers can check in two bags up to 70lb (32kg) at no extra cost. Flagship First confirmed customers and AAdvantage Executive Platinum, AAdvantage Platinum Pro and Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers can check in three bags up to 70lb (32kg) at no extra cost. Other passengers with bags in excess of 50lb (23kg) will need to pay the following excess baggage fees:
To/from Australia or New Zealand, you are allowed one free check-in bag when traveling Economy Basic or Main, two free check-in bags in Premium Economy Class or Business Class, and three free check-in bags in First Class up to 70lb (32kg) at no extra cost. Any excess weight bags beyond these allowances will be charged the overweight fee for 50lb (23kg) to 70lb (32kg).
When traveling with any sports equipment, the maximum permitted linear size (length + width + height) is 126in (320cm), and the maximum permitted weight is 70lb (32kg), subject to the aircraft size and available cargo space.
American Airlines accepts a wide variety of sports equipment. The list of sports equipment accepted by American Airlines is listed here:
Let’s look at a couple of examples:
- Golf bag – Standard checked bag fees specific to your destination apply up to 50lb (23kg) and 126in (320cm) total dimensions. For golf bags between 50lb (23kg) and 70lb (32kg) a fee of either $US150, or standard overweight fees apply, depending on when your ticket was issued.
- Winter sports equipment (one pair of skis or one snowboard and one equipment bag) – Standard check-in bag fees specific to your destination apply up to 50lb (23kg) and 126in (320cm) total dimensions, and standard overweight fees apply from 50lb (23kg) to 70lb (32kg). If the equipment bag exceeds 50lb (23kg) and 62in (158cm) total dimensions, it will be charged as a separate check-in bag and standard overweight and oversize fees will apply.
Musical instruments are also considered a carry-on item and must fit in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you.
If your instrument doesn’t fit in the overhead compartment you can buy an additional seat as long as your instrument does not weigh more than 165lb (75kg).
Alternatively, you can check in your musical instrument. The maximum size for check-in instruments is 150in (381cm), and the maximum weight is 165lb (75kg). Anything larger or heavier would need to be shipped as cargo.
Standard check-in bag fees specific to your destination apply up to 50lb (23kg) and 126in (320cm) in total dimensions, and standard overweight fees apply over 50lb (23kg).
Traveling With Infants and Children
Baby diaper bags (one per child), soft-sided cooler bags with breast milk, child safety seats, strollers, and medical or mobility devices can be taken into the aircraft cabin, and do not count as your personal item or your carry-on bag.
If you are flying internationally with an infant on your lap you can check in one bag for the infant under the same conditions as the adult’s first check-in bag.
An infant’s free check-in allowance also includes one stroller and one car seat. Strollers over 20lb (9kg) must be checked-in. All other strollers should be handed over at the gate before boarding the aircraft. If you are traveling with a stroller and a car seat only one of these items can be handed over at the gate.
When traveling with American Airlines, all passengers are allowed one carry-on bag and one personal item.
American Airlines’ check-in baggage allowances are complicated with many rules and exceptions to those rules. In addition, American Airlines operates seasonal check-in baggage restrictions on some routes. I have tried to explain the multitude of rules and exceptions as clearly as I can in this article, but please check your exact allowance when you book your ticket and again before you travel to ensure you are within your allowance, otherwise excess baggage fees will apply.