American Airlines planes at O'Hare Airport

How to Add and Pay for Checked Baggage on American Airlines

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If you’re flying with American Airlines and need to check a bag, you’ll need to buy a checked bag allowance. American Airlines offers a few different options for checked bags, and the process for buying them can vary depending on your booking method and travel itinerary.

In this post, we’ll walk you through the steps for buying a checked bag on American Airlines.

1: Review American Airlines Baggage Policy

Before you buy a checked bag, you’ll want to make sure you understand how many bags you’re allowed to check and what the size and weight limits are. American Airlines’ baggage policy can vary based on your itinerary, fare class, and frequent flyer status, so it’s important to check the details for your specific booking.

To check the baggage allowance for your trip, you can visit American Airlines’ website. From there, you can enter your booking information or browse the baggage policy by fare class and route.

Here’s an overview of American Airlines’ baggage allowances and fees for domestic and international flights:

Domestic Checked Baggage Allowance and Fees

Cabin Class1st Bag2nd Bag3rd Bag4th+ Bags
Basic Economy$30$40$150$200 each
Main Cabin$30$40$150$200 each
Premium EconomyIncludedIncluded$150$200 each
Business ClassIncludedIncluded$150$200 each
First ClassIncludedIncluded$150$200 each
Domestic Checked Baggage Allowance and Fees

International Checked Baggage Allowance and Fees

Cabin Class1st Bag2nd Bag3rd Bag4th+ Bags
Basic Economy$30 – $75$40 – $100$200$200 each
Main Cabin$0 – $30$40 – $200$200$200 each
Premium EconomyIncludedIncluded$200$200 each
Business ClassIncludedIncluded$200$200 each
First ClassIncludedIncludedIncluded$200 each
International Checked Baggage Allowance and Fees

You may have noticed that the second bag fee limit for Basic Economy is $100 while the Main Cabin has a fee limit of $200. This is because Basic Economy is not available on all routes.

If you are traveling in a premium cabin, your included baggage allowance may be sufficient for your travel requirements.

2: Decide How Many Bags You Need to Check

First, let’s discuss how many bags American Airlines allows you to check. The airline limits the number of checked bags based on the region that you will be traveling in.

You can travel with up to 10 checked bags if your itinerary is:

  • Domestic
    • U.S.
    • U.S. territories
    • Canada
  • Transatlantic
  • Transpacific

You can travel with up to 5 checked bags if your itinerary includes:

  • Brazil
  • Caribbean
  • Central America
  • Mexico
  • South America

Furthermore, the airline may impose seasonal or year-round baggage embargoes to certain destinations. This may limit the number of bags that you can check even further.

If you’re unsure how many bags you need to check, consider the length of your trip, the type of activities you’ll be doing, and the weather at your destination. You may also want to consider the baggage fees and weigh the cost of checking extra bags against the convenience of traveling with more luggage.

3. Pay for Checked Bags

You have two ways of paying for checked bags:

  1. Pay for your bags online:
  2. Pay for your bags at the airport.

Pay for Checked Bags During Booking

Unfortunately, you can’t add checked bags when you book your flight. The only way that checked bags will be included with your fare is if you buy a premium ticket.

Pay for Checked Bags Online When You Check-in

Which Destinations Can I Pay for Checked Bags Online?

Firstly, you can buy your bags online for specific itineraries only:

  • Domestic flights within the continental U.S., Hawaii, and Alaska
  • Certain Caribbean destinations

When Can I Buy Your Checked Bags Online?

You can buy your checked bags during the check-in process. Online check-in opens from 24 hours up to 4 hours before your flight’s scheduled departure. Within 4 hours of your flight, your only option is to pay for them at the airport.

After buying your bags online, American Airlines will send you a confirmation email. This will include instructions on where you should drop your bags at the airport.

Free Baggage Allowances

When buying bags online, American Airline’s booking system will pick up if you have any free bag allowances due to cabin class, elite status or being an eligible cardholder. The free bag allowances will be added automatically.

Traveling with Special Items

You can’t buy bags online for items that have specific charges such as certain types of sports equipment and pet fees.

Multiple Passengers on a Single Reservation

When paying for bags for multiple passengers on a single reservation, the system will distribute the bags so that you pay the cheapest fee.

For example, let’s say that there are three of you traveling on the one booking. One of you wants to travel with two bags, another with one bag, and the third passenger doesn’t need any bags. These three bags are distributed evenly across passengers (i.e. one bag per passenger) to minimize the bag charges. This is cheaper than the first passenger paying for 2 bags (the first is $30, second is $40).

Can I Buy Bags Online More Than Once?

Unfortunately, you only get one bite of the apple. Once you have made your initial bag purchase, you’ll have to buy more bags at the airport. Thankfully, there’s no fee difference between prepaying or buying your bags at the airport.

Pay for Checked Bags on American Airlines’ Website

Once you’ve decided how many bags you need to check, you can buy checked bags online through American Airlines’ website.

You need to provide your last name and record locator or ticket number. Your ticket number can be found on your booking email.

Pay for Checked Bags Using American Airlines’ Mobile App

If you’ve already booked your flight and want to add checked bags, you can do so through American Airlines’ mobile app. Simply log in to your account and navigate to the “Trips” section. From there, you can select your itinerary and add checked bags to your booking.

Pay for Checked Bags by Calling Reservations

If you prefer to buy your checked bags over the phone, you’re out of luck. American no longer offers this service.

Pay for Checked Bags at the Airport (optional)

If you didn’t buy checked bags online, you can still pay for them at the airport.

Arrive Early

It’s important to arrive at the airport early if you plan to pay for your checked bags at the airport. This will give you plenty of time to wait in line, pay for your bags, and make it to your gate. American Airlines recommends arriving at the airport at least 2 hours before your flight for domestic flights and 3 hours before your flight for international flights.

To pay for checked bags at the airport, follow these steps:

1. Find the Bag Drop Counter

Once you arrive at the airport, look for the American Airlines bag drop counter. If you have already checked in online or using the American Airlines app, you can go directly to the bag drop counter.

2. Supply Your Reservation Information

When you reach the bag drop counter, supply your reservation information to the agent. This typically includes your name, flight number, and confirmation number. The agent will then ask how many bags you have and will provide you with the total cost for your bags.

3. Pay for Your Bags

After you’ve provided your reservation information, the agent will ask you to pay for your bags.

4. Collect Your Baggage Receipts

Once you’ve paid for your bags, the agent will provide you with baggage receipts. These receipts are important, as they prove that you’ve paid for your bags and will need to be presented if there are any issues with your bags during your flight.

5. Check Your Bags

After you’ve paid for your bags and collected your baggage receipts, the agent will ask you to place your bags on the baggage conveyor belt. Make sure that your bags are securely closed and labeled with your name and contact information.

6. Proceed to Security

After you’ve checked your bags, continue to security. Make sure that you have your boarding pass and any necessary identification ready to show to the security agent. Once you’ve cleared security, you can head to your gate and board your flight.

Final Thoughts

Paying for your checked bags on American Airlines is a straightforward process. The most difficult part is deciding on how many bags you want to check.

If you prefer to buy your bags before reaching the airport, you can do so during online check-in. You can either use American Airlines’ website or their app to do so.

However, the question is, should you buy them before arriving at the airport? Unlike other airlines, there is no financial incentive to buy your checked bags before reaching the airport. Many airlines offer cheaper checked bag fees if bought early. American does not.

A lot can happen between checking in online and reaching the airport. If your circumstances change and you can’t take your flight, your checked bag fees won’t be refunded.

Remember to always check American Airlines’ website or contact their customer service for the latest information on baggage allowances and fees.


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  1. I checked in 3 people and only paid for 2 checked bags. Wanted to add another and unable until reaching airport. This is ridiculous! It would be so nice if you provided a baggage option after checking in.

    • Hi Bridget

      Thank you for your comment.

      I’m sorry to hear about your experience with American Airlines. This website isn’t affiliated with the airline. However, I would suggest that you contact AA directly about your concerns. You can find a variety of contact options here.

      Take care

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