Skip to content

How to check in for flights on American Airlines

April 19, 2020
5 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

It's almost time for your flight, and there's just one thing left to do before heading for airport security. And that's packing check in. This is the process that creates your boarding pass and allows you to check your bags at the airport.

You can do this formality online or at the airport, though many will prefer the convenience of the former. Either way, there are some rules to understand, so let's dive deep into checking in for an American Airlines flight.

For more travel tips and news delivered to your inbox, sign up for TPG’s daily email newsletter!

How to check in online for American Airlines flights

You can check in for AA flights on the airline's website or through the mobile app. The experience is very similar, though the benefit of the mobile app is that you can generate a digital boarding pass within your mobile wallet.

After locating your reservation using your six-digit confirmation number, you'll be prompted to check in at the top left corner of the reservation page.

Pressing that button will take you through the check-in process. You'll then need to agree to the hazardous materials policy. Pressing continue will bring you to the Trip Options page, where you can purchase additional miles for your trip (don't do it; it's a bad deal).

You'll then be brought to the seat map to select or modify your seat for your flight(s).

After you select your seats, you'll be checked in!

You then have the option of printing your boarding passes now, emailing a mobile boarding pass to your phone or saving a PDF of your boarding pass.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Rules for American Airlines flight check-in

You can check in online or using the mobile app starting 24 hours before and up to 45 minutes before departure of the first flight in your itinerary. This applies even if you have a connecting flight that's more than a day away. Note that online and app check-in closes an hour and a half before departure for international flights.

If you're planning to check bags at the airport, you need to have the bags checked at least 45 minutes prior to domestic flights and 60 minutes prior to international flights. There are some airports with exceptions to this rule, which you can find on AA's website.

Related: How to avoid checked baggage fees on major domestic airlines

Furthermore, there are some airports that won't accept checked bags more than four hours before scheduled departure. This includes:

  • Denver (DEN)
  • Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
  • Las Vegas (LAS)
  • Orlando (MCO)
  • Portland, Oregon (PDX)
  • Salt Lake City (SLC)
  • Seattle (SEA)

If the first flight of your itinerary is operating by an American Airlines partner, you're going to check in with that airline directly, and not on AA's website.

Tips and tricks to checking in for American Airlines flights

There are some things to consider when you check in for your flight. Make sure you have your confirmation number handy, especially if you're going to check in at the airport. The kiosks default to ask for that code, so this can save time.

I personally prefer to use mobile boarding passes to save paper and have one less thing to worry about misplacing. That said, you need to be sure you have your phone's battery charged for the entire trip, otherwise you'll be forced to get a physical boarding pass.

Another tip about mobile boarding passes is to screenshot it after it gets created. I often find that retrieving the mobile boarding pass can be confusing when you're under pressure, so be sure to screenshot it for easy access.

Lastly, if you get an error checking in online, fear not. You may be on a military fare, have a pet or are traveling with an unaccompanied minor. Or you may be subject to the dreaded SSSS, which will be printed on your boarding pass at the airport.

Bottom line

Checking in for your American Airlines flight is exciting. That means it's almost time to take to the skies. But, there are some tips and tricks to know and some rules to follow to make it an efficient process.

Armed with this guide, you'll be ready to head to the airport in no time.

All photos by the author.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff / The Points Guy)

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more