Skip to content

American Airlines adjusts checked-bag allowances, expands basic economy

Feb. 23, 2021
4 min read
American Airlines adjusts checked-bag allowances, expands basic economy
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.

Effective immediately, American Airlines is streamlining its checked-bag policy for international flights. Additionally, the Fort Worth-based carrier is expanding basic economy fares to four new markets.

That spells good news for some and bad news for others, so let's take a look at what's changing.

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!

Premium economy gets two checked bags

All premium economy tickets purchased on or after Feb. 23, 2021, will now include two free checked bags.

Before the change, premium economy passengers bound for Alaska or Hawaii were only allowed to check one bag free of charge. With Tuesday's policy update, all premium economy flyers can now check two standard-sized bags, regardless of the destination.

All in, this represents a nice improvement for premium economy passengers headed to Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand.

As for Alaska, Cirium schedules show that American isn't offering a premium economy cabin in the market through the end of 2021 at the earliest.

All premium economy tickets will now include two checked bags (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

International coach flyers only get one free bag

To "provide consistency across the network," all long-haul international coach tickets, excluding basic economy, will now include one free checked bag.

Unfortunately, this added consistency comes at the expense of a checked bag for coach flyers headed to Asia or Oceania. Before Tuesday's update, the aforementioned coach tickets included two free checked bags.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

For new tickets purchased on or after Feb. 23, 2021, the second checked bag will now cost $100 for transpacific itineraries and $65 for flights to long-haul destinations in South America.

The checked-bag policy for short-haul international destinations, like the Caribbean and Latin America, remains unchanged.

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

New long-haul basic economy markets

American is also expanding its basic economy fares to new international markets. You'll now see a "Basic Economy Plus Bag" option on flights to Asia, Oceania, India and Israel.

Unlike traditional basic economy tickets, this enhanced fare includes one checked bag. Note that all the other basic economy restrictions apply, including last-group boarding.

Additionally, the "Basic Economy Plus Bag" fare will become non-changeable once the current global waiver expires. For now, American's comprehensive waiver offers no change fees for all tickets purchased by March 31, 2021.

American recently relaxed some of its basic economy restrictions as of Oct. 1, 2020. All basic economy flyers, including those traveling on AA's new "Plus Bag" fare, can purchase upgrades, priority boarding, extra-legroom seats and same-day confirmed changes. Elite members can also enjoy their benefits, regardless of the fare purchased.

Oceania travelers can pack more

Checked bags are generally capped at 50 pounds each. Some premium cabin flyers, as well as elite members, are allowed to bring bags weighing 70 pounds.

As part of Tuesday's update, all tickets to/from Australia or New Zealand will now include a 70-pound allowance per bag.

That means coach flyers can check one 70-pound bag. Premium economy, business- and first-class travelers can bring two bags at 70 pounds each.

Travel agents can now offer upsell packages

Effective immediately, select travel agencies can offer new bundled packages in addition to the ticket.

An internal memo viewed by TPG shows that American plans to offer a Main Plus experience, which includes an extra-legroom seat, an additional free checked bag and Group 5 boarding. It remains to be seen which travel agencies begin offering the new packages and at what price.

Bottom line

American's latest policy update is a mixed bag (literally and figuratively).

All premium economy passengers will now enjoy two free checked bags — a nice bump for those domestic tickets which previously only included one bag. Plus, flyers headed to Australia and New Zealand can pack a bit more with a new 70-pound allowance.

It's a different story for long-haul coach tickets, which now include just one checked bag. Previously, main-cabin flyers headed to Asia or Oceania could bring two bags.

Finally, American is expanding its basic economy fares to four new markets. At least AA's basic economy isn't nearly as punitive as its competitors.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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