American Airlines adjusts checked-bag allowances, expands basic economy

Feb 23, 2021

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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.

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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.

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 photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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