American Airlines Increases Checked Baggage Fees in the Midst of COVID-19

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Effective immediately, American Airlines has increased the cost of checking a bag on its transatlantic flights. Flyers traveling between the U.S. and Europe or Africa on American Airlines on basic economy fares will now have to pay $75 each way to check a bag.

For tickets issued prior to April 21, 2020, the checked bag fee for basic economy fares remains $60 each way. This change effectively adds $30 in fees to a round-trip fare for checking a bag on a trip to Europe or Africa on AA's cheapest fares. AA's standard economy “Main Cabin” fares will still include one free checked bag.

The fee increase was posted to AA's checked bag policy page on Tuesday morning:

“Bag fees between Europe, Israel, Morocco and U.S., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, Mexico, Caribbean (including Haiti), Central America, South America or connecting via Europe to another destination have been updated as of April 21, 2020.”

Further down in the footnotes, American Airlines clarifies:

“For Transatlantic Basic Economy travel, a $60 1st bag fee applies for tickets issued on / or before April 20, 2020, and $75 for tickets issued on / after April 21, 2020.”

In a statement to AwardWallet, an American Airlines spokesperson confirmed the changes:

“Starting today (Tuesday, April 21), American is changing its checked baggage fees for Basic Economy passengers on transatlantic flights to better align our bag fee structure with our Atlantic Joint Business partners, British Airways, Iberia, and Finnair. These changes only affect passengers who purchase new Basic Economy tickets on transatlantic flights starting on April 21 going forward.”

Indeed, American Airlines is catching up with its joint business partner Finnair—which has already increased its checked bag fees. On March 31, 2020, Finnair increased the cost of a checked bag between North America and Europe from €45/$55 (or 9,000 points) to €60/$65 (or 12,000 points) on basic economy tickets.

How to Avoid This Fee Increase

If you're a light packer, the good news is that AA basic economy fares allow travelers to travel with a free carry-on bag. So, you can avoid this hefty checked bag fee entirely by limiting yourself to a carry-on bag.

Interestingly, this change just made award redemptions on American Airlines slightly more valuable. While American Airlines' basic economy fares don't include a free checked bag, AA award tickets include one free checked bag. That's true even on AA's otherwise-restrictive Economy Web Special awards.

Also, American Airlines—and Oneworld elites—can still utilize their free checked bag allowance on AA basic economy tickets.

Certain American Airlines co-branded credit cards offer a free checked bag for the cardholder and travel companions. However, this benefit only applies to domestic itineraries. So, unfortunately, having an AA credit card won't help you avoid this fee increase.

Final Thoughts

One of the most vocal frustrations from travelers is the amount of fee increases that airlines have levied on travelers. And those frustrations bubbled up again recently as it was announced that U.S. airlines would receive billions in emergency aid from the U.S. Treasury.

Now, less than a week after AA announced $5.8 billion in government assistance, the airline has quietly increased fees on travelers flying its cheapest fares. While inflation-adjusted airfare has never been cheaper, this is really poor timing to increase fees on travelers.

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Comments

  • Intereseting… Thanks!

  • The optics of this is quite bad during the current crisis even with people not flying. AA should have waited even with it only applying to basic transatlantic fares only.

  • one step forward 3 steps back AA : (

  • It is such an inappropriate move right now… For sure the airline industry is hit vary hard by the covid-19 pandemic but they need to provide also some motivation for the passenger to select their airline. It looks very disappointing.

  • It is a good moment to change fees. Everybody is looking to another side. Ummmm

  • Travelfreek says:

    American Airlines…used to be my fave!

  • Not a lot of money to earn flying so little.
    But lot of customers will be unhappy.
    Not a good move I think.

  • That’s a really sneaky thing to do, raising fees when no one is paying attention. The fine print also states that the fee applies “at each check-in location”, which I assume is referring to layovers? If that’s true, then that small increase can add up really quick depending on your itinerary.

    • I understand how you could interpret that language in that way, but charging multiple fees on a single itinerary would be a bold move. I don’t believe that’s been done before.

  • Sad and pathetic move by American Airlines.

  • I get it. Don’t agree, but I get it. I wonder if this is worth it simply because I would think most flights are business (and maybe those are paying, but I would think they have a card to waive the fees).

  • My reaction is – You say what? Tone deaf. And, some states, and perhaps the federal government, have laws/rules outlawing price gouging during emergencies. Nice going American. I wonder in which state the first class action on behalf of all AA customers/consumers will be brought. I guess our good friends at AA are risk takers with the corporate and now USA money as well. This could be bad press for a year.

  • Very well done, AA… You get money from the people (that’s what the Treasury’s money is) and then thank them by increasing fees. And we don’t even know what really is going to happen to air fares!

  • Free bag only applies to domestic itinerary for credit card holders. I did not know that! Good to know before my next transatlantic flight whenever that may be!

  • Why am I not surprised? Fortunately, in the last 3 or 4 years, I have only once had to pay for a checked bag (it was my 4th checked bag and included items from my Mother’s after she passed away) and that bag ended up being reimbursed by AmEx Platinum.

  • Theresa L. says:

    So, American taxpayers were forced to bail out American Airlines, because they spent their big tax cut savings on stock buybacks instead of keeping it as cash reserves for emergencies (like every responsible citizen who, if they are able to, saves for emergencies). And they thanked Americans by making them pay higher baggage fees. That’s real gratitude for you.

    I guess no good deed goes unpunished. AA is kind of like that friend who doesn’t save money, lives beyond their means, then borrows money from you, doesn’t pay you back and carries on overspending. And yet, their wealthy shareholders are the same kind of people who claim that middle class Americans could be rich if they just learned how to manage their money better. Unbelievable.

    Sorry for the rant – just fed up with mercenary corporations and the rapacious rich being “welfare queens,” while they shaft us peons, sanctimoniously lecture us about how it’s our own fault the middle class is shrinking and the poor are getting poorer, and expect undying gratitude for being “job providers” – even though they couldn’t make billions without the labor and consumer spending of millions of Americans. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

  • INteresting, I doubt other airlines will follow

  • That’s such an awkward time to implement an increase in fees.

  • Such a bad timing indeed!

  • Wow, unbelievable! This sort of cancels out the warm fuzzy video message that Doug Parker emailed to all AA flyers a few days ago saying how much the airline values its loyal customers…

  • Im flying with united from now on

  • I guess they are conditioning everyone to the higher fees once people start to travel again. To me this is a hidden fee because they do not disclose this upfront just like the hotels with the mandatory fees like resort fees that they add to the total bill which is not shown in the beginning of the price.

  • I guess I really don’t understand AA.
    Probably the worst time in history to raise checked baggage fees.

  • That’s alarming that they coincide and increased junk fee at the same time as a $5.8 billion govt bailout.

  • Hard to feel sorry for AA and their self sabotage.

  • really bad timing, they take our bailout money and now does this right back to us

  • I know airlines are hurting but this is ridiculous. Thanks

  • This is a very bizarre move. That being said, had they increased their airfare, it would not be as noticeable.

  • I have so many AA. Miles and no wish to use them.

  • I hate baggage fees, but the airlines are getting hit so hard it is going to take a long time to recover financially.

  • Jose Roberto da Cruz says:

    Bad moment. I will only use the carry-on bag with only the basics.

  • Very nice idea of American of raise the prices of something that should be absolutely free of charge.

  • I agree that this is a strange time to increase fees. It is true that increased weight is increased cost due to fuel burn but this is probably not the time to take this action. Back when I was flying for the airlines, it was made clear to us that cargo and business class passengers made up the real revenue for the airline. The “backpack and flipflop crowd” were not the customers that made a difference to the airline. This also seems to be the case for this decision.

  • In the UK Easyjet have reduced their baggage fees to around the equivalent of $1.25 as a limited time promotion, presumably to encourage people to book flights for the distant future.

  • $75… soon it will be $100… these prices are absurd.

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