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American Airlines raises checked bag fees, introduces lower price for overweight luggage

Get ready to shell out a little more for your next checked bag on American Airlines.


American announced Tuesday it is raising the price of a first checked bag to $40 on most flights – or $35 if you pay before you get to the airport. It’s the first time American has raised the fee since 2018. The airline previously charged $30 for a first checked bag on most flights.


“Fuel has gone up quite a bit. That’s a big component of our costs when we’re carrying bags,” Scott Chandler, American’s senior vice president of revenue management and loyalty, told USA TODAY. “We periodically look at all of our costs and where we can sort of help balance cost out with revenues.” 


Chandler emphasized that elite frequent flyers, co-branded credit card holders and premium cabin customers will continue to be eligible for free checked bags under the new program. However, he added that passengers would still have a more efficient experience at the airport if they registered those bags in advance.


“For all of them we want to make it also easy to go through the airport,” he said. “If all you’re doing is printing a bag tag, we’re investing in technology to make that really easy.” 


The new bag fees apply to any itinerary booked starting Feb. 20. Existing bookings – any reservation ticketed on or before Feb. 19 – will still be charged the previous bag fees.


A full breakdown of the new costs by region is available here on American’s website.


New oversize, overweight fees


In addition to the higher bag check price, American announced a new fee structure for oversized and overweight bags. Overweight bags between 50 and 53 pounds will be charged a $30 fee instead of the full $100-$200. Similarly, luggage up to three linear inches over the 62-inch limit will be charged $30 instead of $150-$200.


“Obviously, it’s a little frustrating when you’re barely over the limit and you have to pay the entire charge,” Chandler said. “It’s really good for customers (who) might be just above that limit, and it is a lower fee. It should help manage the process at the airport, should help our employees and the customers as well.” 


The new oversized and overweight bag fees will begin on April 17.


How can I avoid bag fees?


The best way to avoid bag fees is to have an airline co-branded credit card, to earn elite status with your preferred carrier, or to fly in a premium cabin where bags are more likely to be complimentary.


Check out this column for more information about how bag fees work and tips on how to get around them.


Changes to AAdvantage


American also announced changes to mileage earnings in its AAdvantage program.

“You’ll always earn miles booking direct, but if you’re booking indirectly, you need to be part of booking through one of our preferred agencies,” Chandler said. 


American has been pushing travel agents to adopt new backend technology for searching, displaying and booking their flights. Third-party bookings will also need to use that technology for travelers to earn miles and loyalty points on their flights after May 1. 


“Right now, 80% of our customers will be unaffected,” Chandler said. “Since we’ve been on this journey for 18 months with all these agencies and we’ve been helping them adopt the technology and we’ve set the bar pretty low, we fully expect everyone has an opportunity to make (the May 1 implementation deadline).


AAdvantage Business members and contracted corporate travelers are exempt from the technology requirement.


Zach Wichter is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in New York. You can reach him at zwichter@usatoday.com


This article originally appeared on USA Today.

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