American Airlines Just Raised Checked Bag Fees To A Large Airline Record $40

American Airlines has increased first and second checked bag fees to a most-expensive in the industry $40 per first checked bag on domestic U.S. itineraries and $45 for the second checked bag. They’ve also increased checked bag fees for travel to Central America and the Caribbean. American’s plan to change checked bag fees was first reported by aviation watchdog JonNYC.

Note that this applies to tickets purchased from February 20, 2024 onward. If you already purchased your tickets February 19 or earlier, you’re entitled to the checked bag fees that were in effect at that time.

This is a striking increase from $30 to $40, leaping over airlines that had already increased their fees to $35. For instance,

American’s last innovation was playing catchup before the pandemic in offering the ability to prepay for bags online. Paying online in advance for bags saves $5, though if you wind up with fewer bags than you expect you’ll be overpaying

American Airlines Baggage Claim, Austin

Since Delta still charges $30 for first checked bag, and $40 for second checked bag, and leads the industry in financial performance this reeks of desperation and also puts American at a competitive disadvantage. At the same airfare, American is frequently $10 or more costlier for the same trip (not to mention that American has the most expensive inflight wifi in the industry while Delta’s is free for anyone who joins their mileage program).

While American is generating over a billion dollars per year in checked bag fee revenue, this unbundling is as much tax arbitrage as revenue raiser. It moves revenue out of fare and into fees which for domestic itineraries avoids the federal 7.5% excise tax. American Airlines is saving over $75 million per year in taxes by charging checked bag fees rather than including them in the fare. Southwest Airlines, of course, by including 2 free checked bags with every ticket incurs a higher tax liability.

With the President campaigning against checked bag fees which he says are ‘poorly disclosed’ this is an odd time for an airline to stick their neck out with a fee policy change. Any serious proposal to address checked bag fees should address the differential tax treatment between airfare and fees that encourages airlines to push as much revenue as possible into fees.

Update: It appears that JetBlue quietly raised the price of 1st checked bags within 24 hours of departure to $45 on February 1. So there is a scenario where another airline is, in fact, higher. American remains more expensive than the other large U.S. airlines.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. I still have no idea why checked bags are charged, while cabin bags are free.

    If anything it should be the opposite.

    The least price sensitive travelers (willing to pay a bag fee) are the ones most pressed for time and most likely to pay a cabin bag fee to save time.

    Even the cheapest employers I have worked for would always reimburse bag fees. Of course I never paid any due to the high level of airline status I earned by diligently reading such valuable resources as View From The Wing. Thank you Gary for your writing. You must be tickled by the praise I am giving you right now.

    Boarding and aircraft turns would be much faster with fewer cabin bags. Passengers would be in better moods as the practice of forced gate-checking would presumably disappear with cabin bag fees.

  2. Anyone can avoid checked bag fees by getting status or even having the right credit card. No sympathy for people that have to pay. Just a result of poor planning.

    And I wouldn’t worry about what Joe Biden says. He will forget about it soon enough like he does everything else.

  3. Well those stews want an “industry leading contract” they apparently think they deserve so there’s one way to help pay for it, by passing the cost onto the customer. Never knew about the taxes though, very interesting.

  4. @DunkinDFDubya – Of course morons like you will take every single opportunity to heap your hate on flight attendants. (Please post what it is that you do for a living, where you are, I am sure, quite the creator of good in the world.) You take a post about something else entirely and immediately twist it into disparaging remarks about FAs. Increased bag fees have absolutely nothing to do with potential increased wages for flight attendants. Of course.. They have to do with what flight attendants are fighting against – corporate greed. Any person with a brain knows that.

    Some of us flight attendants are actually good. We aren’t lazy, we don’t sit and play the always-mentioned candy crush on our phones, we’re kind and pleasant and do a difficult job in the face of eternally rude, self-absorbed passengers. I’d bet my 401k that you’re one of those.

    Every work group at AA has recently gotten a raise, most especially of course the huge one the pilots received. But you think that increased bag fees are simply to fund one for FAs. Your unintended positive statement about the coming pay increase is one to look forward to.

    Reading the post, I was going to make a comment about the stupidity of increasing these fees, which only encourage customers to bring more onto the plane (especially for those that realize they can most all times check a bag at the gate for free), which in turn leads to a slowed boarding process and impacts AA’s oh-so-important on-time departure. But instead of that being the focus of my comment, it is instead the idiocy of yours. So please, share what it is that you do to increase kindness and happiness in the world. And remember the next time you fly – respect is a two-way street.

  5. Moreover, it incentivizes passengers to stuff whatever possible into even more carry on luggage, and enhances the “bin space” battles.
    Poor move on AA’s part and the industry.

  6. Who pays the federal excise tax? Seems like it would be passed on to the consumer. Is AA really saving?

  7. @JetsFan. It is paid by the airline by all ticket revenue. 7.5%

    So by shifting $7B of revenue from ticket to ancillary, an airkine would save $525M in FET, since it is not paid on Ancillary fees.

    Theres a reason ULCC carriers try to shift 70%+ of revenue to ancillary. It can literally increase their net margin 4-5% compared to a legacy airline who is at 20% of its revenue from ancillary.

  8. Actually, people pay no attention to baggage fees. They look at fares primiarly and/or have the credit card if they travel frequently. DL lead due to rediciously high fares from their hubs and strong premium product (although, not a strong as it used to be). I suspect all will be raised or more credit cards will be issued, either way, it’s a win for AA’s bottom line.

    BTW. . .you didn’t note that over weight bag fee was dropped from $100 to $30 to reduce the time waste of taking stuff out a bags which is a smart move. DL still charges MUCH more.

  9. Is American trying to run customers off? Are they hoping that some fairy godmother will scoop them up with a buyout to save them from sinking any lower? Kinda makes one wonder who’s running the asylum? What other airlines should do is LOWER the checked bag fees and watch the inmates at American figure out what to do next!

  10. Think of the federal excise tax as the government’s credit card fee. If merchants will jump through hoops or surcharge you for 2.7%, think what they’ll do for 7.5%! Basically, if AA decides to charge $40 for bags, if it’s built into the ticket, they pay $3 tax to the government. If they charge for the bags outside the ticket, they still charge $40, but they get to keep the extra $3. Some beancounter decided that equals profit!

    Another airline has decided to lower bag fees – it’s called Southwest. People flock to them, but they are no longer the cheapest game in town. AA often has better fares, especially if you have one of their cards. I try to avoid SW, but I’ll take it if cost/schedule dictate. As much as people complain about AA, it’s still better than SW if you have AA status.

  11. American runs themselves as a commodity – competing on price and schedule. Their bet is you don’t care about the bag fee because their schedule is their product.

    We’ll see how long they can compete on schedule because their product is absolute garbage.

  12. You’ve got this wrong Gary. The move on AA’s part is a very smart business decision. Everyone will match. It’s flown under the radar, but the Spirits and Frontiers of the world now charge completely outrageous unpublished “variable” bag fees. Usually over $50 for a one-way CARRY-ON. AA gives every passenger a free carry-on. You want a checked bag on AA, and don’t want to pay for their credit card, you’re going to pay. Sorrry. AA will lose almost no customers and pocket a couple hundred million bucks from this move. On-board bin space will become even tighter but, hey, that’s not AA’s big concern. Being profitable is.

  13. The gouging escalates – Un-American Airlines continues to wear and cling to the airline that never disappoints with overcharging, overpricing and continuing bad service. Southwest airlines looks better every day – every way. To those who continue to patronize and fly Un-American Airlines – when will enough be enough?

  14. @David R Miller — if you value Southwest’s two free checked bags, keep flying them. That’s what’s great about America. Free choice. Other people value other things. That’s good, too. None of these airlines make particularly large amounts of money that enrich shareholders, so your allegations of “gouging” are absurd.

  15. Gotta fund those new massive contracts somehow.

    I was just looking at a trip. UA is double AA and Southwest. Of the remaining two, one has baggage fees the other doesn’t. Makes for an easy choice.

  16. I truly cannot understand the masses. You all bitch and moan about not getting your “FREE” upgrades because a pilot got it. Then you bitch, when you DO get it, that the food sucks. Then people bitch about how terrible the airline(s) is/are.

    There’s just no winning with you people. If you hate commercial airlines so much, fly prviate.

  17. chopsticks – raising bag fees = gouging. You are correct about “free choice” – if you want to be gouged, then pay for bags.– Your choice.– I choose NOT to pay for checked bags, which results in me saving money. — What is the most untrusted airline?
    American Airlines
    American Airlines has been ranked as the least reliable airline in the United States, with 2,183 yearly flight problems recorded, 157 cases of oversold tickets, and 1,476 issues with refunds.Dec 9, 2023

  18. Air France charges 60 euros for checked bags for intra-European flights. So the cost for AA checked bags seems like a bargain 🙂

  19. @Steve

    1. Upgrades for pilots is wrong, period. They are being paid VERY well now. Let them pay like us. WN pilots are just fine in Y. I imagine if it dipped into AA pilots wallets they would be fine as well.
    2. Yes, the food is abysmal. Average spend is $4 for a F customer. Why? Because pilots are being paid so much. We pay in the end for their absurd salary.
    3. Yes, though we might not be affected, we will still defend the absurdity of checked bag fees increasing for the regular consumer. Why? Mostly because it’s just another attempt to make up for the large payout to pilots.

    So, yes, it’s all about the pilots. And customers are now paying for their Union greed. I can’t wait for when the new line of trained pilots starts coming into the system and driving down the contracts. Maybe then, at last, airlines will start to remember, “Oh, customers, oops.”

  20. @An AA Flight Attendant

    If all these changes are NOT about you and the pilots, what are they about? Greed? I doubt it in this case. Businesses scramble to find ways to rob from Peter to pay Paul. If you are so naive to imagine that AA is not doing this, I feel sorry for you. Your Unions are greedy and extortionist. You boxed them in. Consumers now are the last to pay the price of your greed. What’s even more insulting is how little you care about the consumer yourself. You are a group of entitled and whiny clog wearing embarrassments that have no decorum or sense of self pride. If you actually cared and provided service that was on par with the rest of the world I would be more sympathetic to your needs. But as you stand today, I wish for nothing less than your employment demise. You all caused this, along with the pilots.

Comments are closed.