American Airlines May End Free Standby for Elites With Checked Bags

American Airlines is looking to reduce the cost of delivering checked checked bags – and as a result
they are “in the process of reviewing” their policy of standby free of charge (or for a fee) for elite customers who have checked bags.

The benefit is still in place but they are asking agents to “do all possible to avoid delivery costs” by:

  1. re-rerouting bags onto the flights the customer is actually taking [good, but difficult to do though many foreign carriers do this well] and

  2. telling customers to pick up their bags at their destination even if the bag is arriving on a flight later than they do.

One of the reasons I prefer carry on over checking bags is because of the increased flexibility it provides in changing flights during irregular operations. Even if an airline is flexible in making changes I assume they won’t get me my bags. I didn’t realize American was providing bag delivery to customers standing by for an earlier flight after checking bags. I frankly assumed customers would be on the hook for going back to get their bags.

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. Free standby = key elite perk.

    Ending free bag delivery = sensible.

    I was in SLC and the agent at the check-in desk was happy to put my bags through on an earlier flight so that they’d be at DCA when I landed.

  2. @Gary I think you might be misreading the memo – it sounds like they’re only asking passengers to pick up bags that arrive *before* they do (though obviously that can change with a newer policy)

  3. @bob “we are currently in the process of reviewing this policy” that “elite customers have the ability to stand by for earlier or later flights…regardless of checked bag”

    It’s in the interim that they want customers picking up bags themselves or to have bags re-routed.

  4. Another reason I like to carry on: gives me more flexibility if I want to spend time in the lounge. If you check baggage, they might have put it in back by the time you get to the carousel.

  5. @Gary agreed, but your point number 2 doesn’t match the second bullet in Jon’s twitter post. They’re only asking agents (currently) to tell customers arriving after their bags to pick them up, i.e. the bags were on an earlier flight

    Either way not a big deal – I agree that they could start requiring people to pick up bags that come later, but it doesn’t seem like the interim policy is quite what you have since the requirement to pick up bags does not apply to people who arrive before their bags per the memo

  6. At US Airways they never allowed you to go on an earlier flight if you had check bags. I’m surprised that AA would allow that. It causes your missed bags to go up, it clogs the airport baggage carousel with bags that no one has picked up, it wastes a lot of time for the personnel in BSO (baggage service office) it makes your missed bag numbers rise unnecessarily and costs money to deliver those bags. Sometimes the US Airways way of doing things worked out better.

  7. Perhaps a silly question, but checked baggage aside, why does any airline charge for standby if the idea is to fill the plane for the flight? Elites with privileges would still be given higher proiority to get ON the flight, but already do not obtain better seating when flying standby?

  8. Coming in from San Antonio to Los Angeles I connected in Dallas on an earlier flight than I originally had. My luggage of course, arrived after I did. After I made sure that it was on the next flight coming in and given that I was only staying five minutes from the airport. I decided to stop by to pick up such luggage. I came to the airport 45 minutes after the scheduled arrival of such flight and my luggage was nowhere to be found, and in this case, it was never found at all. The luggage was reported as stolen. This is my saga of checking in luggage and fly in an earlier flight into LAX with AA.

  9. Tim, in response to your question as to why airlines charge for standby, it’s a money grab, pure profit. As to “why”, please forgive my being vulgar, but it’s the same reason as the answer to MANY questions that begin with “why”. That answer is the same as the answer to the age old question “why does a dog lick his b–ls (gonads)”? “Because he can!” They charge for standby because it’s a money maker and BECAUSE THEY CAN!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *