American Airlines Cuts Curbside Check-in From Many Airports, Charges New Fee Where Still Available

American Airlines now outsources curbside check-in at most airports where it’s available, and it’s no longer offered free (plus tips) where provided. Instead it’ll cost $3 per bag to use the service.

While people do increasingly use technology, prepay their bags, opt for touchless solutions, being able to drop bags at the curb is incredibly helpful for families with more bags than children, and students flying to school with a year’s worth of belongings – rather than dragging them into the terminal.

American Airlines now outsources curbside check-in to vendor Baggage Airlines Guest Services (Bags, Inc.). This is offered for domestic travel only. There is no curbside check-in offered for international. And the service now costs $3 per bag to check, apart from anything you may offer as a tip.

According to internal documentation,

Bags, Inc. now provides curbside check-in at the following airports:

  • Atlanta
  • Austin
  • Boston
  • Dallas – Fort Worth
  • Denver
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Las Vegas
  • Kansas City
  • Orlando
  • Raleigh
  • Richmond
  • San Antonio
  • San Diego
  • Salt Lake City
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Washington National

Miami continues to offer curbside check-in, where the service has been provided by American’s wholly-owned regional carrier Envoy (rather than by American Airlines itself), and in Maui where it doesn’t cost the airline anything to provide. Only Chicago O’Hare still has American Airlines Skycaps (and does not charge passengers a fee).

While internal documentation is clear that there’s no longer American Airlines curbside check-in at other airports, it’s still hard to fathom that no curbside check-in is offered at other domestic airports, including Phoenix, New York JFK, Los Angeles, or Charlotte. A spokesperson tells me that additional stations such as these will see outsourced curbside check-in in the future.

American says the new arrangement saves them money on “labor, training and equipment” while sharing revenue from the bag fee with Bags, Inc. But still having curbside available (versus eliminating the option entirely) “reduce[s] lines and reduce[s] pressure at American counters and kiosks.”

One of the early cuts that US Airways management made after taking over American was eliminating curbside check-in across 38 airports. There was a lot of pushback against this. Curbside check-in was suspended entirely at most airports as a cost-saving measure in July 2020.

Ironically about the only time I’ve ever needed curbside check-in was when US Airways management botched the reservation system integration with America West, online and kiosk check-in was down, and legacy US Airwaysgents didn’t know how to use the America West system. People working outside for tips sure did – and $5 got me a boarding pass rather than a 45 minute wait in the first class check-in line.

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 »

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  1. I arrange for FedEx/UPS/DHL to come to my house a day (or more, as needed), pick up my luggage, and deliver it to my hotel (usually overnight in the USA, two days internationally). At the end, I reverse the process, having it picked up after my hotel checkout. Fortunately, most of my trips are point to point. Baggage companies that provide a similar service just add higher prices and extra delays.

  2. Shameful…thinking of those who are disabled, helping someone disabled, or elder people. At least offer some sort of assistance for folks. INcreasinginly believe for a service providing industry they provide less service and care. BRING BACK THE AA OF OLD!

  3. Gary – I live in Charlotte – CLT is undergoing a multi-year (won’t be finished until 2025) upgrade that has significantly disrupted both auto and pedestrian access to the terminal (changing again next week with another series of doors opening and closing. I suspect that is the reason AA doesn’t have curbside check in (don’t think any other airline has it either at CLT right now) as opposed to an airline decision not to offer it.

  4. I think the best use of curbside bag check for frequent travelers, that I never see talked about, is to help make checked bag cutoffs when traveling by yourself with a rental car.

    When leaving a city, if I’m cutting it too close for time, I’ll do a curbside bag check with the rental car, before I go to return it. If you’re outside at the counter, cops typically won’t hassle you about leaving the car there (just leave the trunk/door open, and keep an eye on it if the cops start to walk up to the car). Then you can check the bag before the 45/60 in cutoff, go return the rental car, and make it back in time to make the flight. I’ve successfully done this several times at different airports, and it’s for sure saved me a couple of times from missing my flights because of bag cutoffs (which is the worst!)

    I know most frequent travelers will do whatever they can to avoid checking a bag, but I end up doing longer trips, and it’s just easier to check a bag than to try to get everything crammed in a carry on and then get stuff laundered on the road.

  5. Consumer habits have changed thanks to the baggage fees from airlines. Most millennials will avoid checking a bag if possible.

  6. That’s to bad I was a Sky Cap for a good 20 yrs best job ever made a lot of money in tips now working for the airlines now at least we still have Sky Caps

  7. Gravelly Point Guy noticed it too:

    An article about curside baggage check and a picture of a baggage carousel at one appears to be a North Korean airport. Someone either needs to hire an editor or fire one.

  8. American Airlines is only making Services Worse they already are. They’re running the Airline completely down the lav. What’s next, no pilot’s???

  9. My bet why sky caps have been eliminated all comes down to money. I worked the ramp 35 years, and several of the part timers who worked at my station also worked for a contract 3rd party vendor skycapping . They would work 4 hrs on the curb,usually not working our airlines curb, and would make between $200 and $300 cash. The $5 tip a businessman gave did not make that kind of cash wad. It was the person with 4 or 5 oversize/ overweight bags facing $300 in excess bag fees, who slipped the skycap a $50 bribe to check all the bags in and not charge them the fees. As airlines realized the fees they were losing out on, and made hand written bag tags obsolete, built security software into the bag tag printer to prevent agents from overriding the fee, and made incentives to stations (not individuals) for reaching pre determined levels each quarter for bag fee collection, skycaps lost a lot of incentive to stand outside in all sorts of weather for sub minimum wage and whatever couple of dollars they might make in legit tips.

  10. this James, is the most logical reason of them all. Thanks for sharing and enlightening us all, and bless you for all those you helped through the years even in the crappy weather. You were more appreciated than you know, and the ones you appreciated you the most were no doubt those who couldn’t tip as much as they would have loved to. take good care….

  11. I have always given the sky cap $5 dollars per bag, or $10 if I have one bag. Including yesterday at PHX to DFW, where I was shocked when I had to pay $3 for just one bag at the curb (by Amex lol). I am a single woman with a carry-on and a purse and checked suitcase. That is too much for me to manage getting inside after being dropped off at the curb by my car service a few times a month.

    American Airlines, having cut nearly every other “service” in the interest of saving weight and cost, is about to start charging for using the lavatory (which I don’t use anyway, ). After that, I would expect they will start not pressurizing the cabins and instead providing oxygen only by the drop-down masks and then charge a fee for those, too.

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