How to Add and Pay For Checked Baggage Online With American Airlines

Last Updated on September 14, 2021

Economy tickets with American Airlines don’t include checked baggage by default.

And you can’t simply tick a box and add on a checked bag when you are purchasing the ticket.

So you may find yourself wishing to purchase a checked bag allowance and prepay the baggage fees after you’ve purchased the ticket.

Adding a checked bag to AA is inexplicably complicated and confusing. You’d expect you could just call them up or go on to the website and add a bag at any time…

But you can’t.

Hopefully, this article will clear things up for you.

You Can Purchase Up To 3 Checked Bags When You Check-In Online

You can buy checked bags and pay the fee when you check-in online.

You see that? I highlighted the important bit for you 🙂

That will help you from becoming super frustrated like Nicole:

There is no link to prepay baggage. It’s part of the check-in process which only opens up 24 hours before your flight.

Pat also got confused:

AA has a habit of saying things like “you can choose to pay for up to 3 checked bags (per person) before arriving at the airport” without mentioning check-in in the same sentence.

This leads people off on a wild goose chase searching for a link that doesn’t exist.

So, purchasing a checked bag allowance is part of the online check-in process.

However, it’s not always that straightforward.

  • You can’t pay for baggage during check-in on international flights, though admittedly an international flight will often include one free checked bag. If you want to add additional bags online before your flight you are screwed.
  • Not all itineraries allow online bag check-in.
  • You can only pay during check-in online which opens 24 hours before your flight and closes 4 hours before your flight.

So even though you can book your flight weeks or months in advance there is only a 20-hour window of opportunity when you can prepay for checked luggage.

If no option to buy checked luggage shows up during online check-in that means that it can’t be done.

How To Buy A Checked Bag With American Airlines

For most people, if you’re flying within and between the U.S., including Hawaii, Alaska and select Caribbean cities, the answer is to sit tight and wait until 24 hours before your flight.

You can then prepay for checked baggage during the check-in process on or by using the AA App

You can’t prepay for checked bags over the phone or online out of the checking-in process.

If the check-in process doesn’t ask you about checked luggage then it can’t be added. You’ll need to do it at the airport.

If you want to know if your flight allows you to add baggage online then you can ping @AmericanAir a message on Twitter. DM them your record locator and they will let you know if adding bags will be an option during check-in.

And if your flight is less than 4 hours away you can’t prepay for hold luggage online anymore and you’ll need to do it at the airport.

Why Can’t You Pay A Fee For Checked Baggage When You Buy The Ticket?

Beats me!

Are you crazy! That would be far too sensible!

AA seems to be hell-bent on making it awkward to prepay for your checked luggage.

It would be simple and convenient to add an option to pay for a checked bag when you buy your main cabin ticket. Many airlines operate systems like this.

If they wanted, AA could also easily allow you to edit your booking to add on and pay for hold luggage any time before your flight.

But airlines don’t always want Economy to mean cheap. They want it to mean annoying!

Sure AA will not nickel and dime you on the same level as Spirit or Frontier. But they are playing a tactical game too.

It’s only relatively recently that AA has allowed you to prepay for checked baggage at all. They liked to force the people in the cheap seats to stand in line if they wanted to bring checked luggage.

And here’s the kicker…

For some people, those with more money than sense, that would be annoying enough that they’ll pay those ridiculous prices for first-class or business class because of the complimentary bags or free checked baggage allowance.

So although AA has now relented and allows you to prepay for checked bags you can only do it in a small window of 20 hours before your flight.

Believe me, if AA wanted to update their system they could get it done before you could say Jack Robinson. They are a massive organization. You can’t add bags online days before your flight because AA don’t want you to.

Why does this matter?

Well, some passengers get anxious when traveling. They like to get organized and know they’ll be able to bring their suitcase on their flight. Passengers like to plan ahead so that things will go smoothly.

People worry about getting hit in the pocket with expensive fees, standing in lines, and even missing flights.

But if you are worried that it will be more expensive to pay for a checked bag at the airport then you can relax. The price to prepay a checked bag online is the same price as it is to pay for a checked bag at the airport.

I looked on Twitter to make sure this was true.

Valentina was worried about this and asked AA on Twitter and they reassured her she would not pay more.

The prepay baggage fees for American Airlines are the same as the checked bag fees you’ll pay at the airport.

For regular domestic flights, adding one 62 linear inches bag will cost you $30, adding a second bag will cost $40, the third checked bag will cost $150.

If you want to add a 4th checked bag you’ll need to do that at the airport and it will cost $200. Three checked bags online is the maximum number you can add when checking in.

Keep in mind that the fines for oversize or overweight luggage can be painful. So it’s a good idea to invest in a luggage scale so you don’t exceed the weight restrictions.

Lauren was trying to get organized and pay for her luggage online before her flight.

AA replied as if Lauren just couldn’t figure it out…

Hey @AmericanAir it’s not Lauren that’s stupid. It’s your stupid system!

The polite answer would have been “You can’t add baggage to your flight over the phone. You can only do it online during check-in”.

Being told that “our airport team will assist you on the day of departure” wouldn’t help me feel organized.

Because I don’t want to end up standing in lines like Matthew.

Look at that line! That’s why I almost always stick to carry-on bags and why you’ll find me sitting in that Starbucks drinking a coffee before departure.

Joe was incredulous when he discovered that he couldn’t pay for baggage fees and a pet ahead of time.

Joe kindly wanted to pay the baggage fee for his family.

I like how Joe says “this is not acceptable” and then it’s just silence from AA.

But for AA it’s just a case of “the system says no”.

Whatever happened to customer service? Online systems have brought a lot of convenience for travelers but I can’t help but feel we’ve lost the personal touch.

Would it be so hard to let Joe speak to a real person on the phone and for them to take his card details?

Why it might not always be a good idea to prepay for your bags online

If you need to cancel your flight at the last minute your prepaid bags are non-refundable.

Charlie couldn’t understand why this was the case…

I don’t get it either Charlie.

It’s just a case of you gave us your money… and it’s OUR money now.

And this Dude thought he was going to need two checked bags, so he prepaid for two.

He then realized he could manage with only one.

According to AA, bags previously purchased are “non-refundable”. Don’t you just love the language?

Like a refund would be impossible.

Of course, charges like this are refundable. AA is able to process a refund IF they want. But they’ve got your money now and they don’t want to give it back. Sorry that you weren’t aware Dude!

The lesson is don’t prepay for bags that you might not need!

Also, pack before you check-in.

If you check in with one bag and then realize you need a second checked suitcase then you won’t be able to add it.

Also make sure you really need to pay the baggage fee.

Sherry prepaid $30 to check a bag that was carry-on size.

If your suitcase is under the carry-on size limit, yet you still want it stored in the hold compartment, then don’t prepay the bag fee.

Simply bring your bag to the gate and ask them to check it. Stewards are always looking to check bags at the gate since there is never enough room in the overhead bins.

You’ll have figured that I’m not too impressed with how American Airlines handles the pre-payment of baggage fees. It’s bad customer service and it causes a lot of confusion.

Saul says it best.

Dear American Airlines…


The Verdict

You can usually add and pay for checked baggage during the online check-in process.

If you don’t see any option to do this then it means you’ll need to do it at the airport at the AA check-in counter or the self-service kiosk.

It won’t cost any more money to add your checked bag at the airport but allow extra time for standing in lines.

It would be a very simple fix for AA to upgrade their website so that you can add a checked bag when you buy your ticket.

Many airlines do this already and it means passengers can relax knowing that their luggage requirements are sorted well in advance of their flight.

Instead, AA creates an artificial window that is only open for 20 hours. I can’t help thinking that this is a tactic used to manipulate customers.

So what can you do about it?

You can suck it up, pay the luggage fees when and where you are told to…

Or you can learn to travel light and fly with only carry-on luggage stored in the overhead bin rather than the hold compartment.

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