American Airlines baggage fees aren’t great. Neither is the American Airlines change fee, or their cancellation policy.
While they’re not known for being the cheapest, we’ll tell you what pitfalls to avoid, and how to find low fares, earn AAdvantage miles, and dodge unnecessary fees.
Then, if you want to find more great ways to save on your next vacation, check out KCL’s travel tips.
1. Earn rewards points on your ticket purchases with the American Airlines AAdvantage program.
When you sign up for the free AAdvantage loyalty program, you earn “miles” that’ll help you buy a future flight (on American or one of the 13 OneWorld Alliance partners and 10 other airlines).
Although they’re called miles, they have nothing to do with the distance you travel — you earn them based on how much you spend on flights. Basic AAdvantage miles members earn 5 miles per $1 spent on base fares.
2. AAdvantage members get 6% cash back to use on future flights.
When you’re ready to redeem your AAdvantage miles on a new flight, keep in mind that each mile is worth about 1.2 cents, on average. If you want to buy a ticket that would normally cost you $120, you’d use roughly 10,000 miles.
Let’s do a little math:
- AAdvantage miles are worth about 1.2 cents each.
- Every $1 you spend with American gets you 5 AAdvantage miles.
- 1.2 cents x 5 = $0.06
- Therefore, every $1 you spend gets you the equivalent of $0.06 in future credit — 6% cash back.
The point cost per flight varies with date of travel, destination, ticket class, and time of day of travel. As long as you don’t go 18 months without earning or spending miles, they never expire.
3. The American Airlines daily deals page rivals Southwest Airlines prices.
The American Airlines daily deals page shows you the cheapest flash sale tickets available, which is perfect if you’re not too picky about when and where you’re flying.
The listings on the deals page rotate daily, and have predetermined destinations and dates of travel. Most destinations are major cities like New York City, Chicago, LA, and Miami.
Recently, I saw a 4-day round-trip ticket from Philadelphia to Orlando for $81. I’ve also seen round-trip tickets from Dallas to Chicago for $127. The average price of a round-trip ticket is around $130, and prices very rarely go over $300, so these are legit deals that rival even Southwest. And they sell out quickly.
4. Sunday is the most expensive day of the week to fly on American Airlines.
It’s generally a good rule of thumb to avoid Fridays, Sundays and Mondays — because demand is highest at the end of a week (or the beginning of a new one).
Although there are a LOT of variables when it comes to pricing flights on American Airlines, one thing stays the same: Sunday is the most expensive day of the week to fly. I’ve got examples of one-way .
Boise to Denver, early February
- Tuesday: $78
- Friday: $138
- Saturday: $88
- Sunday: $195
Orlando to Dallas-Fort Worth, late February
- Tuesday: $78
- Thursday: $89
- Friday: $119
- Sunday: $172
- Monday: $126
New York-La Guardia to Chicago-O’Hare, early March
- Tuesday/Wednesday: $74
- Thursday/Friday/Saturday/Sunday/Monday: $153
5. Check American Airlines prices at 3 p.m. Eastern every Tuesday.
The best time to check American Airlines flight prices is at 3 p.m. Eastern on Tuesdays. Airlines publish new prices on Monday nights, and everybody adjusts on Tuesday to compete with each other.
Wanna learn when other airlines have sales? We did the work for you and found the Best Time to Book Flights by Airline.
6. Basic economy is the cheapest ticket type — but you’ll have to pay extra to pick your seat.
Basic economy is the cheapest American Airlines fare for a reason. You can’t change, cancel, or get a refund on these ticket types.
Carry-ons are free, and these flights will earn you AAdvantage miles, but you won’t be able to pick your seat unless you pay $9-$10 extra per flight (or have AAdvantage Elite Status). Families cannot be guaranteed seats together unless they are chosen during booking.
7. Earning AAdvantage Elite Status is much easier now — and you’ll get lots of complimentary upgrades.
Earning AAdvantage Elite Status used to be really complicated. . . but starting in 2022, American Airlines made things easier.
The name of the game is loyalty points, and you get a loyalty point for every AAdvantage mile you earn. And you have between March 1 and Feb. 28 of the next year to qualify.
Here’s a look at each AAdvantage tier:
- 30,000 loyalty points to qualify
- 40% extra bonus miles/loyalty points once you qualify
- Perks include: 1 free checked bag, free main cabin upgrade ($20 value), free preferred seating, Group 4 boarding & more
- 75,000 loyalty points to qualify
- 60% extra bonus miles/loyalty points once you qualify
- Perks include: 2 free checked bags, free automatic upgrade to main cabin extra, free preferred seating, Group 3 boarding & more
- 125,000 loyalty points to qualify
- 80% extra bonus miles/loyalty points once you qualify
- When you’ve flown a minimum 30 segments you’ll unlock rewards, including 3 free checked bags, complimentary upgrades, priority lanes at check-in/security, Group 2 boarding & more
- 200,000 loyalty points to qualify
- 120% extra bonus miles/loyalty points once you qualify
- When you’ve flown a minimum 30 segments you’ll unlock rewards, including: 3 free checked bags, Group 1 boarding, Admiral’s Club membership, free food/drink in main cabin & more
8. Earn miles faster and get a free checked bag with the American Airlines credit card.
If you want to earn AAdvantage miles faster (and keep them, like, forever), you’ll want to sign up for the AAdvantage Citi credit card. That’s because it gets you get some good perks like:
- 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $2,500 in the first 3 months of having the card
- No fee for your first checked bag; same goes for up to 4 of your travel companions
- AAdvantage miles that never expire as long as you have the card
- Boarding before the Main Cabin on American Airlines flights
- 25% off in-flight food and beverages when you use your card
- An extra 2 miles per $1 spent (that means a minimum of 7 miles per $1 spent)
- 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and gas stations; 1 mile per $1 spent everywhere else
Back in 2018, I got the AAdvantage credit card and used it to buy a $2,800 round-trip ticket to and from India. I earned 19,600 miles for that then received the 50,000 bonus miles for spending $2,500+ in the first three months.
Those 69,600 miles were enough to buy me a free one-way flight to see family for Christmas that year (but I did have to pay for the return flight).
9. Earn and use miles from partner airlines on your American Airlines flights (and vice versa).
American Airlines is part of the OneWorld Alliance, a collection of airlines across the globe who allow points to be earned and redeemed between them. The 14 OneWorld partners include:
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Japan Airlines
- Malaysia Airlines
- Qatar Airways
- Royal Air Maroc
- Royal Jordanian
- S7 Airlines
- Sri Lankan Airlines
You can also earn miles towards your American Airlines flights by flying with any of their 10 non-alliance partners (like Jetblue, Cape Air, and Hawaiian Airlines).
Use AA.com if you want to book an “award flight” with your miles, but if you want to book an award flight with any other partners you should use OneWorld.com. (Sometimes AA.com doesn’t show all the available award flights with partners.)
10. Don’t buy miles unless you need a few more to get a free flight.
If you’re close to having enough miles for a free flight, you can buy AAdvantage miles to bridge the gap. But don’t buy miles to pay for an entire flight; it’s way too expensive.
For example, if you’re 5,000 miles away from a free flight, it’ll cost you around $150 to just buy those miles outright. The lowest one-way cost of a flight is 20,000 miles. If you were to buy 20,000 miles, you’d pay almost $600 — way more than the actual price of the flight.
You can also gift and transfer miles between AAdvantage members — but miles that have been purchased or transferred to you don’t count toward your AAdvantage Elite Status qualification. You can purchase (or receive as a gift) up to 150,000 miles in a calendar year.
11. You can redeem your AAdvantage miles on hotels & rental cars — but don’t.
The site useaamiles.com has a bunch of different things you can spend your miles on. While it’s nice to have options, your points are best spent on airfare.
A mile is worth about 1.2 cents on average when you purchase airfare, but it’s significantly worse (less than a penny!) on other purchases. Here’s what I found:
- A 2-night stay at the Planet Hollywood Las Vegas hotel: 0.88 cents (61,600 miles, reg. $540)
- A 2-night stay at The Manhattan at Times Square hotel: 0.75 cents (59,700 miles, reg. $447)
- 2 days of an Economy-rated rental car from Dollar: 0.74 cents (4,700 miles + $150.76 fee, reg. $185.73)
A year of the Financial Times ePaper costs 3,960 miles (reg. $100), which makes each mile worth 2.5 cents. But that’s only impressive if you believe a newspaper subscription is worth $100/year.
12. American Airlines baggage fees are $30 for a checked bag — instead, keep calm and carry-on.
American Airlines charges $30 for your first checked bag, and it goes up from there — so if you can fit what you need in a standard-sized carry-on (22x14x9 inches), DO IT.
You also get a free “personal item” like a purse or laptop bag to store under the seat in front of you. Between those two bags, I’m usually able to bring about a week’s worth of necessities without paying any extra or waiting at baggage claim.
If you have to check bags, the fees can stack up pretty quickly. Here’s a breakdown of American Airlines’ baggage fees:
- 1st bag: $30
- 2nd bag: $40 ($70 total)
- 3rd bag: $150 ($220 total)
- 4+ bags: $200 each ($420+ total)
If your bag is overweight or oversized, you’ll pay an extra $100 – $200 on top of the normal fee for that bag. Yikes.
13. You can cancel your American Airlines flight for free within 24 hours of booking.
But if you have to cancel within 24 hours (and aren’t dealing with an emergency situation, like a death), here’s what you can expect:
- Basic Economy: You can’t cancel or change flights; no refund on ticket or baggage fees. You’re gonna eat the cost.
- Non-Refundable Domestic Tickets: After being charged a $200 cancellation fee, any remaining funds will be refunded as an electronic travel credit. No baggage fee refunds.
- Refundable Tickets: Fully refundable to your original form of payment and with no cancellation fee, no matter when you cancel. Refunds include baggage fees.
- Award Flight Tickets: No cancellation fees and your points will be refunded to your account, along with any baggage fees.
If American Airlines cancels your flight or you miss a flight due to a delay of your connecting flight, they will rebook you on the next flight with available seats free of charge.
14. You can change your flight for free before the day of travel, unless you bought Basic Economy.
You’ll still have to pay any difference in fare, or if the new ticket is cheaper you’ll receive travel funds in your account that can be used for future flights.
If you do need to change the day-of, you’ll pay anywhere from $75 to $150 in change fees plus difference in fares.
15. Children under 2 fly for free if they sit in a lap.
Babies fly free with American Airlines if they’re under 2 years old, and if they don’t require their own seat — laps only.
You’ll receive a boarding verification document, not a boarding pass. Once you’ve purchased your ticket, you’ll need to add the infant to your reservation using AA.com.
If you’re traveling with kids under 2, you can request early boarding at the gate.
16. The cheapest way to fly with your pet is in a carry-on kennel.
If you have a fully trained service dog, American will let the animal fly in the cabin at no charge if they meet the requirements. (They have to sit at the floor space in front of the passenger’s seat.)
Otherwise, flying with a pet on American Airlines is gonna cost you. If you bring Fido on the plane in a carry-on, you’ll be charged $125 per kennel. If you put your pet in the cargo hold, prices start at $265 each way for dogs 25 lbs or lighter (and go up from there).
Active-duty military and State Department personnel pay $200 per checked kennel.
17. Bring your own snacks; American Airlines doesn’t give you any.
American Airlines gives you complimentary non-alcoholic beverages on all flights (you’ll have to request it on flights shorter than 250 miles), but they don’t hand out complimentary snacks. Nope, not even pretzels.
So, make sure to pack a snack or buy something at the terminal to save yourself from hunger pangs — especially when traveling with kids.
Wanna make your next trip easier? Our 18 Travel Tips from an Experienced Flight Attendant will give you the insider hacks you need to save time, money, and sanity when you travel with family.
18. Make sure you download the American Airlines app BEFORE you board for free in-flight entertainment.
On most flights, American Airlines offers free streaming from their library of movies, shows, music, and more through the American Airlines app. But once you’re on the plane, it’s too late to download it — so make sure you download it nice and early.
The app also lets you preorder food, change and check your flight, track your bags, and get trip notifications using the American Airlines app. (There aren’t any special deals exclusive to the app, however.)
19. Raise.com sells discounted American Airlines gift cards.
Raise.com sells discounted American Airlines cards — which means you pay less than they’re worth. Instant discount.
We only saw discounts of 1.4% off — not huge — but if you’re a brand new Raise customer, they offer an extra discount of 15% or $20 (whichever is less) on your first order.
20. Veterans Advantage members (and their families) get up to 10% off American Airlines flights.
We’re constantly watching for the best military discounts, but an easy way to get lots of them is to enroll in the VetRewards program.
When you book American Airlines flights through Veterans Advantage, you’ll get up to 10% off domestic and international flights every day, all year.
A couple times a year, we’ve seen Veterans Advantage increase the discount to up to 15% off domestic flights. We last saw this 15% off deal for tickets booked from Nov. 11 – Dec. 19, 2021 for travel between Jan. 5 – Feb. 28, 2022.
21. Active U.S. military and dependents get up to 5 free checked bags per ticket on domestic and international flights.
According to the American Airlines baggage policy, active U.S. military with an ID can check up to 3 bags for free if they’re travelling for personal reasons.
Active military and/or their families with ID traveling on orders receive 5 free checked bags per ticket. Normally, it would cost $220 for someone to check 3 bags, and $620 to check 5 bags.
22. Earn thousands of bonus miles when you book a vacation package through American Airlines.
The American Airlines vacation deals page sells flights, hotels, car rentals, entertainment, and even cruises. Every month or so they roll out a new special, like $200 off European vacation packages in November 2021.
Now, these bundles aren’t always the best way to save money — you’ll want to compare buying components separately versus what the vacation “deals” are offering — but you could earn thousands of extra AAdvantage miles.
There are always at least a couple packages on their front page that offer 10,000 – 25,000 bonus miles, and many times those packages come with extras such as free breakfast, spa credits, free nights, and resort credits.