American Airlines is making changes to its mileage earnings and checked bag fees — here’s what you need to know

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Just weeks after American Airlines announced positive changes to its loyalty program, the airline has announced two negative changes to how you earn miles and how much it charges for checked bags.

First, the airline will soon encourage travelers to book direct. When a customer books through an online travel agency like Expedia, the airline has to pay the company a commission for every flight booked. American will stop awarding AAdvantage miles on flights booked via many travel agencies in an effort to get travelers to book directly with the airline.

The airline is also increasing checked bag and pet fees across the board, making travel more expensive for those who don’t have an American Airlines credit card or elite status with the airline.

Let’s take a look at these changes and how to avoid their negative impact on your travel experience.

Changes to earning miles with American Airlines

Soon, you’ll only earn AAdvantage miles on American flights if you book direct with the airline or through a preferred partner. - American Airlines
Soon, you’ll only earn AAdvantage miles on American flights if you book direct with the airline or through a preferred partner. - American Airlines

To incentivize travelers to book direct, American Airlines will soon change how you earn miles on flights booked with a third-party travel agency.

Starting May 1, 2024, AAdvantage members will only earn miles and Loyalty Points when they book flights in one of three ways:

  • Book directly with American and eligible partner airlines.

  • Book through preferred travel agencies.

  • Book travel anywhere as an AAdvantage Business member or contracted corporate traveler.

Additionally, even if you’re booking through a preferred travel agency, basic economy fares will not be eligible to earn miles. For these fares, the only way to earn miles will be to book directly with the airline (or an eligible partner airline).

The airline also states that the list of preferred travel agencies will not be available until late April.

American Airlines is the first US airline to implement such a policy to discourage travelers from booking through a third-party system. And when one airline makes a large change, we often see many of the other major airlines join the party in the months following.

While most airline loyalists book already directly, this is a big change for the infrequent traveler who may use an online travel agency to compare airfare prices across multiple airlines.

It might also be a hit to travelers booking through American Express Travel, Capital One Travel or Chase Travel with their credit card rewards. Right now, you’ll earn miles when you book an American ticket through these portals. However, we’re still unsure if these will be considered preferred travel agencies once the change takes place.

Changes to baggage fees

American just raised its checked bag fees. - Getty Images/iStockphoto
American just raised its checked bag fees. - Getty Images/iStockphoto

Additionally, American Airlines announced changes to its checked baggage policy — and not for the better.

For travel booked on or after Feb. 20, 2024, travelers will pay up to $10 more when checking their first or second bag on select flights. For domestic flights (including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands), your first checked bag will cost you $35 when purchasing online and $40 when purchasing at the airport. The fee for checking a second bag is now $45, regardless if you purchase online or at the airport.

For flights to Canada and short-haul international flights (such as Central America and the Caribbean), the checked baggage fee has gone up to $35 for the first checked bag and $45 for the second checked bag.

Bringing your pet onboard also got more expensive. To bring your pet onboard will now cost $150, a significant increase from the previous $125.

However, there have been no changes to the checked baggage policy you receive as a benefit for many American Airlines co-branded credit cards. For example, those with the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® can check a bag for free on all flights.

Bottom line

With these newly announced changes, it’s very clear that booking direct and packing as light as possible (or having an airline credit card) is the way to go. We’ve already seen some airlines increase their checked baggage fees, but American Airlines is the first major US airlines to implement a policy to stop awarding miles when booking through a third-party system.

We’re hopeful that American Airlines’ list of preferred travel agencies will include many popular online travel agencies and credit card travel portals, but we’ll have to wait until April to find out.

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