American Airlines: 7 things to know before you fly

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American Airlines: 7 things to know before you fly
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If you’re looking for an airline that flies just about anywhere, American Airlines continues to be one of the top options. While its fares will never be confused with that of a discount airline’s, American’s extensive network makes it a major player for both domestic and international travel.

The airline traces its history to 1926 when none other than Charles Lindbergh flew the first American Airlines flight (full of mail) from St. Louis to Chicago. After being incorporated in 1930, the airline grew to record a number of other firsts in the airline industry, including having the first African-American pilot on a commercial flight (1964) and the nation’s first customer loyalty program (1981) that rewarded fliers with special fares.

Looking to fly American Airlines? Here are 7 things to know before you book your flight

Today American Airlines is part of the American Airlines Group, which was formed in 2013 from the merger between American and US Airways. If you’ve never flown American Airlines or you’re thinking of booking a ticket again in the near future, here are some important things to know about the carrier:

1. Where does American Airlines fly?

American Airlines serves nearly 350 cities in more than 50 countries. As far as domestic travel goes, American has 10 hubs: In Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, New York (both JFK and LaGuardia airports), Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C.

The company’s headquarters is in Fort Worth, Texas, a short distance from DFW airport, where it controls 84% of the air traffic. American uses DFW as its gateway to Mexico and other destinations south of the border.

American is a founding member of the OneWorld Alliance, which serves more than 150 countries through around 14,250 flights every day. See American’s U.S. and international route map

2. American Airlines offers basic economy fares

American offers its cheapest flights in their Basic Economy class. These tickets are no-frills airfares that allow travelers to fly without amenities like refundable tickets, early boarding and assigned seats.

American Airlines
Photo credit: Screenshot via aa.com.

RELATED: Basic economy fares: Delta vs. American vs. United

Following other airlines’ lead, American in September 2018 removed bag restrictions on its basic economy flights, meaning that customers now get one free carry-on in addition to a personal item. Still, money expert Clark Howard says this is what you’re really getting with basic economy.

3. What is American Airline’s baggage policy?

On its website, American Airlines says that checked bag fees have gone up for tickets issued on or after September 21, 2018. The fee for your first checked bag has been raised from $25 to $30 each way and from $35 to $40 for the second checked bag. The baggage fees are for flights to and from destinations within the U.S., North America and the Caribbean.

Travelers flying basic economy can bring on board one full-sized carry-on bag plus one personal item free of charge.

For carry-on bags, the maximum dimensions are 22 x 14 x 9 inches / 56 x 36 x 23 centimeters (including handles and wheels). For personal items, the size must not exceed 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm). These sizes include wheels and handles.

For checked bags, the maximum dimensions (length + width + height) are 62 inches, including wheels and handles. The maximum weight is 50 pounds (70 pounds for Business Class).

Photo credit: Screenshot via aa.com

4. What is American Airlines’ policy on delayed or canceled flights?

While many travelers may not know or even care about an airline’s rebooking policy, it can be extremely important when you need it. A new American Airlines policy that took effect in September of 2018 makes it harder for stranded customers who are not AAdvantage members to be rebooked to another airline, according to news reports. That means basic economy travelers who have their flights delayed or canceled might find it even more difficult to find passage to their intended destinations.

American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein said it will be up to individual managers to make exceptions on a case-by-case basis, according to the Associated Press.

5. What is American Airlines’ frequent flyer program?

AAnytime Awards allow you to transfer miles to anyone you like. American made the largest leap in making seat perks easier to attain in a recent survey from IdeaWorks. The airline moved from last to #3 among domestic carriers. AAdvantage offers flying with no blackout dates.

RELATED: Here are the best frequent flyer programs

Members can also take advantage of perks like hotel stays, vacation packages and shopping with miles they earn through travel or credit card expenditures.

6. How do customers view American Airline’s service?

When it comes to customer satisfaction, American Airlines tied for fourth out of 10 among major U.S. carriers in the American Customer Satisfaction Index report that was released in April 2018. It held the same position last year.

Company 2017 2018 Change
Southwest 80 80 0%
Alaska 78 79 1%
JetBlue 82 79 -4%
Allegiant 71 74 4%
American 76 74 -3%
Delta 76 74 -3%
All others 74 73 -1%
United 70 67 -4%
Frontier 63 62 -2%
Spirit 61 62 2%

7. How to save money on American Airlines

  • Check out American Airline’s Deals page: The best way to find bargains on an American plane ticket is on their AA Vacations page online which features “Hot Deals.”
  • Sign up for AAdvantage: The popular loyalty program gives you a way to earn miles when you shop, dine and travel.
  • Military savings: If you’re an active service member, you and your dependents can check three bags for free, according to American’s website.

Here are some more travel-related articles you might enjoy from Clark.com:

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Craig Johnson is a conscious money-saver who still reads paperback books and listens to vinyl. He likes to write about how technology is making things easier and more affordable — but also sometimes more dangerous — for the modern consumer. You can reach Craig at [email protected]
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