How Strict Is American Airlines With Personal Item Size?

American Airlines is pretty rigid about hand luggage, but they’ve relaxed a bit in recent years.

They have clear guidelines about personal items, and as long as you follow them, you’ll have a smooth experience.

American Airlines is relatively strict about personal item size. They allow passengers to carry one personal item that is no larger than 18” x 14” x 8” (45 cm x 35 cm x 20 cm). This item is separate from your carry-on and should fit under the seat in front of you.

American Airlines doesn’t charge for carry-on or personal items but strongly recommends that passengers stick to the guidelines. 

If your bag is too big, you might have to check it and pay additional baggage fees.

American Airlines Carry-On Restrictions

American Airlines once had a policy where passengers flying basic economy were only allowed a personal item (no main carry-on).

That rule has changed, and basic economy passengers are now entitled to bring a carry-on in addition to their personal item.

The thing to pay attention to is the size limit for carry-on bags.

Carry-on luggage must be within 22” x 14” x 9” (56 cm x 36 cm x 23 cm), including handles and wheels. It also needs to fit in the baggage sizer so you know it’ll fit in the overhead compartment.

American Airlines doesn’t consider the following items as carry-ons or personal items:

  • Medical or mobility devices
  • Child safety seats and strollers
  • One diaper bag (per child)
  • A jacket/coat
  • An umbrella
  • Soft-sided cooler bags with breast milk

Soft-sided garment bags up to 51 in/130 cm (length + width + height) are also permitted as part of your carry-on.

You can also bring a musical instrument to the cabin, but it has to fit in the overhead bin. 

When items are too large for the overhead bins, you must check them in.

The airline may also ask passengers to check their carry-ons (for free) if it’s a full flight and there won’t be enough space in the overhead.

If you choose to check your carry-on, make sure to label it like you would a checked bag.

Also, remember that bags larger than 22” x 14” x 9”  (56 cm x 36 cm x 23 cm) at gate checks are subject to a fee.

Does American Airlines Allow Pets?

American Airlines is pretty strict about pets, as live animals are not the easiest to police on a plane. 

That said, cats and dogs are permitted on board, but you’ll have to pay a fee to bring your fur-baby along.

You can travel with your pet in the cabin or transport it through cargo – it all comes down to the breed and size.

The fee structure for pets is as follows:

Checked Pets for Active-Duty U.S. Military and State Department Personnel (only)

Fee – $200 per kennel ($150 from Brazil)

Location – Within and between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean, Europe, and from the United Kingdom

Cargo Pets

Fee – Varies. Confirm during booking

Location – Varies

Carry-On Pets

Fee – $125 per kennel

Location – Within and between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean (based on specific country’s entry policy)

Service Animals

Fee – No charge

Location – All Destinations

You can travel with pets to the following:

  • Within the contiguous United States
  • Between the US and Canada*
  • Alaska
  • Central America*
  • Mexico*
  • Puerto Rico
  • St. Croix
  • St. Thomas

*These regions have specific restrictions on pets. Confirm all requirements before traveling to these locations.

Dogs from regions with a high risk of dog rabies are temporarily suspended. The same applies to cats from high-risk areas.

Service dogs are permitted if they have a US-approved CDC Dog Import Permit or meet CDC vaccination and microchip requirements.

Does American Airlines Allow Baby Equipment?.

Yes, American Airlines allows baby equipment on their planes.

The airline allows one stroller and one car seat per passenger, and you can gate-check them for free.

Passengers can travel with child restraint systems as long as they’re approved for car use. The airline will also need to confirm the car seat is approved for aircraft use, so check the label to make sure yours is good to go.

Due to safety concerns, you cannot use the seat in an exit row.

If traveling with both a stroller and a car seat, you’re only permitted to check one. 

You can bring a stroller in the cabin, but ensure it weighs less than 20 lbs (9 kg).

Playpens, wagons, cribs, and ‘pack and play’ are also allowed, but the airline treats them as standard bags.

American Airlines Checked Luggage Restrictions

You can check up to 10 bags if your trip is domestic, transatlantic, or transpacific, but you will have to pay for most of them.

You can check up to 5 bags if traveling to, through, or from Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, South America, or Brazil (seasonal and year-round restrictions apply).

American Airlines has a checked luggage size limit of 62 in or 158 cm (length + width + height) and a weight limit of 50 lbs (23 kg) per bag.

The price for checked luggage ranges from $30-$200 per bag, and all fees are non-refundable.

First or business class flights and flights to/from Australia or New Zealand have a weight limit of 70 lbs (32kg) each for complimentary bags and a 50 lbs (23 kg) limit for additional bags.

Passengers flying business or domestic first-class can check two bags weighing up to 70 lbs (32 kg) each for free.

Members of AAdvantage Executive Platinum®, AAdvantage Platinum Pro®, oneworld® Emerald, and confirmed customers of Flagship® First can check three bags weighing up to 70 lbs (23 kg) each for free.

Does American Airlines Allow Sports Equipment?

American Airlines allows sports equipment, but passengers must adhere to a size limit of 126 in or 320 cm (length + width + height) and a weight limit of 70 lbs/32 kg.

Packing your equipment in a bag designed for shipping is best as the airline is not liable for any damage if your gear isn’t in a hard-shell container or if the container is already damaged.

The airline is also not liable for damages if your bag is of inferior quality or if you pack your equipment carelessly.

You can put non-sports-related items in your equipment bag, but they’ll be treated as regular checked luggage.

Overweight and oversize fees can apply in that case (only overweight fees apply when carrying sports equipment).

What Happens if My Bag Is Overweight/Oversized?

You must pay an overweight/oversize fee if your bag is too big or too heavy.

An oversized bag is larger than 126 in or 320 cm (length + width + height), and an overweight bag is heavier than 100 lbs (45 kg).

The fees vary depending on the region.

Oversized fees range from $150-$200, while overweight fees range from $100-$450.

What Happens if I Lose My Bag?

If your bag is lost, file a report with American Airlines Baggage Service.

A representative will contact you if they find the bag within five days. If they don’t locate it after five days, you’ll need to provide more information by filling out a Property Questionnaire.

If the airline finds an item or piece of luggage belonging to you, they will hold it for 15-30 days but will discard it if you fail to pick it up within the timeframe.


American Airlines is not the cheapest airline, but it provides a relatively stress-free experience when it comes to luggage and personal items.

The fact you don’t pay for hand luggage is a serious plus for many, as most other airlines have carry-on fees.

It’s also great that American Airlines allows passengers to carry more than five bags. Unless you need to, however, you’re better off reducing your luggage to avoid paying high fees.

If you have any questions regarding AA’s baggage policies, tweet them at @AmericanAir. They respond to most customer inquiries and are happy to provide all the answers you need.