Forget Your Roller Carry-on If Flying American Airlines – Here’s Why


american airlines

Banned from Your Cabin! The Excellent TravelPro Rollaboard Suitcase

American Airlines is banning your rolling carryon from the cabin.  Here’s the scoop and some solutions.

According to a May 16, 2013 Associated Press report, you can board earlier on American Airlines IF you are traveling light.  And wheel-less.  That’s because American Airlines defines ‘light’ as “No rolling suitcases.”  Fellow travel blogger Johnny Jet broke the story last March as the airline experimented with allowing passengers without wheeled luggage to board earlier.  Now it’s official.  To speed up boarding and improve on-time performance, American Airlines adopted their new carryon policy to prevent passengers from rolling big bags onto the plane and prevent over-stuffed overhead bins.

What does this mean?

American Airlines New Boarding Policy

Since the airlines’ started charging fees for checked baggage, more travelers boarded with larger and larger carry-ons.  Travel became more stressful as passengers jockeyed for limited overhead bin space, extended boarding times and affected an airlines’ on-time performance.

Meanwhile, with bin space disappearing, gate agents and flight attendants were forced to ask the last boarding group to surrender their bag for gate check-in.

What American Airlines Allows You To Carry Aboard

As of May 16th, American Airlines passengers traveling without carry-ons may board early.  This means that you can board right after the first class and the elite frequent fliers and before boarding groups 2, 3 and 4.

But that’s only if you’re traveling with a purse, backpack or computer bag that fits under the seat.

Solutions to American Airlines New Carryon Policy

I say skip the purse and invest in a cool leather backpack that looks elegant but can stow a lot.  Or a Baggalini for your travel purse.  Or get Scottevest‘s Molly Jacket, if only for its stealth factor.











How To Avoid American Airlines Baggage Fees

The airline said that it would allow passengers to check a carry-on bag at the gate at no extra charge.  That means savvy travelers will be able to move up in the boarding order while avoiding American’s checked-bag fees on all U.S. flights:

  • $25 for your first bag
  • $35 for a second  

The downside?  You’ll lose the convenience of skipping baggage claim after landing.

Johnny Jet believes that American’s new boarding procedure “makes sense.”  After all, Alaska, Southwest and Frontier are using this workable policy.

I agree only in part.  Yes, it speeds up the boarding process and gets people to check their bags.  But what I don’t like is this unnecessary cash grab called baggage fees.  This source of revenue adds up to billions of extra dollars added to their bottom lines.

Also, it’s a disingenuous way to raise fares – the airlines know that the travel market can only bear airfares at a certain level.  Go any higher and business travelers (their best revenue source) start using Skype and GoToMeeting and discretionary travelers put off air travel, choosing to jump into their cars instead.

Here’s a thought – how about skipping those baggage fees altogether?  Smoother boarding, better customer service…and this will never happen.   I predict that other U.S. carriers will hop aboard this new rule as the summer high season takes off.

What do you think?

Update from American Airlines


American Airlines replied to my post tweet with this link for details on their boarding process.

Apparently, the airline is now defining the kind of luggage that permits early boarding.  They are not allowing any “overhead luggage.”  In other words, you can board early with a carryon that fits under the seat, wheels or not.  Still had to ask about eliminating those baggage fees, though!

AA tweets

About Lenore Greiner

Travel writer/photographer Lenore Greiner started traveling at 17 when she took off for La Paz, Mexico after high school graduation. Since then, she's lived in Italy and Hawaii and her work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, guidebooks and across the Internet. She shares her discoveries about travel gear and enticing trip ideas with other passionate women travelers on this blog. Follow Lenore on Twitter here, on Facebook here and on Google Plus here.

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