Hate the hassle of paying bag fees at the airport? American (finally) plans to offer prepay option

American Airlines is testing an option that allows passengers to pay bag fees before they get to the airport, with plans to roll out the time-saving feature this fall.

American CEO Doug Parker disclosed the new prepaid option and plans to roll it out during the airline’s annual shareholder meeting Wednesday, but provided no details. 

American spokeswoman Andrea Koos said the test is being conducted on select Phoenix flights. American has a hub at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Passengers on those flights are given the option to pay their bag fees when checking in for their flight on the airline’s website or mobile app, she said.The price is the same as travelers would pay at the airport, $30 for the first bag and $40 for the second bag. The airline already lists details about prepaid bags on its website. Travelers who prepay for a bag and don’t bring one do not receive a refund, for example.

American, the world’s largest airline by most measures, is a latecomer to prepaid bags. US Airways offered the option before it merged with American in 2013, but the combined airline hasn’t adopted it until now due to the integration of the two airlines and a focus on other priorities, Koos said.

United Airlines has offered the service during check-in for a decade and is testing the option for passengers to prepay bag fees even sooner, spokeswoman Maddie King said. That option, which will be available after booking but before online check-in, will be rolled out this year, she said.

Delta, too, has offered the option to pay for bags during check-in for years. It’s been a feature on the app since 2010, for example, and travelers who pay for bags there automatically get a link to track their bags, spokeswoman Kate Modolo said.

Southwest allows two free checked bags.

Like American, United and Delta charge the same checked bag fees regardless of when you pay for them. 

The one exception: passengers traveling on a basic economy ticket on United Airlines pay a $25 surcharge if they have to check a bag at the gate. The airline doesn’t allow travelers on a basic economy ticket to bring a standard carry-on bag, so those bags are checked at the gate for the normal checked bag fee plus the surcharge.

Discount airlines Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant also allow travelers to prepay for bags and throw in a major perk: a price break over the fees at the airport. The carriers’ bag fees vary by when you pay for bags, with bag fees cheapest during booking and priciest at the airport.

More: Higher airline bag fees: How to avoid them

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