No free suitcase on domestic US Avios redemptions – and what to do

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I don’t know if this is a new policy or if it is simply a coincidence.  However, two Head for Points readers contacted me recently to make the same observation.

Economy Avios redemptions on US Airways and American Airlines for domestic travel no longer come with any free checked luggage allowance.  None at all.

This is, to be fair, made clear on ba.com when you book although it is easily overlooked if you don’t normally read the baggage rules.

US Airways American Airlines

Here is an example:

New York to Boston, 4500 Avios + £3.60 tax on American or US Airways

Baggage allowance: “Hand baggage only fare. No checked baggage allowance.”

When you click the link to the AA website, you see that your first suitcase will cost $25, the 2nd $35 and the 3rd a shocking $150.

Looking at this page, a BA Bronze (oneworld Ruby) gets one free bag, a BA Silver two free bags and a BA Gold three free bags.

There is a way around this – book a business class or first class redemption.  Note that some US domestic flights are two class aircraft but sold as Economy and First – and that British Airways treats the premium cabin as a First Class redemption and prices it accordingly.

A First Class redemption between New York and Boston will cost 18,000 Avios + £3.60 one way.  However, a First Class ticket comes with THREE free pieces of checked luggage.

Given that you will have to pay for your luggage if you book in economy, I would be tempted to book First Class if I had no airline status and was checking in multiple bags.   If there are two of you, perhaps one flies in economy for 4,500 Avios with hand baggage whilst the other books into First for 18,000 Avios and checks in two or three cases for free?

This is not a no-brainer decision – if you are not ‘Avios heavy’ then you may still prefer to conserve your miles and pay the baggage fees.  Part of it will depend on whether your domestic flight is two-class (so your only option is First) or three-class (where you could book into Business for fewer Avios and still get two pieces of luggage).

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  1. GUWonder says:

    I’ve redeemed millions of BA points for AA-operated domestic economy class flights, and the previous norm on my BA-issued award tickets booked for AA flights (using BA points) was that the passengers got a free checked-in bag and priority access for security and boarding even when the passenger had no OW elite status.

  2. pointsarb says:

    @ GUWonder that’s strange. I’ve booked several AA econ redemptions within USA in the last week and all have been ticketed by BA as ‘hand baggage only’ fares on AA. Several calls to BAEC confirm the position.

    Do you recall if your tickets were also marked HBO when issued by BA as an e-ticket?

    I currently don’t have any OW elite status since my CX gold expired hence I am now trying to figure out a status match to Air Berlin so as to achieve OW status again for free checked bags.


    • The HBO thing seems to be new – GUWonder was, I thought, reiterating that it is new because he has booked lots in the past under the old rules.

      • It’s not new…. As a few dozen people have said, it’s been the norm for a while. I have no idea when GUWonder last redeemed but it’s been well over 6 months at the very least (I booked around Christmas and got no allowance – I seem to remember being aware of that beforehand too, so possibly over a year).

  3. pointsarb says:

    Ok got it, thanks Rob. Just sent off status match request to AB. Strange stuff going on over there at AB though. Some people are having matches denied (as not German residents etc) however per Status Matcher some are getting appproved.

    Fingers crossed mine gets looked upon favourably!

  4. Richmond says:

    So what’s the conclusion of the article? That you have to pay for checked bags if you don’t have status or you always have to pay when you book using avios?

    I booked number of domestic flights with Avios and as Gold BAEC never had to pay for checked bags and always got priority boarding and option to choose premium seats in economy. And of course access to poorly equipped AA lounges.

    • It’s a hand baggage only fare but gold members get a free bag. Exactly the same as if you were flying on a cash ticket.

  5. Related but OT – just how strict are US carriers on the checked bag SIZE? One of our cases (which we wouldn’t consider particularly large) is right on the limit, so could fall foul of the 157(.5)cm/62″ total dimensions rule that now seems to be applied by all in US. Since the XS Size fee is generally $200 per bag (min. $100) we don’t want to get there & get stung by the charges! Considering mainly American Airlines, also Jet Blue & others. Not used to this with BA! Advice appreciated, thx.

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