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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 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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Comments (64)

  • HayMow says:

    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.