Travel Tips

5 min read

American Airlines Carry-On Hacks: Pack Smart, Fly Stress-Free!

Ever crammed your suitcase and thought, "Will this fit?" Unpack the mystery of American Airlines' carry-on rules and travel like a pro—no surprises, just smooth skies ahead!

Tobi Miles
October 19, 2022

American Airlines is a top choice for many travelers. This airline travels to many destinations worldwide, has an excellent membership program, and options for all travel budgets. If you're flying with American Airlines, your travel experience will be much smoother if you're prepared before arriving. This means that you should become familiar with the American Airlines carry-on rules.

All American Airlines passengers are allowed to bring on 1 carry-on item. The carry-on bag must not exceed 22 X 14 X 9 inches, including the wheels and handle. There is no extra charge or weight limit for your carry-on item. Passengers are also allowed to bring 1 personal item on board, such as a purse or travel pillow.  

If you're interested in flying with American Airlines, you may be wondering more about the company's travel rules. Today, we're going to discuss everything that travelers should know about the carry-on bag rules and restrictions. We will discuss what you should know to pack correctly and avoid hassles at the airport.

What Are American Airlines' Baggage Restrictions?

American Airlines passengers are allowed to have 1 carry-on bag, 1 personal item, and 2 checked bags. Before you get your carry-on bag ready, you should know what you can and can't pack in it. The good news is, you will be able to pack most essential travel items in this bag. However, there are some restrictions every traveler should know about.

Any personal care items, hygiene products, or liquids in your carry-on must be travel-size (3.4 ounces or less) and placed in a clear quart bag. Travelers should also note that the following items aren't allowed in the carry-on bag:

  • Alcohol (except duty-free purchases)
  • Household items (cleaners, bleach, etc.)
  • Flammable liquids
  • Cutting instruments (knives, razors, etc.)
  • Defense sprays
  • Stun guns/ shocking devices
  • Pressurized containers/ compressed gas

What Are American Airlines' Carry-On Size Limits?

Your carry-on bag can't exceed 22 X 14 X 9 inches (56 X 36 X 23cm). Bags or items that are larger than this won't be able to fit in the airplane overhead or underneath the seat in front of the passenger. If the bag you're using is larger than these dimensions, it will need to be checked.

You won't be able to sneak a bag on an airplane that's larger than these dimensions. However, there is one exception to the size limits. Soft-sided garment bags of up to 51 inches (130 cm) are allowed as carry-on bags. All carry-on bags are placed on a sizer in the airport to make sure they aren't too big.

So, what happens if your carry-on bag is bigger than this? You won't be turned away at the gates or have your belonging confiscated. However, it's important to remember that overhead space is limited. If your carry-on bag is too big, you will be asked to valet your bag.

When you valet your bag, this means that you will give your bag to the attendant as you're boarding the plane. It will be kept in a baggage compartment during the flight. Once the plane lands at the destination, it will be returned to you on the loading bridge. This is a convenient way to ensure there's enough space for every passenger's carry-on items.

What Is American Airlines' Carry-On Weight Limit?

American Airlines doesn't have set weight restrictions. Their rules are set regarding the dimensions of the bag to ensure the carry-on bags fit in the overhead compartment. You shouldn't pack anything that you aren't able to lift in and out of the overhead on your own.

TSA does recommend that passengers limit their carry-on bags to 35 lbs. Keeping your bag under 35 lbs ensures that it won't be too heavy for the overhead compartment. In the event that an airline attendant needs to move your bag, it's important that it's not too heavy.

Keep in mind, this is just a rule of thumb. If your carry-on bag is over 35 lb and you're comfortable lifting it, you will be fine to travel with it. You also won't have to worry about extra fees or penalties if your carry-on bag is heavier than expected.

Does American Airlines Charge For Carry-On Bags?

There is no additional cost for your carry-on bag and personal item. These are included with the American Airlines plane ticket. With American Airlines, baggage fees only apply to the checked luggage. Some flights will allow passengers to have one checked bag free of charge, and then pay for any additional luggage they need to be checked.

Can You Pay For Multiple Carry-On Bags?

American Airlines will not allow passengers to pay for additional carry-on bags. There is a limit to how many items can be brought onto the airplane because items need to be stored safely. Ideally, the carry-on bag will go into the overhead compartment, while the personal item will fit underneath the seat in front of you.

The airplanes don't have enough room in the overhead compartments to allow multiple carry-on bags. If one passenger used more than one overhead for their luggage, another passenger won't have room for their bag. While there is the option to valet bags, there is also a limit on how many bags can fit in the compartment.

What Are American Airlines' Personal Items Restrictions?

American Airlines allows each passenger to bring 1 personal item on board. A personal item is a piece of luggage that is smaller than a carry-on bag. This can be a purse, briefcase, small backpack, or laptop bag, among many other items. You could even bring a small pillow or umbrella as your personal item. Kids can bring a stuffed animal or favorite toy to stay comfortable on the flight.

Your personal item must be small enough to fit underneath the seat in front of you. The same rules apply as carry-on bags as to what you are and aren't allowed to bring in your personal item.

What Items DO NOT Count As Personal Items?

Diaper bags and other necessities for infants aren't included as personal items. Parents will still be allowed to bring a personal item and carry-on as well as these items. If you're traveling with an infant, you will be allowed 1 diaper bag per child. You will also be allowed a stroller, child safety seat, and soft-sided cooler for breast milk.

Any devices needed for medical or mobility purposes aren't counted as personal items. Passengers that require these items will still be allowed to bring a personal item of choice on board.

Does American Airlines Allow Pets As a Carry-On?

Passengers can bring a pet carrier as their carry-on. However, you will not be allowed to bring a pet carrier and a carry-on bag. The rules around pet carriers are different from carry-on bags. There will be a fee of $125 to travel with your pet carrier.

American Airlines recommends traveling with soft-sided pet carriers if you're bringing your pet as a carry-on. The dimensions for soft carriers can't exceed 18 X 11 X 11 inches (46 X 28 X 28 cm). While hard carriers are allowed, the dimension limits depend on the flight you're traveling on.

  • Mainline Flights (American)- 19 X 13 X 9 inches (48 X 33 X 22 cm)
  • Regional Flights (American Eagle)- 16 X 12 X 8 inches (40 X 30 X 20cm)

Unfortunately, some pets are too big to ride in the cabin with you. The carrier must allow enough room for your pet to be able to stand up and turn around. There is also a limit as to how many carry-on pets are allowed on each flight. Always make your reservations as early as possible to ensure there is room for your pet.

Does American Airlines Allow Sports Equipment As a Carry-On?

Most sports equipment isn't allowed as a carry-on. Sporting equipment does have to be packed in a precise way for traveling. This usually results in a bag that is too large for a carry-on. American Airlines requires all sporting equipment (tennis bags, golf bags, skis, etc) to be checked. However, you will be allowed to bring a helmet bag as a carry-on.

Bowling bags are the only exception to sports equipment that's allowed as a carry-on with American Airlines. If you do travel with a bowling bag, it will not be allowed in the overhead compartment. Passengers will be required to fit it underneath the seat in front of them.  

Does American Airlines Allow Musical Instruments As a Carry-On?

Musical instruments are allowed as a carry-on. They don't have to be placed in a specific bag for travel. However, it's important to know that each airplane can only hold a certain number of instruments as carry-ons. Every passenger with an instrument will be handled on a "first come, first serve" basis.

To make sure you do get a seat with your instrument, it's strongly recommended to pay for priority seating. This way, you can be one of the first people to board your flight. Even though you may be first, that doesn't guarantee your instrument is allowed as a carry-on. The musical instrument must fit in the sizer at the airport to ensure it will fit in the overhead compartment.

So, what does a passenger do if their instrument is too big? There are two options. You can have your instrument checked. However, if you're not comfortable with that, you can purchase an additional seat for your instrument.

Does My Carry-On Item Have To Be A Bag?

Your carry-on item doesn't have to be a bag, but it does have to be suitable for air travel. There are many times when a passenger has a specialty item and they want to keep it with them while they travel. This could be anything from expensive electronic equipment to cremated remains.

There are a few expectations you need to consider. Certain items are restricted as carry-on, even if they are under the size limits. You will not be allowed to bring a liquid item on as your carry-on. Passengers are also prohibited from bringing on any items that could put other passengers' safety at risk, such as weapons.

If the item you want to bring as a carry-on can fit in the overhead or under the seat, you should be able to bring it on board. That being said, it must be appropriate for air travel. Passengers aren't allowed to travel with their items in a box, shipping container, tub, or cooler.

Do Weekender Bags Count As A Carry-On?

Some weekender bags are suitable as carry-on bags. Weekender bags are perfect for short getaways. They are smaller than a suitcase but allow more room than a backpack. You will be able to pack what you need for the weekend with a bit of extra room for anything you might pick up while you're away.

You should always double-check the dimensions of your weekender bag before you get it ready. Small weekender bags are a great choice for air travel because the average dimensions are 18.5 X 12.5 X 7.5. However, larger weekender bags can be around 22 by 18 by 10, which is too large.

Article updated:
January 5, 2024

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