Here Are the Details on the Big American Airlines Checked Baggage Fee Settlement. Passengers Have 14 Days to See If They Qualify

Of all the little things that add up when you’re traveling, it’s checked baggage fees that often annoy airline passengers the most.

For a while there it seemed like the federal government was going to step in and put restrictions on them, in fact–alas, when President Trump signed the new aviation law earlier this year, that provision wasn’t included.

But at least some passengers will be getting some relief anyway, after American Airlines just settled a class action lawsuit, providing as much up to $200 or more to aggrieved passengers.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Massachusetts, claimed that American Airlines  charged passengers for checked bags that should have been free during a five year period.

It’s confined to five categories of travelers, but over a long enough time period that the number of people affected seems like it could be significant.

So if you flew on American Airlines between July 2013 and June 2018, and you fit into one of the following five specific categories, you’ll want to take a minute to register.  You’ll have to act quickly however, because the deadline to register for payment is November 26. 

The five categories are:

  • American Airlines passengers who flew First Class or Business Class on domestic flights during the five year period
  • American Airlines passengers who flew Business Class on international flights
  • American Airlines passengers who had AAdvantage elite status or its equivalent, or were traveling with another passenger who had that status
  • American Airlines passengers who flew while an active member of the U.S. military, whether on orders or for personal travel
  • American Airlines passengers who flew while a dependent of an active member of the U.S. military on orders.

If you read the complaint in the case, which was filed in U.S. district court in Massachusetts (link opens in .pdf), it seems this all came to light after passengers claimed on Twitter and forums like flyertalk.com that American had charged them for checking bags that should have been free.

In an emailed statement, an American Airlines spokesperson told me that American doesn’t admit that it did anything wrong here, but it’s settling the case anyway. As you might imagine that’s a common result, where companies decide that fighting would just take too much time and money.

The settlement was reported on Twitter by by a Harvard Business School associate professor named Ben Edelman, and by The Points Guy. In theory, if you’re on the list of passengers getting compensation, you should receive an email telling you about the settlement.

But of course, that’s not exactly foolproof. So there’s a website you can go to and take a few minutes to register.  

The payouts are supposed to range from between $18.75 and $200 plus interest for each improperly charged bag, so the high end could be significant–certainly worth most people’s time to spend a few minutes filling out a form.

Here’s the full American Airlines statement on the lawsuit:

“American denies the allegations in the lawsuit, and the Court has not made any determination regarding the merits of the lawsuit. Nonetheless, we believed a settlement was the best outcome for the company and its customers. Accordingly, as part of the settlement agreement, American will refund baggage charges to certain customers participating in the settlement.”
 

Carol Humphreys