Need to Know: Flying American Airlines with a baby or toddler

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Will you be flying American Airlines with a baby or toddler? As part of my “Need to Know” airlines series for parents flying with infants and young children, here are some important points to be aware of (and be prepared for) if you will be flying American Airlines with an infant or very young child.

As always, if you have general questions about flying with babies and young children, head to my Flying with a Baby or Toddler Advice Index page.

And make sure you’ve downloaded Take-Along Travels with Baby: Hundreds of Tips to Help DURING Travel with Your Baby Toddler, and Preschooler to your phone for easy reference in the moments you need it most!

Topics I cover in this post:

But first — be sure to pin this to your Pinterest travel board for future reference and to help others!

Flying American Airlines with baby or toddler tips and advice
Pin it! What you need to know before flying American Airlines with a baby or toddler.

Flying American Airlines with a Baby on Your Lap (Lap Infant)

American Airlines allows infants from 2 days old up until the day before their 2nd birthday to fly on their parent’s lap.

Babies fly free on domestic flights including routes to Puerto Rico, and are generally charged a percentage of the adult’s fare for international flights (see my Tips to Help Keep Your Lap Child Safer in Flight here).

When making your reservation online at AA.com, the Passenger Details page will have a box to check to “add infant in lap.” If you need to add your baby to an existing reservation, you should see the same option in your reservation under “passenger Details.

Any time your child is flying for free or at a reduced child fare, make sure you’re prepared with age-verifying I.D. for her (see Do infants and babies need I.D. for domestic flights? for more details).

Note: If your child turns 2 years before the return flight, he’ll need a paid seat for the return journey.

When do you need to contact American Airlines before flying with a lap infant?

  1. If your baby will be less than 7 days old, you must contact the airline in advance and have a doctor’s letter confirming they are clear to travel.
  2. If you’re flying internationally, you’ll need to contact reservations directly about your lap child to assess (and pay!) any additional taxes or fees that your lap child may incur.

The American Airlines phone number for reservations is: 1 (800) 433-7300.

American Airlines baggage policy for infants and children:

Do you have to pay extra to check baby gear or bring a diaper bag onboard?

This section addresses the possible scenarios you might face, whether flying with a lap child or child in his own seat, with breast milk and pumps, and more.

1. Passengers with babies and toddlers under 2 years:

American Airlines allows one free checked (or gate-checked) stroller, one free checked (or gate checked) car seat, and one complimentary carry-on diaper bag for each child under 2 years traveling without his own seat (see details about flying with a lap infant for more).

Note: American Airlines will only let you gate-check your choice of a travel stroller OR a car seat — but not both. If you need to travel with both a car seat and stroller, and you don’t plan to use your child’s car seat on the plane, you’ll have to decide which to check in at the ticket counter. And be sure to see the important note on strollers and American Airlines below.

See my recommended Best Car Seat Travel Bags and Carriers for help protecting your child’s car seat. And don’t miss How to Travel with a Car Seat (without Losing Your Mind) for help with all facets of traveling with car seats (and without).

Also, for help packing your diaper bag / carry-on, see What to Pack in Your Baby Travel Kit for Carry On. And if you’re wondering what liquids (baby food, formula, etc.) you can bring onboard beyond the 311 rules, see Tips for Bringing Excess Liquids on Flights with Babies and Toddlers.

2. Passengers with infants and toddlers flying in their own seats (paid):

Infants and children flying American in their own paid seats are entitled to the same baggage allowance as their parents. They are also entitled to the same stroller and car seat allowances of lap infants as described above.

3. Passengers flying with breast milk and pumps:

For breastfeeding moms and travelers with breast milk, American Airlines will not count a small soft-sided cooler, stored breast milk, or breast pump toward your carry-on bag or personal item limit.

4. Flying with baby gear not mentioned above?

Other baby gear, such as Pack ‘n Plays, play pens, baby and toddler travel beds, portable bassinets, and wagons, will each count as one checked bag — with the exception of any item folding compactly enough to pass for one seated passenger’s carry-on item.

HOT TIP: If you’d like to rent baby gear at your destination, head to my Worldwide Directory of Baby Gear Rentals.

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Praise for Travels with Baby guidebook and 5 star review

Heads up! American Airlines does not accept all strollers at the gate.

First, there is one stand-out difference from other airlines you should be aware of before heading to the airport. American Airlines will not accept strollers weighing 20 lbs. or more at the gates of its flights.

Why? While the main issue driving this policy are the many bulky and often expensive jogging and all-terrain strollers parents hope to hand-off at the gate rather than dismantle and check through the airport baggage system.

However, you should be aware that many standard, full-feature baby strollers also weigh in over this limit. If your stroller from home is over the limit, here’s what you can do:

American Airlines airplane in flight
Flying American Airlines with a baby or toddler? Better read this first!

If you need a stroller to help you get through the airport and (or want to use it during a layover):

Make sure you bring a travel-friendly, collapsible stroller weighing less than 20 lbs. to ensure you can check it at the gate (see my recommended lightweight travel strollers here).

Alternatively, you might be able to turn your child’s car seat into a stroller at the airport with help from some recommendations in the Best Car Seat Travel Bags and Carriers page.

If you check your 20 lbs.+ stroller at the check-in counter:

Be sure to bring a protective stroller bag that fits your model (stroller travel bag recommendations here) and allow time for dismantling & packing it before checking in at the counter.

Tip: If you want a rugged stroller at your destination, but don’t need it en route, you may very likely be able to rent that BOB stroller, Mountain Buggy, or Phil & Ted tandem at your destination. Check the Worldwide Directory of Baby Gear Rentals for local baby gear rental companies.

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best travel strollers and gear for travel with babies and toddlers

American Airlines Bassinets (or Cots)

You *might* be able to get an airplane bassinet for your baby if you’ll be flying long haul on one of American’s 777-200, 777-300, or 787 aircraft (but not in Business or First Class).

However, they do not officially take reservations for bassinets and say they’re only available on a first come, first served basis — for infants weighing less than 20 lbs and under 2 years — at the gate of the flight.

If you’re flying American Airlines with a baby and hope to have a bassinet on your flight, I recommend calling to see if they’re offered on your flight and make sure you’ll be in a seating position where you’d actually be able to use it.

Then, of course, BE THE FIRST ONE TO YOUR GATE! 😀 You’ll find more help in Five Things You Should Know Before Flying with an Airplane Bassinet.

Car Seat Rules and Requirements for American Airlines

If you’d like to use your child’s car seat on American Airlines flights, your child must have his or her own airplane seat reservation. Only car seats with a rigid back and built-in safety harness are accepted for use in the cabin (no backless or belt-positioning safety boosters).

Also, make sure your car seat has a label showing it’s either:

  • FAA-approved for use in aircraft, OR
  • Was manufactured under the standards of the United Nations.

You’ll also want to make sure your car seat will FIT in the airplane seat (of course)! Remember that just because a child safety seat is approved for air travel it doesn’t mean it will actually fit in an airplane seat. Most American Airlines economy seats measure 17.3″ wide (and up).

For help finding cabin-friendly car seats, check out the Best Car Seats for Travel. You  might also consider these Car Seat Alternatives for Travel, including the CARES flight safety harness for kids flying in their own airplane seats (see my full review of CARES here).

–> And don’t miss the ultimate guide for How to Travel with a Car Seat (without Losing Your Mind), and one of my most popular posts here: Seven Easy Ways to Get Your Car Seat Through the Airport.

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Have your choice of airlines?

Travels with Baby guidebooks by Shelly Rivoli

Use the Airlines Comparison Chart in Travels with Baby: The Ultimate Guide… to compare the family-friendly perks, amenities, and available infant/child discounts between more than 40 airlines.

For more help planning air travel with young children, see chapters 15 – 18 in Travels with Baby: The Ultimate Guide…, and see more online Flying with Babies and Toddlers tips here.

I’ve linked additional posts you may find helpful here.

More Help for Travel Logistics and Planning:

Great Gear for Flying with Babies and Toddlers

More Airline-Specific Advice for Flying with Babies and Toddlers:

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Safe journeys,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby guidebooks

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Curious about this content? See my editorial content disclosure. NOTE TO READERS: An earlier version of this post was first published on March 16 of 2018. It continues to be updated and revised.

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