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 a baby or toddler. UPDATED for 2018.
Not all strollers are accepted 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.
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, be aware that many standard, full-feature strollers also weigh in over this limit.
If you need a stroller to help get your brood through the airport and/or want to use it during a layover, make sure you bring a travel-friendly, collapsible stroller to ensure you can check it at the gate (see recommended travel strollers here).
If you ultimately prefer to check your 20 lbs.+ stroller from home, 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. And speaking of checked items, be sure to read on for American Airlines’ baggage policies as applied to families.
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 to find out.
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American Airlines’ baggage policy as applied to families:
American Airlines will allow 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 (lap child).
Infants and children flying in their own paid seats are entitled to the same baggage allowance as their parents.
Note: American Airlines will only let you gate-check your choice of travel stroller or car seat — not both. If you need to travel with both a car seat and stroller, you’ll have to decide which to check in at the ticket counter.
Important note on American Airlines’ ticketing of lap children:
At time of writing, you can’t include a lap child in your booking at AA.com. Instead, you will have to contact reservations directly to notify them of the extra passenger traveling with you, and to assess (and pay!) any additional taxes or fees that your lap child may incur (necessary for international air travel). Follow this link to see American Airlines worldwide reservation phone numbers.
As always, be prepared to show age-verifying I.D. for your child at check-in whenever she is traveling free or at a reduced rate based on her age (see The REAL reason babies need ID for domestic flights for more).
Have your choice of airlines?
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.
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Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby guidebooks