American Airlines has eliminated the extra fees for common sporting equipment and musical instruments, giving bicycle riders and cello players the standard bag fees – $30 on domestic flights – instead of the oversize fee of $150.
American isn’t the first airline to depart from its previous stance charging extra for these bags. In 2017, Alaska Air changed its policies, and began charging $30 for sports equipment like windsurf boards and bicycles.
A few items will still require the full $150 oversize fee. Antlers, hang gliders, scuba tanks, and windsurfing items are not exempt from the new policy.
Of the other airlines in the big four, Southwest has the most moderate overweight policy, charging a $75 fee for baggage that is outside of normal dimensions. United subjects sporting equipment that is oversized to its fees, except for surfboards that are going to and from California directly. Standard oversize rules apply for Delta.
The decision could provide American with an edge over its competitors, albeit in a niche fashion. For those who do fly with sports equipment like a bicycle, traveling has become an elaborate game of figuring out how to game the system.
For bicycles, for example, a small industry of special bicycle bags that manage to come in close to the standard 62-inch total-dimension maximum has popped up to help people fly with a bicycle as regular luggage. At $150 each way, a bag costing around $400 pays for itself in just a few trips.
As of now, however, American Airlines is in the minority. In general, it remains inconvenient to fly with weird-sized baggage.