Why Is American Airlines So Expensive?

American Airlines is one of the largest airlines in the world, but its fares are often much higher than discount carriers. If you’ve ever shopped for American Airlines flights and been shocked at the high ticket prices, you’re not alone.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: American Airlines is more expensive because it offers more amenities, serves major airports that charge higher fees, and lacks the ultra low-cost carrier business model that allows cheaper base fares.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain all the key reasons why American Airlines is pricier than other domestic airlines and help you find ways to save money on your next flight.

Full-Service Model With More Amenities

American Airlines is often considered one of the more expensive options when it comes to air travel in the United States. One of the reasons for this is their full-service model, which offers passengers a wide range of amenities and services that contribute to the overall cost of the ticket.

Free snacks and drinks

Unlike some budget airlines that charge for food and beverages on board, American Airlines provides complimentary snacks and drinks to all passengers. This includes a variety of options such as pretzels, cookies, and non-alcoholic beverages.

While these may seem like small perks, they do add to the overall cost of providing a full-service experience.

Premium cabin options

American Airlines offers a range of premium cabin options, including First Class and Business Class, which provide passengers with enhanced comfort and amenities. These premium cabins come with larger seats, extra legroom, priority boarding, and access to premium in-flight entertainment.

The additional resources required to maintain these premium cabins contribute to the higher ticket prices.

Airport lounges

American Airlines operates several airport lounges across the country, where passengers can relax and enjoy complimentary food, drinks, and Wi-Fi before their flights. Access to these lounges is typically reserved for premium cabin passengers or members of the airline’s loyalty program.

The cost of maintaining these lounges and providing these additional services is factored into the ticket prices.

Loyalty program perks

American Airlines has a robust loyalty program called AAdvantage, which offers various perks to its members. These perks include priority check-in, free checked bags, access to preferred seating, and the ability to earn and redeem miles for flights and upgrades.

While these perks are valuable to frequent travelers, they also contribute to the higher cost of American Airlines tickets.

Major Hubs at Expensive Airports

One of the reasons why American Airlines can be more expensive compared to other airlines is that it operates at major hubs located in expensive airports. Major hubs like Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, and John F. Kennedy International Airport are known for their high operational costs.

These airports have higher landing fees, maintenance costs, and other expenses, which can drive up the overall operating expenses for airlines. As a result, American Airlines, being one of the largest carriers in the United States, has to factor in these costs when setting ticket prices.

Expensive Airport Charges

Expenses associated with operating at expensive airports can greatly impact airfare prices. Landing fees, gate fees, and fuel costs are some of the charges that airlines have to bear when operating at these airports.

For instance, landing fees at major airports can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars per landing, depending on the size and weight of the aircraft. These charges are passed on to the passengers in the form of higher fares.

Higher Operating Costs

Expensive airports are often located in cities with a higher cost of living and higher wages. This means that the labor costs for airlines operating at these airports can be significantly higher compared to airlines operating at smaller airports.

From baggage handlers to pilots, the salaries and benefits offered to airport personnel can be higher in these areas. These increased operating costs can contribute to the higher ticket prices offered by American Airlines.

Infrastructure and Amenities

Expensive airports tend to offer more advanced infrastructure and amenities for passengers, such as state-of-the-art terminals, lounges, and premium services. While these facilities enhance the overall travel experience, they also come at a higher cost.

The expenses incurred in maintaining and upgrading these facilities are included in the operating costs of airlines. American Airlines, being a major carrier, often prioritizes these features to provide a premium experience to its passengers, which can contribute to the higher ticket prices.

It is important to note that while American Airlines may be more expensive compared to other airlines, it also offers a range of services and benefits that may justify the higher fares for some travelers.

These include a larger route network, extensive frequent flyer program, and various cabin classes to cater to different travel preferences. Additionally, factors such as demand, time of booking, and competition in specific markets can also influence airfare prices.

Lack of Ultra Low-Cost Carrier Model

American Airlines is often criticized for being expensive compared to other airlines. One of the main reasons for this is the lack of an ultra low-cost carrier model. Ultra low-cost carriers (ULCCs) are airlines that offer extremely low fares but charge for additional amenities and services.

These airlines operate on a no-frills approach, allowing passengers to only pay for what they need.

Pay for all extras

Unlike ULCCs, American Airlines includes various amenities and services in their ticket prices. This means that passengers may end up paying for extras that they may not necessarily need or want, such as checked baggage, in-flight meals, or seat selection.

While these additional services can be convenient for some travelers, they can also drive up the overall cost of the ticket.

High density seating

American Airlines also employs a high density seating arrangement on many of its flights. This means that they fit more seats into the aircraft, allowing them to accommodate more passengers per flight.

While this may seem like a cost-saving measure, it can lead to less legroom and overall comfort for passengers. However, it is important to note that some travelers prioritize lower fares over comfort, making this seating arrangement a viable option for them.

Point-to-point routes

American Airlines operates on a hub-and-spoke model, which means that they have major hubs where passengers connect to their final destinations. This can result in longer travel times and potentially higher fares compared to airlines that operate on point-to-point routes.

Point-to-point carriers fly passengers directly to their intended destinations, eliminating the need for layovers or connecting flights.

Use of secondary airports

Another factor that contributes to the higher cost of American Airlines tickets is their preference for using major airports. Major airports often charge higher fees to airlines, which are then passed on to the passengers.

In contrast, some low-cost carriers choose to operate out of secondary airports, which have lower fees. This allows them to offer more competitive and affordable fares.

Solutions for Finding Cheaper American Airlines Flights

Are you tired of paying high prices for your American Airlines flights? Don’t worry, there are several solutions to help you find cheaper options. By following these tips, you can save money and still enjoy the convenience and service of flying with American Airlines.

Be flexible with travel dates/times

One way to find cheaper American Airlines flights is by being flexible with your travel dates and times. Flights tend to be more expensive during peak travel times, such as weekends and holidays. By choosing to fly on weekdays or during off-peak hours, you can often find better deals.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to avoid booking last-minute flights, as they tend to be more expensive. By planning ahead and being flexible, you can save a significant amount on your American Airlines tickets.

Fly basic economy

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, consider booking a basic economy ticket with American Airlines. These tickets offer a lower fare but come with certain restrictions, such as no seat selection and limited baggage allowance.

However, if you can live without these extras, flying basic economy can be a great way to save money on your American Airlines flights. Just make sure to read the terms and conditions before booking to ensure it’s the right choice for you.

Use AAdvantage miles

American Airlines offers a frequent flyer program called AAdvantage, which allows you to earn miles every time you fly with them. These miles can then be redeemed for free or discounted flights. By signing up for AAdvantage and accumulating miles through flights or through American Airlines’ partners, you can significantly reduce the cost of your future American Airlines flights.

Keep an eye out for promotions or bonus mile offers to maximize your savings.

Try alternate airports

Another solution for finding cheaper American Airlines flights is to consider alternate airports. Instead of flying out of the main hub airports, such as Los Angeles International Airport or John F. Kennedy International Airport, try looking for flights from smaller regional airports nearby.

These airports often have lower operating costs, which can translate into cheaper fares. Additionally, flying into alternate airports at your destination can also save you money. Just be sure to factor in any additional transportation costs when comparing prices.

Watch for sales

American Airlines frequently offers sales and promotions on their flights. To take advantage of these deals, make sure to sign up for their newsletter or follow them on social media. By keeping an eye out for sales, you can score great deals on American Airlines flights.

Additionally, consider using online travel agencies or flight comparison websites to compare prices across different airlines. Sometimes, you may find that another airline has a better deal for your desired destination.

Remember, finding cheaper American Airlines flights requires a bit of flexibility and planning. By being open to different travel dates and times, considering basic economy tickets, using AAdvantage miles, exploring alternate airports, and watching for sales, you can enjoy the convenience of flying with American Airlines at a more affordable price.

Happy travels!


While American Airlines lacks the rock-bottom ticket prices of bare-bones budget airlines, understanding why its fares are higher enables travelers to better plan and budget. With flexibility, researching all options, and picking the right fare for your needs, you can still find relatively affordable deals even on major airlines like American.

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