How to Check Your Bags for Free on Air Canada

A little planning can help you avoid spending more than you need to on your flight.
6 minute read | 8/15/19Aug. 15, 2019
Travelers boarding an airplane with luggage

If you want to get just about anywhere, you’re likely to find an Air Canada flight that can take you there. As Canada’s largest airline, Air Canada flies 50 million people to over 210 airports on six continents every year.

You don’t have to be a Canadian resident to fly — and fly in style — with Air Canada. Though this airline’s frequent-flyer program runs a little bit different than other carriers’, there are plenty of opportunities to fly, save, and earn perks like free checked baggage.

Here’s a look at how to fly Air Canada and how to get free checked bags.

What’s Air Canada’s baggage policy?

Carry-ons

All customers are allowed one personal item and one carry-on bag (called a standard article). The carry-on must be 21.5 inches x 9 inches x 15.5 inches or smaller, including wheels and handles. If you’re traveling with an infant riding on your lap, you can bring one additional carry-on for the child.

Personal items must be 13 inches x 6 inches x 17 inches or smaller. Examples include purses, briefcases, backpacks, laptop bags, camera bags, small animal carriers, and garment bags.

In addition to these items, you can also bring a coat or sweater, small purse (no larger than 10 inches x 12 inches x 5.5 inches), a diaper bag, stroller, and a car seat/booster (if you bought a seat for your child). Mobility aids, medical equipment, medications, and communication aids are also allowed without fees.

Checked bags

Fees for checked bags with Air Canada vary depending on where you take off from, your destination, class of ticket purchased, and level of status with Air Canada Altitude or Star Alliance.

Generally, checked bags must be no heavier than 50 pounds and no larger than 62 linear inches. Fees can be as low as $30 for the first bag, $50 for the second, and $100 for a third per direction for Basic and Standard Economy tickets.

Checked bags on international flights with Basic Economy tickets run $60 for the first bag and $100 for the second, plus up to $225 for a third bag for economy-class seats to destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America.

Different levels of economy fares (such as Flex, Comfort, and Latitude), Premium Economy, Rouge, and Business Class tickets have some free checked bag allowances. If you have Star Alliance or Air Canada Altitude membership or status, bag fees may also be waived.

For example, a Basic Economy flight from New York to Calgary will have a baggage fee of $30 for the first bag, $50 for the second, and $100 for each additional bag. For that same flight booked at a Flex fare or higher, up to two bags may be checked for free. If you’re a Star Alliance Gold member or have Air Canada Altitude status, your bags may also be checked for free, even with a Basic Economy class ticket.

Check the airline’s checked baggage calculator to figure out how much you might be looking at for your trip.

Specialty baggage

Bags that are either 50 to 70 pounds or 63 to 115 linear inches qualify as overweight or oversized, respectively, and will cost $100 per direction, plus taxes, to check. Bags that are both oversized and overweight will only be charged the $100 fee.

Some types of oversized items, such as sports equipment and musical instruments, may require special arrangements, waivers, and charges. Special packaging may also be required for food or items needing dry ice.

Like all airlines, there are restrictions on what you can and can’t pack in checked luggage, the most common of which apply to specific types of batteries. Here’s a complete list of restricted items for both types of luggage.

How to avoid Air Canada baggage fees

Now that you have an idea of what baggage fees might cost you for a flight with Air Canada, let’s look at some ways to minimize or get around them.

1. Only pack a carry-on

This is a tried-and-true way to avoid baggage fees: don’t check any bags! Air Canada’s carry-on allowance is pretty standard, which gives you a small suitcase and another small bag that you can pack for your trip.

Prioritize what you need and what you can easily buy at your destination. For example, clothes are a necessity, but some bulky toiletries (such as toothbrushes or shampoo) can be bought after you land and discarded before you head home.

Jackets and small purses are allowed on board in addition to your carry-on allowance. Use that to your advantage and think about how you can best economize your carry-on space.

2. Join the loyalty program

Air Canada has a unique loyalty program. Actually, it has two of them, much like Delta Air Lines has both the SkyMiles frequent-flyer program for casual flyers and the Medallion program for those who fly Delta regularly.

Air Canada’s miles program is administered through Aeroplan, a rewards program that works with partners to give miles to members as a result of purchases. The miles can be redeemed for Air Canada flights and fees or through the Aeroplan booking site, where you get more credit for miles on Air Canada or any other airline in the Star Alliance family.

This program is changing in 2020, as Air Canada has acquired Aeroplan and is making the program more streamlined for customers. But for now, you can use Aeroplan points to pay for baggage fees on your Air Canada flight if you book through the Aeroplan website.

Air Canada Altitude is the airline’s other frequent-flyer program, offering five levels of status from Prestige 25K to Super Elite 100K, depending on points earned on Air Canada and Star Alliance partner flights. Each level gives you a minimum of two free checked bags.

3. Buy a premium ticket

Air Canada has several levels of tickets, including Basic, Standard, Flex, Comfort, Latitude, Premium Economy, and Business Class. Basic and Standard tickets generally don’t have allowances for checked bags. However, this differs from flight to flight, so it’s best to use the checked baggage calculator on the Air Canada website to estimate fees.

Flex and Comfort class tickets come with one free checked bag and a second you can check for $50. Latitude, Premium Economy, and Business Class tickets allow two free checked bags. All international flights (outside of the U.S. and Canada) allow for one free checked bag, regardless of ticket class, except for Basic Economy flights from Canada to Europe.

4. Bring your military documentation

If you’re an active or retired member of the U.S. or Canadian military, you can check up to three bags for free on Air Canada flights. Bags can’t weigh more than 70 pounds each.

You’ll have to present a valid military ID to a customer service agent at the airport to receive this benefit. This could include current active duty photo identification, discharge papers, a statement of service, or a temporary military ID.

5. Use a travel card

Finally, you can use a travel credit card to help get around paying baggage fees. Some cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, offer a travel credit annually that you can use to reimburse baggage fees.

Many travel cards also offer you the ability to transfer credit card points to partner rewards programs, such as frequent-flyer miles programs. Points you earn by using an American Express Gold Card, for example, can be transferred to Air Canada on a 1:1 basis, and you can use those points to help pay for your flight fees — including baggage.

And the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card has a unique offer for travelers: the Capital One Purchase Eraser. This feature allows you to use your miles to take any travel purchases made within the past 90 days off of your statement. You could pay for your Air Canada baggage fees with your Venture card, then submit that purchase to be erased.

As you can see, you have a lot of possibilities for getting around Air Canada baggage fees. A little research before you book your flight can end up saving you some substantial money.

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