American also will continue to offer high-priced "fully flexible" and "first/business class" fares.
As for the new coach fares, George Hobica — founder of airfarewatchdog.com — calls it "a big deal" because bundling the cost of baggage with a ticket will also provide priority boarding and protect against change fees for a bit more.
"I think a lot people who are going to pay $50 round trip for a checked bag, paying the extra $18 for no change fees is certainly a win for consumers," Hobica said.
Hobica compared the strategy to what Southwest and Frontier have already done with their own tiered fare structures.
"It's going to make fare comparisons harder in a way because it's more shopping around that you'll have to do in comparison," Hobica said. "The priority boarding line is going to stretch to the terminal door."
"I think it's fascinating. I'm glad to see American Airlines innovating again," Hobica said. "It's surprising they did this considering all their woes. They have so many other things distracting them."
American is providing the information to travel agents, but the only place to find the packages initially will be through the airline's website aa.com.
Rick Elieson, American's managing director of digital marketing, says the airline had a head start in designing its site with all the choices. American has given directions to agencies about how to price the options, but Elieson says it may take some time for others to be able to offer the choices.
"Everybody is going to have access to them," Elieson says. "I had a head start. Online agencies are going to have to do that work themselves… They're going to have to figure out how to add that dimension to their displays."
Elieson says the goal is to avoid riling customers while charging for the products – and sell more of them.
"I want to create a compelling product and I want that product to sell," Elieson says. "I hope it makes the travel experience easier, not just shopping."
Elieson adds to The Associated Press that he hopes the new options will help dampen customer complaints about change fees — typically $150 for domestic flights, plus any difference in fare.
"This will eliminate the fear about what-ifs," Elieson says to AP, suggesting it will prod customers to compare airlines by quality and reward ones "like American, that invest so much in its product."
Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst with Hudson Crossing, said the choices will steer more customers to American's website and travel agencies such as Priceline.com that have the technology to deal with the choices. American also has other choices — such as its "preferred" and extra-legroom seats — that aren't part of these new tiered fare packages. (Read more: Government Can't Stop Airlines From Charging Seat Fees)
"This is definitely a move that is designed to help American to sell more tickets through its own website," Harteveldt said.
Harteveldt thinks the strategy has two goals. One is to shift the customer's decision-making from price to value. The other is to prove to creditors that the airline reorganizing in Chapter 11 bankruptcy court is viable on its own.
"It does provide good value," he said.
"These travel options are another example of how we're building toward a new, innovative and more modern airline," Rob Friedman, American's Vice President – Marketing, said in a release announcing the changes. "With our renewed customer focus, we've designed these choices around what our customers tell us will make their travel most enjoyable – more flexibility and benefits that give them the most ease and convenience."