Airlines Will No Longer Have to Through-check Bags on Separate Bookings in oneworld Alliance

Earlier in the week the author of the Head for Points blog in the U.K. wrote,

as of 1st June, oneworld airlines do not need to interline bags or even check you in for connecting flights on separate tickets. Not surprisingly you will not find any announcements or press releases.

Australian Business Traveller gets confirmation of the change from oneworld.

In a move which could cause connection chaos for many travellers, airlines belonging to the Oneworld alliance – among them Qantas, British Airways and Cathay Pacific – are no longer required to check passengers and their baggage through to their final destination on some connecting flights.

The new scheme, which came into effect from June 1st, impacts passengers whose journey involves flights on more than one airline where their travel encompasses more than one booking, rather than all flights being listed under a single booking reference.

A spokesman for Oneworld has confirmed the unpublicised changes to the ‘interline’ accord between each of the group’s 15 member airlines, which also includes American Airlines, Finnair, LAN/TAM, JAL, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways.

I book travel on separate reservations all the time. There are several reasons to this this. For instance,

  1. You have an award ticket, but award space wasn’t available starting in your home city or all the way to your final destination. So you book an award but buy a flight segment.

  2. You buy a ticket out of Boston for a fare sale. If the reservation started in New York you wouldn’t get the great price. It’s still a fabulous deal even when you buy your New York – Boston shuttle flight.

  3. You don’t know where you’ll be starting your trip from! You know you’re going to Asia but need a positioning flight once your plans firm.

  4. Plans change, you’re ticketed to Hong Kong but while there need a sidetrip to somewhere in Southeast Asia, and buy a ticket that connects up to your existing return flight.

US Airways was the first US airline to stop interlining bags on separate tickets. This was in response to Department of Transportation rules on checked bag fees. If they’re through-checking the bags they have to charge only the first carrier’s bag fee (and in practice, then, split it) rather than charging you fees for both carriers.

Delta followed a few months later in 2012.

American announced their policy to only through check on separate tickets within the oneworld alliance. They were, at the time, required to still through-check onto oneworld airlines. This was after the US Airways merger was complete and former US Airways management in place at the airlines.

Two months after American announced its policy, United followed suit.

In general just because the policy is in place doesn’t mean that agents won’t ever do it, especially at outstations. I had no problem last year getting a Delta agent in Sydney to through-check my bags onto a separate American Airlines ticket (not that it matters a ton on most international-to-domestic connections in the U.S.).

Nonetheless, doing less here is highly customer-unfriendly. On the other hand from the airline’s perspective they don’t want customers booking separate tickets because it lets customers take advantage of sales. They’d rather passengers wait to book travel until everything is certain (and perhaps more expensive) or buy refundable tickets (which are definitely more expensive).

American still has a policy where they’ll even treat two oneworld tickets as a single ticket in the event of irregular operations. That policy is still published internally. I have to imagine it won’t last, however.

Key takeaways of this new change.

  • Airlines in the oneworld alliance can continue to check bags to your final destination on another reservation, but won’t have to.

  • As long as all your travel is on a single reservation they’ll still through-check bags, even if more than one ticket is part of the reservation.

  • It’s unclear which airlines will stop forwarding your bags on separate tickets. Already some like British Airways and American won’t forward your bags on separate tickets when onward travel is outside the alliance. I’m not aware of any oneworld airlines updating their baggage policies further in light of this June 1 change.

Here’s the singer from Puddle of Mudd riding the baggage carousel in Denver.

And here’s a sleeping man riding a carousel.

It’s striking for airlines to offer even less accommodation for checked bags when their employees do things like this:

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. What timing, I actually just spoke with an AA agent yesterday about an award I booked for my wife and I that had several changes and ultimately ended up with 3 different locators. I asked when we checked in if we would be able to get all of our boarding passes and check luggage through and he said we just had to have the different locators and they will do it no problem. Hopefully that holds true.

  2. I couldn’t even get AA to through-check my bags on 1 continuous ticket because I had an overnight connection. This was just last week and it sucked to have to pick the bag up twice!

  3. Not cool. Just when the TSA needed more traffic through security lines.

    As a side thought. I’m guessing my non-Oneworld MCI-IAH-CDG-IST-TLV roundtrip on United-Air France – Turkish isn’t going to go smoothly.

  4. BA has now announced officially (trade only) it won’t do it now. Even on BA to BA tickets!

    The internal Cathay doc, which I have also seen now, has an exception for Cathay to Cathay. Because, of course, that is sensible.

  5. Alliances are for marketing, and there are still advantages to the traveler if all flights booked together. Can also earn miles on various programs. Not being able to have the airline hold bags for an overnight connection holds true for many airlines, though policies can vary by airport.

  6. @Gary – How does this apply to protections on separate tickets? Through-checking is less of a deal breaker than IRROPS in my opinion.

    This is legitimately a weakening of the OneWorld alliance. I wonder which airline managed to push through this loss of benefit for everyone…

  7. I have a paid short-haul AA ticket that is taking me from BOS to JFK where I will be taking Cathaway Flight to HK a few hours later. This trip is next week and I just called AA about it.

    They said they will check-through the bags but they were not able to combine them into one record locator on the phone. They said I would have to do that at the counter.

  8. I was just thinking about this new policy going into effect next month. My issue with customs. Let’s say I have two separate tickets. AY ticket from HEL to BKK. Second ticket on CX from BKK to HKG. HKG is duty free on most items. BKK is NOT.

    I check in a case of wine to BKK. I claim my baggage at BKK and go through customs. They see the bags tagged to BKK. I’ll get taxed for it.

  9. BA are not ncrefbly difficult here. The spirit of the program was to offer benefits across member partners. This no longer hold water. Even BA to BA on separate bookings are not permitted, it really is a silly rule when you are same airline bookings. I will change my preferences for carrier because of this. No more BA.

  10. I just tried to have American check a bag through on another AA flight. No dice. I had 2 separate reservations, one DEN-LAX that arrives at 7:30am and one LAX-LHR that departs at 7:30pm. Gate agent refused to even consider checking through. So now I have to pull my bag and recheck. Luckily LAX will let me check my bag when I arrive, but landing at an airport that has time restrictions on checking luggage (such as 4 hours before flights) would have left me outside security waiting to check my bag for 8+ hours.

    Such an asinine policy to not check bags through on AA to AA connections. Really customer unfriendly.

  11. I have 2 PNRs (British Airways on the first flight segment and Iberia on the second segment) but only 1 e-ticket covering both flights. Does this mean British Airways will through check my luggage or not?

  12. I just got back from a Europe trip. On the way over we had AA award flight, LAX to SFO on American, and SFO to LHR on British Air, then we connected on a different ticket on BA from LHR to CDG. The ticket agent on first checkin at AA checked our baggage all the way to Paris from LAX, so it can be done if you get the right agent.

  13. Checked 4 bags @ DFW for flt from DFW to LIH via PHX. PHX was also a layover due to arrival time of DFW flt. Layover was less than 12 hours. Upon arrival @ LIH, only 3 bags made it. AA Baggage Claim office @ LIH said 1 was in PHX. We needed to go on to HNL We booked on HA and boarded with belief AA would send bag to HNL. Got to HNL and AA Baggage claim said can’t help since we flew to HNL on HA. We went to HA Baggage Claim. HA said they would make claim but might be an issue! How can one bag be tagged to PHX and rest to final destination of LIH?

  14. Ran into this buzz saw in June on BA. OAK-GTW-VCE. Abandoned luggage in GTW because would have missed connector. Cost us $400 in new clothes in VCE till bags barely made the Cruise. Never again on BA.

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