Effective October 1, 2014, AA will no longer through check bags when the passenger presents separate tickets at the ticket counter except as noted below.
…Customers traveling on separate tickets will only be able to through check bags when the ticket is for travel on:
American Airlines and American Eagle
US Airways and US Express
oneworld partner airline
For all other carriers ticketed separately, bag will only be checked for the AA, US or oneworld partner flight. The customer will need to recheck their bags with the other carrier for the continuing travel.
Department of Transportation rules that went into effect in July 2012 mean that a customer pays one set of fees for their entire journey, and ultimately limits how much an airline is keeping of their own fees when checking interline baggage. Now that the folks from Tempe, Arizona are in charge at American that means the beginning of changes to capture revenue.
If you were to book an award using your American miles on their partner Etihad, but there was no award availability to get to Dallas so you bought that ticket from American, then American would check your bags through to Dallas only. You would have to collect your bags, and then re-check them in with Etihad. This is a huge hassle, and requires a whole lot of extra time for your connection. It also may screw up trips, if that first American flight gets delayed.
For instance, flying Austin – Dallas – Abu Dhabi – Chennai. Two tickets only because American wasn’t making any seats available for Austin – Dallas, so you give American more money. Etihad is a partner, but not a oneworld partner. You have separate tickets. American won’t check your bags onto Etihad (they would if it was all on a single ticket, such as if there had been award space available on the Austin – Dallas flight). A mechanical delay causes your connection in Dallas to be too short, you run for that Etihad flight (which begins in a couple of months). You have to choose between your bags being left behind in Dallas, or making it to India. Thanks, AA! They won’t even interline on separate tickets with their partner Alaska Airlines…
For me, separate tickets are common. Sometimes as well I’ll buy part of a trip, and ticket the rest later, especially with awards. Or there might be a good business class paid fare originating from a particular city, but you can’t price it with add-on segments from where you’re starting your journey so you have to ticket that separately.
It’s also something that the median traveler would have no idea to expect, a policy going into effect 9 days from now that hasn’t even been announced.
This isn’t as bad as the US Airways approach. When they first rolled out changes in mid-2012 they wouldn’t through check bags on two separate tickets to any partner at all. Here American will through check bags between American and any oneworld airline. Hopefully this isn’t just an interim change but as far as they’re going to go.