It’s usually risky to fly one itinerary on separate tickets. That’s because when you’re on one ticket, if you face a flight delay or cancellation the airline responsible for the irregularity has to get you to your final destination. But if you’re on separate tickets they usually don’t — they just have to get you as far as the end of the ticket you’re flying them on.
Nonetheless, it’s sometimes necessary to book separate tickets:
- 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.
- You’re flying airlines that don’t interline and can’t be ticketed together. Say you’re flying Air France to Tahiti and then the domestic carrier in French Polynesia onward to Bora Bora.
- Cost savings. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
These are just a few examples of why people might find themselves on separate tickets.
American Airlines has long published a policy that says if you are connecting on two American tickets, or you’re connecting to or from oneworld, they’re going to treat you as though you were flying on just one ticket.
I was advising someone recently that had a domestic ticket from Austin to New York and a separate ticket from New York to London. Their outbound delayed, they were going to misconnect. They had a US Airways ticket connecting to an American one and they got rebooked for their transatlantic flight to British Airways.
The most frequent question I get is whether this policy is just limited to American, or is actually a oneworld policy. I’ve always believed this to be alliance-wide but hadn’t ever seen it published.
It turns out that oneworld provided confirmation that it’s an alliance policy last Fall on Flyertalk. (HT: Alex D.) Although you must be through-checked for your onward flights in order for the protections to apply, at least under the broader oneworld protections.
As an alliance, oneworld member airlines follow agreed procedures to provide through check-in service for passengers holding separate tickets involving another oneworld member airline. However, we have chosen not to highlight this service on our website.
…Once a passenger is through-checked, that passenger is provided protection in the event of a flight disruption, even if the passenger has chosen to purchase separate tickets.
The reason for the requirement that you be through-checked onto the flights on separate tickets is because systems may not know about your connections otherwise.
Traveling on separate tickets for a single itinerary can compromise our member airlines’ ability to provide proper through service for our customers. For example, our ability to provide through check-in service can be compromised if passenger names are not entered in exactly the same way during the two separate booking processes; one booking under the name of Smith/JohnA (for example, in the BA system for the LHR-HKG flight) may not support proper system links to a separate reservation made under the name of Smith/JohnAlexander (for example, in the CX system for the HKG-SYD flight).
While customers can overcome the through check-in concern with website check-in for both segments, further baggage handling problems may be caused by those separate check-ins, as the second carrier – in your example, CX – may not receive adequate baggage information from the first carrier.
This doesn’t help connecting between a oneworld airline and a non-oneworld one, even if they’re an American partner. (American won’t even through check bags under that circumstance any longer.)
But it’s great for staying within the alliance, and provides a real incentive to stick with oneworld.