Here’s When You’re Protected Traveling on Two Separate Tickets

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve written about this, and I actually forgot I had done so. But I was warning someone about the risks of booking two separate tickets — that they needed lots of extra connecting time, that they needed to have a backup flight if the first one was cancelled — and that reminded me the advice isn’t always true.

If you’re going to take a once-daily international flight, and it’s important not to miss it, but maybe you need to buy a separate ticket in order to get to the international gateway city there’s always a risk. Maybe your first flight gets cancelled. What do you do?

I run into this myself. Often when booking an award ticket I need to buy positioning flights. Not everything may be available on points, whether from my starting city or for the last segment. I’d hate to give up a beautiful Cathay Pacific award ticket in first class, Chicago or New York JFK to Hong Kong, just because I couldn’t get the flight from DC to Chicago or New York. So I’m willing to come out of pocket to buy that segment.

Similarly with British Airways Avios, they charge you separately for each and every flight segment you book using points. So you might have enough for the flight from New York to Europe but not the flight to reach New York. So you have to pay for the with cash.

You’re still saving a lot of money by just purchasing a short domestic hop. It may make good sense to use miles. Even though you don’t get the entire portion of your air trip covered in a single award.

Being on two separate tickets is a risk, usually, if your flight is delayed or cancelled. Summer storms in the Northeast, or just air traffic congestion around New York, prevents you from getting to New York to connect to that Cathay Pacific flight.

If you’re on one ticket, then the airline that delayed you is responsible for getting you to your final destination. But what about separate tickets?

Usually the rule of thumb is that the airline is only responsible for getting you to the destination on that ticket. In this case, New York. And you’ll have missed your flight to Hong Kong, you can try to reschedule your award ticket, but you could well be out of luck if no award space is available later.

Similarly, if my trip terminates in Chicago and I’m buying onward travel to DC, I’d leave plenty of room for a misconnect, I’d hate to arrive in Chicago too late to connect to my scheduled flight home and be stuck buying a walkup full fare ticket (or booking a brand new award, for instance on another airline).

Except… if you’re flying on two oneworld tickets you may not need to worry!

American actually publishes a policy that treats two separate oneworld tickets as though they were a single ticket. In the event of misconnect, “the carrier responsible for the disruption will be required to reroute the customer to their final destination.”

AA to/from AA or a oneworld® Carrier
If a customer is holding separate tickets on AA or another oneworld carrier, customers holding separate tickets where travel is on oneworld airlines should be treated as through ticketed passengers. In the event of a disruption on the originating ticket, the carrier responsible for the disruption will be required to reroute the customer to their final destination. The ticket stock of the second ticket must be of a oneworld carrier, eligible under the Endorsement Waiver Agreement. You may contact AA Reservations 1-800-433-7300 (U.S. and Canada) or outside the U.S. and Canada, reference Worldwide Reservations Numbers for additional information if the separate ticket is for travel on a oneworld carrier.

This policy does not apply where one of the airlines involved is not a oneworld airline, or when the second ticket was issued by a non-oneworld airline.

This is a pretty big deal for the small number of times a year that I might book two separate tickets as part of a single trip. As long as I’m flying with American and their oneworld partners, on tickets issued by oneworld airlines, I’m protected.

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. This is helpful information as I’m trying to bank points on AA for some future trips that I may have to use cash to position ourselves for. Thank you for this.

  2. On top of my thanks, though, I’d like to add a question: The language of the AA statement is certainly clear enough as it pertains to itineraries including AA flights. But what if there are two other One World members involved, and not AA? That is, do you know if this policy is simply AA’s or whether it’s a One World policy?

  3. Do you know if we get to keep original booking class?
    If your second flight is on paid or award J and your first or positioning flight is in Y, will AA route to your final destination in J?

  4. Many, many thanks!

    I’ve been looking for this information for about a year now, knowing that there was some advantage I’d read about having to do with AA being better at interlining somehow, but I could never find the information on it.

  5. and sometimes it depends on the helpfulness of the agent…wifey and I were supposed to fly CX F from HKG to ORD(AS miles) and then connect to LGA on AA(booked with avios).the first flight was cancelled and was bumped for the latter 77W which doesn’t has any F class.called AS and asked if there’s any way they could help us.after some negotiations she was able to put us on one of the HKG-JFK flight even that there wasn’t any award space available!

  6. Is Dragonair, a one world affiliate of Cathay Pacific, considered one world in this situation?

    And like others, I wonder if this applies to two one world tickets not involving American Airlines.

  7. Frequently I have to book 2 separate Avios tickets, because doesn’t do a good job of showing connections. Both of my flights were on US. My first flight canceled. Agent wouldn’t rebook me all the way through to my final destination. She said my ticket was to CLT and I would have to speak to an agent in CLT to rebook me to my final destination. I ended up getting mileage credit on both segments, so I didn’t bother complaining.

  8. What if you have one ticket that involves USAir that you bought pre-One World move. That is if you have a USAir award ticket when they were with star alliance that involves USAir connecting to Lufthansa and the USAir flight is delayed or cancelled? Which airline would you even ask to get you to you final destination (Munich in this case). One ticket, so different situation, with two previously Star Alliance members who are no longer allied.

  9. Thank you for this information! In few months I’m going to be looking for a Oneworld award ticket from Omaha to Singapore; while I’ll still allow ample connecting time for my OMA-gateway city segment, it’s comforting to know that as long as that flight is with AA booking it as a separate cash ticket (if necessary) should be safe. That’s a big plus to AA/oneworld award travel in my book!

  10. I was about to say that the last two times I positioned for CX flights, I either bought tickets on B6 or WN and flew in ahead a couple of days ahead of time. Now that I think about it, the first was an AS ticket and the second was a BA ticket, so this knowledge wouldn’t have helped.

    Gary, is this in the CoC? If an agent doesn’t want to help, and tells me I’m screwed, I’m curious how enforceable this is. I mean, if they say “no” and I buy a cash ticket on CX, and I sue AA in court, can I win? I realize I’m likely outside of the limitations of most small claims courts. I’d like to know exactly how far “policy” extends if something isn’t covered in the CoC.

  11. I have an Avios award on Aer Lingus from DUB-ORD, and I’m buying a one-way MAN-DUB to position for it, also on EI. Will EI protect me if the MAN-DUB is late?

  12. Gary-
    Great article!

    I’m wondering if this oneworld rule would apply in the following circumstance: I have a Qantas ticket from SYD-BKK on a codeshare flight operated on Emirates metal connecting to a CX flight from BKK to HKG. Would this be considered an all-oneworld booking since SYD-BKK has a Qantas flight number?

  13. Back when BAEC offered as many stopovers/segments in the direction of travel, I found this protection extremely valuable. My story begins begins because I couldn’t get a trip to Easter Island to work out, so I booked as far as Guayaquil, then completed a “surface segment” and several months later continued on LIM-IPC. Well, I flew into LIMA at 5am and had a very long day there, departing for IPC at 1am. Around that time, I was fully lounging it up, blissfully unaware of the torrential storm they were having in Easter Island, and about an hour before the flight was to board a lounge agent indicated the flight was reschedule to 4pm the next day. At this point it’s midnight and I had no intention of booking a $250 Radission Hotel stay (very steep prices for Lima), but I didn’t have a lot of good and safe options. Plus they were kicking me out of the lounge (4 hours on Priority pass).

    Since I booked the flight into LIM on AA on a separate award, eventually I got to the right LAN agent that said I was covered. Apparently it should be <24 hours though, or else they claim you're originating there. In this case, I'm very lucky I made it <24 hours. They put me up in a Sheraton, fed me, and supplied transit. Turned out to be an impromptu-DO since several people were flying on BA miles pre-devaluation.

    Thanks for reading.

  14. Not sure if this is news, but I booked MSP-ORD on a Delta ticket and ORD-BOM on a separate KLM ticket, both SkyTeam members, and was able to check my bags straight from MSP-BOM. Not sure what type of protection I would have enjoyed in that situation if the first flight had been left.

  15. I have a BA flight IAD-LHR-JNB coming upin October, all in F on award travel. This is a 2-4-1 certificate that expires Dec2014, with no chance to rebook.

    I am in TPA and booked a connecting flight on UA to get me to IAD. Price was great, at $59 a tix. However, I have had niggling doubts–what if UA can’t get me to IAD to make my connection to BA? I’ve left a huge window (9 hours) of time, but even so, my trip insurance won’t cover the rebooking in same/comparable class if it’s on an award ticket.

    After reading your post I checked the AA flights and they are only $83 TPA to IAD. Cheap price for peace of mind, so I’m booking. Thanks for the great tip.

  16. Did exactly this connecting from PEK to KUL. Of course, on the return I wound up on MH370 two days after it went missing, but AA was able to give me boarding passes for MH and check my luggage through to PHL.

  17. So is it only American Airlines policy?
    Or does it mean that I am safe if I book a BA flight and then a QR flight separately?

    “If a customer is holding separate tickets on AA or another oneworld carrier, customers holding separate tickets where travel is on oneworld airlines should be treated as through ticketed passengers”.

    I thought that would mean that neither ticket doesn’t necessarily have to be on AA…?

  18. Thanks for info.

    The link to the actually aa policy isn’t working.

    I can’t seem to find the policy on

    Does anyone know where I can find the policy in writing.

    Thanks in advance.


  19. Does AA strictly honor the minimum connecting times described here?

    I’m asking because I have an award ticket MIA-UIO that leaves at 9:39am. I will be in Chicago so I’m tempted to buy a seat on a ORD-MIA flight that leaves at 5am and arrives in MIA at 8:54am, which gives me EXACTLY 45 minutes to connect. Would AA claim that it was a risky connection and not honor the rule in case there’s any delay on the inbound flight?

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