Skip Baggage Claim: Delta To Eliminate Luggage Collection And Re-check For International Arrivals

Delta Air Lines is working with the U.S. government so that connecting passengers arriving off of international flights won’t have to collect their checked baggage and drag it through customs themselves. Starting with flights arriving from Tokyo Haneda, and potentially by the end of the year, passengers will be able to check bags through to their final connecting destinations in the United States. Update: the pilot of this program will begin at Seoul Incheon airport, not Tokyo Haneda.

Following Tokyo, the effort would expand to arriving passengers from Seoul, London Heathrow, and Frankfurt.

Jeff Moomaw, Delta’s vice president for the Asia Pacific region, said in a recent interview that the airline is working out the details of the planned measure in consultation with Japan’s transport ministry alongside U.S. authorities, with an eye to introducing the new rule this year at the earliest.

It appears that this wouldn’t apply for passengers connecting in the U.S. to a third country, so those of you redeeming SkyMiles and throwing away onward segments to Mexico to save miles would still be able to check bags. Other throwaway ticketing would require traveling with a carry-on bag only.

This will make it easier to connect, and for as long as the program is limited to Delta it will make Dela the preferred airline for connections to smaller U.S. cities from participating international destinations. In addition to not having to schlepp bags, connecting times won’t need to be as long.

U.S. airports aren’t really set up for convenient connections when passengers arrive off of international flights. Everyone goes through immigration when they land – not just at their final destination, even if connecting beyond the United states, and everyone has to collect their luggage and drag it through customs, dropping it back off with the airline before going back through security again.

There aren’t very many large countries that do it this way. Part of the issue is that the U.S. doesn’t make passengers go through immigration when leaving the country. Passengers in the airport mix between domestic and international, and can just leave the airport if they wish. So when you land off of an international flight you’re segregated domestic passengers until you’ve gone through immigration.

Every Baggage Claim After Tokyo Flight?

But baggage is a different issue and airlines can send connecting bags through whatever inspection Customs and Border Protection requires, before dropping bags back off at their connecting plane. There’s really no reason that passengers have to be the ones to bring their bags through customs themselves.

Indeed, neither Canada nor Great Britain require passengers to show their passports on departure either – yet both allow checking bags to a passenger’s final destination. So for Delta connecting passengers from certain destinations, the U.S. will be catching up to Canada.

(HT: Enilria)

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. So when CBP wants a bag for inspection the airline will retrieve it and deliver it while the passenger waits. And waits. And waits?

  2. The US has long had the ability to check outbound int’l passenger data to ensure visa compliance; whether they do it or not is a different thing.
    This will make it much easier for US int’l passengers and could cut connection times substantially; for many passengers, waiting for bags takes much longer than immigrations.
    The question is what happens to connecting bags – which still will go through some sort of inspection.

    and the question is why Delta is being allowed to do this and not all airlines if it is really a change that is taking place at CBP. Is there data that DL is passing on to CBP that allows them to make a better decision than they have before or do they have a commitment to grab bags CBP wants to see within X minutes?

  3. Even if the system allows it, there’s a strong chance the bags in practice won’t be delivered because some of the airports surely lack the transfer capabilities for international. Just like how connecting at a non-Delta hub can be a major issue. I can’t tell you how many times my bag doesn’t get transferred because they aren’t setup for connections.

  4. If you leave from Dublin or Shannon in Ireland, you aleady clear both immigration and customs in Dublin, so arrive as a domestic passenger – and yes, if you have a connection (on the same ITIN obv…) your bags follow you there… been that way for a few years now…

  5. I see a couple issues. Airlines aren’t willing to interline bags anymore. So changing carriers will still need hours to execute in places like IAD or JFK.

    Secondly what is TSA going to do with all the Duty Free Booze that the passenger can’t stuff in the checked bags while rechecking during the transfer.

  6. DL interlined our bags last year, BHM-ATL-JFK-SIN-CGK. Nice not having to deal with it until Jakarta. Didn’t get that opportunity on reverse.

    However, like Doug, what do we do with the Duty Free Booze we pick up in transit?

    And it appears to only be for select cities. Will it be expanded to ALL locations, like DXB?

  7. Regarding duty free booze — as long as it is in the sealed bag provided by the vender, it can go carryon.

    Now I hope other airlines (I’m looking at you American) start doing the same, especially in Miami for flights from Latin America. Global entry gets me through immigration in five minutes only to be stuck at baggage pickup and recheck for 30 minutes.

  8. This is basically how it works in preclearence facilities. They can pull up scans of your bags while they talk to you at the immigration booth to decide if you need to go to a customs check.

  9. “Regarding duty free booze — as long as it is in the sealed bag provided by the vender, it can go carryon. ”
    For arrival in the US with onward domestic connection? That’s not been my experience. Some duty free shops wouldn’t even sell it to you for that reason.

  10. You mention Canada. U.S. CBP already does this in Canada. Toronto is one of the largest U.S. port of entry. If you are connecting, your checked luggage goes through a separate TSA check. Before clearing customs, you wait until the system confirms that your bag has passed., no need to collect and re-check your luggage.

  11. AdamH
    at preclearance facilities, the US or a US approved contractor scans your bag which is not necessarily the case at foreign airports.
    I suspect the reason why HND and FRA are chosen is because Japanese and German governments are willing to share the scans that are done on bags bound for the US.
    DL is probably doing this first because they are willing to promise CBP that they can access a bag and get it to CBP within X minutes of a request. That likely means they will pull all of the int’l inbound bags and hold them for X minutes before they dump them into the domestic bag system or online transfer system

  12. The last sentence of the article is about catching up to Canada. Canada is often behind the US so catching up is rare, unless you love $6/gallon gas and milk. Paxlovid for Covid is impossible to get unless you’re elderly because they want to save money. Some drugs for breast cancer are also not available in some provinces that are trying to cut costs.

  13. This would be fantastic as a regular traveler to HND on Delta. Claiming the luggage for re-check is always the most time consuming part since Sky Priority is useless. I don’t purchase anything from duty free so that wouldn’t matter to me.

  14. This eliminating hidden city possibilities 😉
    Thus eliminating many jobs required now to handle such bags

    Dont think for a second the airlines are doing this for your convenience and not out of corporate greed.

  15. One small part of this is not accurate. If you arrive in the US and you are connecting immediately out of the country, you do not have to pick up your bag and clear customs. You do however have to clear immigration and security. I found this out the hard way connecting through MIA , arriving from Roatan, when I waited forever to collect and recheck my bag , connecting to LHR. Barely made it to the next flight because all the announcements are telling you « you must collect your bag ». Not the case if you are not connecting within the US.

  16. It’s about time! Precisely why I avoid iintl. To domestic at ATL or JFK . Helps but still slow as often passengers forced into a single line. Maybe BigBear’s new algorithms on X/ray and Delta Digital ID is involved? That would explain why only Delta . They did the TSA trial of the system and the new President used to head CBP and DHS.

  17. I wonder how this is going to work for people bringing in pests and diseases that damage agriculture and livestock along with bringing in non native invasive species.

  18. Hey Gary….remember when the Delta Baggage Guarantee was supposed to end last month and you reported that as fact? Yikes. Might need to check your sources. Somebody got you good. Clean the egg off your face.

  19. Lol. I can’t even get my regulation carry on on board some American flights. No hope for the booze, sealed or not.

  20. We are not talking pre clearance.

    This is domestic baggage connections upon arrival into a country.

    Canada has put baggage through to domestic connections (and international) for years to avoid you waiting for baggage in customs just to hand in a form and drop again. The baggage inspections can be done underneath the wing and if there is an issue. Go to the pax at thier connecting flight.

    The only exception to this was during COVID. You had to collect bags cuz of COVID prisons and such in Canada.

  21. Seems like this is going to be very confusing if they are only doing it for specifics flights.

  22. I might be missing something, but this doesn’t make sense for connections from international to domestic in the US.

    It’s true that arriving in Schengen you receive your checked luggage at your final destination. But there are customs officials at the EU airports. So, for example, if you are flying LAX-FRA-BCN with checked luggage, you don’t get your luggage back until BCN. However, the luggage tags are different for EU originating passengers, and customs officers can pull people aside for checks of their luggage,

    I find it difficult to believe that people will get their bags at their final destination without customs being able to ask questions of the passenger with with their bags in front of the officer.

    Remember, America is the country that won’t allow its own citizens to use automatic border gates unless they apply for and receive Global Entry. Right now, it’s easier for an American to enter the UK than to enter the US. Hard to believe they will allow people to go through customs without their bags present.

  23. I travel to Italy multiple times a year and always hit up the duty free at FCO on departure. Have never had an issue at JFK/DFW/ATL when connecting back to MIA with DF booze as a carry-on. As long as the DF shop provides the proper sealed bag and paperwork, it’s 100% legal. TSA pulls the bag aside, opens it, swipes it for explosives, reseals the bag, and then hands it back. Sure, it takes a few minutes for that last process, but it’s worth it. I hate having to shove a full glass bottle into a full checked bag in a crowded baggage area. Just a recipe for disaster

  24. I live as an American expat in Colombia and I’m neither surprised nor overly disappointed that Colombia obviously isn’t on the list. It made for an interesting headline though.

  25. I’m not sure what the person was talking about with Toronto. I recently came back from Europe, and everyone had to get off in Montreal and go through customs before flying on to Toronto on a different plane. That was certainly more time-consuming than just going through customs in Toronto would have been.

  26. @Ben Schlappydappy – it was accurate at the time that I wrote it, that’s absolutely confirmed. It was definitely the plan. Delta may have changed their mind or delayed it.

  27. Awfully nice of the US Government to provide Delta an advantage over its competitors.

  28. Of course Delta is spending the money to implement something that’s positive for passengers, and even taking leadership to make something happen with the budget-less government, whose services are being cut cut cut away. it must not be cheap.

    American is still spending money to remove screens from their planes.

  29. Well, there are some airports that offer US customs preclearance. Those are nice. Mostly Canada, plus one in Ireland and one in UAE, if I recall correctly.

  30. Let’s just hope this doesn’t eventually go like it went with transfers via some US CBP Preclearance ports where they would literally make passengers wait until a passenger’s arrived bag had been remotely cleared.

  31. One of the best things for me about having to claim transit bags at US ports of entry is that it has increased the amount of money I have gotten from EC 261/2004 due to ending up rebooked on next-day flights because of the slow baggage delivery processes at the US ports of entry which I transit with checked-in bags. Most of my claims for that have been with Star Alliance carriers, but I anticipate a big pick-up in getting Skyteam airlines having to pay me for this kind of situation.

  32. American Airlines in DFW will also be doing the same. Everyone thinks this is great until the next big bad incident takes place. Having the bags available upon arrival from international isn’t to disrupt passengers travel it is because we shouldn’t trust another country’s security measures. They should be readily available for inspection for prohibited goods, drugs/contraband and dangerous items. But none of that seems to matters to anymore. I’d rather have the small inconvenience off getting my bag and walking the 50yds thru Customs to recheck. #NeverForget

  33. @GUWonder how are you getting EU compensation for customs delays – EC 261/2004 is for airline delays/cancellations. Perhaps the duty of care gets you a hotel room and meals but I don’t see that it gets you cash compensation.

  34. “ Everyone goes through immigration when they land”

    Not true (at least it wasn’t 4+ years ago).

    When you fly out of Dublin Ireland to the US, you go through US passport control and immigration. When you arrive in the US, you go straight to your connecting flight, which in my case was four gates down. Bags were automatically checked through. This was at least four years ago, so it might be different now.

  35. Makes it easier to bring illegal items to smaller airports as there is no worry about CBP checking your bags / no process through K9 or anything. Also Fly from Mexico with drugs, connect via ATL Delta will transfer your bags without worry about CBP opening your bags and land at DFW with anything and you will be able to bring your illegal items with you,

  36. Didn’t realize this was not available in the US. We’ve had this as long as I can remember in Canada. Earn something every day.

  37. Last week at IAD, we claimed our bags and then turned right around and handed them in to baggage claim people that put them on another Carousel to be rechecked. Then we went through customs. So I thought it was absolutely pointless to have us claim our bags. Just a whole lot of unnecessary stress.

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