Via Hans Mast United has copied another customer-unfriendly policy developed elsewhere at other carriers. They’re going to stop checking baggage through to your final destination when you’re traveling on separate tickets and your connection is on an airline outside the Star Alliance.
Here instead of immediately following what Delta does by doing the exact same thing, they waited awhile and saw that American is doing it before moving forward themselves.
One of the things I liked about United was that they’re still willing to check bags onto other airlines even when you’re traveling on separate tickets.
Starting on or about March 1, that will only be true when you’re connecting to a Star Alliance airline.
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.
If an airline wants to keep its full checked baggage fee for itself, it needs to become even less friendly to the customer. If you’re connecting United-to-American you’ll pay fees to both airlines. But it isn’t legal for United to collect a double fee and pass on half to American. They have to make you collect your bags, re-check in, and then pay American its fee.
This is both an unfriendly rule on the part of the airline, and a completely predictable (and predicted) consequence of a government rule that sought to ‘crack down’ on an unpopular fee.
US Airways was first out with a policy limiting interlining of bags on separate tickets. Then Delta followed suit. That was two years ago, and Delta at least hasn’t enforced this strictly, it seems.
American will be moving to a similar policy next year. They’ll allow through-checking bags on separate tickets onto oneworld airlines, but not other partners (such as Alaska Airlines or Etihad).
It’s American’s version of the policy that United appears to be directly copying. United will allow checking bags onto a Star Alliance airline on a separate ticket, but not onto other airlines — whether partners outside of Star Alliance or not.
If you were to book an award using your United miles on Aer Lingus to Ireland, but had to buy a separate ticket to get, say, from Chicago to Boston on United to start the trip (because United hadn’t made award seats available for this segment), then United will check your bags to Boston only. You would have to collect your bags, and then re-check them in with Aer Lingus. 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 United flight gets delayed.
The irony here is that the passenger would save money if United had an award seat for the first domestic flight. The passenger would also save hassle. And they’d reduce the risk of ruining their trip, misconnecting, since they had to wait for baggage and then re-check it. Thanks, United!
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.