Coming anti-consumer “interline” baggage rules — worse than baggage fees

by Janice Hough on November 8, 2012


US Airways and Delta Air Lines are moving to eliminate transferring baggage from their flights to connection flights of other airlines. This will present consumers with a major hassle, especially for international flights.

Admittedly, the travel industry has a lot of jargon, including the phrase “interline baggage.” While travelers may not know the phrase, it can make a big difference in a trip, especially one overseas.

In short, interlining baggage is when one carrier transfers checked luggage to another for the traveler, thus meaning no need to pick up bags at a connection point and rechecking that luggage with the next carrier. This also may avoid the need to exit and re-enter security.

Airlines like Southwest for years have had a policy not to interline baggage. Consequently, most of my clients haven’t connected from Southwest to another carrier. (The major exceptions being international connections in Los Angeles International (LAX). Anyone who goes through LAX regularly knows to leave PLENTY of time. Plus, usually, connecting to an international flight at LAX already means going through security again anyway.)

The major “legacy” carriers, however, have been pretty good about transferring luggage. And, while I recommend staying on one airline when connecting, sometimes it’s not possible.

In addition, often the best airfares with more than one carrier involved require separate ticketing, especially internationally. Many fares don’t allow stopovers. Also, leaving aside the internet-only airlines, many major carriers have airfares that must be ticketed on a stand-alone basis.

For example, when flying to Europe, it is often cheaper to buy a ticket to say, London; and then a second ticket from London to another city, especially if a stop in one direction or another is involved.

When travelers use separate tickets for connecting flights, most major carriers have been pretty good about checking luggage through, especially when both e-tickets are presented at check-in.

However, this is starting to change. US Airways was the first, and now Delta has said that, starting in January, anyone traveling with two separate tickets will need to claim and recheck their luggage at the connection point. Here’s the kicker — even if the second carrier is a Skyteam partner.

In some connecting airports, this may not be that big a deal, but in larger airports it could add hours to the time required for flight connections. Luggage will have to be collected, then rechecked and passengers will have to deal again with security lines.

No doubt, connecting bags between flights is an added cost and hassle for the airlines involved. Some claim that claiming and then rechecking luggage will increase the likelihood of bags arriving at a final destination, assuming the connection is actually made. (As regular travelers know, multiple airline itineraries do seem to increase the chances of bags getting delayed; then there’s always the blame game as to whose fault it is.)

This elimination of interlining baggage between airlines is not a consumer-friendly move. Plus, initial indications are that, unlike some other new airline policies, there will not be exemptions for elite travelers or business class.

In addition, for many travelers, on top of the hassle factor, this may mean a second checked bag charge for the connection.

United Airlines and American Airlines so far haven’t announced matching moves. But no doubt they are watching, and if there isn’t a major outcry, expect them to follow suit.

Photo: AAronC’sPhotos from Flickr Creative Commons

Print Friendly
Be Sociable, Share!

  • Matthew in NYC

    This really sucks big time. I usually book a single ticket where I can so that I can shift responsibility for the connection to the airline, but when I haven’t been able to do that, legacy airlines have been very cooperative with interlining bags. This is probably a ploy to push people onto single tickets.

    Generally, when I have an international route, I prefer putting everything on one ticket, it avoids surprises, particularly with bags. Don’t forget that with a separate ticket, your baggage allowance is the lowest common denominator, while that US legacy carrier might allow you two pieces for your trans Pacific flight, that Australian discount carrier is going to limit you to 20 kg, and they are ferocious about charging for excess baggage.

  • k

    Best way to protest??????

  • Louise

    What is the point in sticking with an alliance partner if you don’t even get that small benefit?

  • Johns

    I say boycott in-mass on One specific date and one specific airline In each city that specific airline flies into or out of .

  • Johnp

    I say boycott any airline that imposes these baggage restrictions on a specific date

  • Graham

    I wonder what will happen if you book a DL flight that is operated by AF?

  • DCTA

    Graham – they issue is that you have two tickets. One ticket on codeshares is not going to be an issue.

  • DCTA

    You do get the benefit as long as you don’t try to circumvent fares (higher) to save money by issuing separate tickets. That is really what the “point” is.

  • Anonymous

    This only applies to split tickets, not true interline tickets. Also, from the airline’s perspective, they are only be paid to transport your luggage as far as the ticket that you purchased from them. What happens if you fly Delta to LAX on one ticket and then Qantas to Sydney on another ticket and you check in with Delta and they check your bag through to Sydney and your bag gets damaged. Delta maintains that your bag was damaged by Qantas but the since Delta was the airline that checked the bag through to Sydney, Delta is the one on the hook. They didn’t get paid for that bag going to Sydney so why should they check it all the way through and take that added responsibility?

    Also, Qantas has been refusing to check bags through to the final destination on split tickets for the better part of a year now.

    As usual, it is all about the money.

  • Anonymous

    Those ideas have never worked. Even if theoretically you could get some traction, the airlines could cut fares for that day and plenty of people would snap them up. The fact is that the tens of millions of people who might be potential customers any given day are mostly not concerned with this; it’s a specialty issue for specific situations.

  • janice

    It’s definitely all about the money. In some cases, however, I’ve found there isn’t a through fare at all, and you have to issue separate tickets. (For what it’s worth, even when it’s one ticket airlines blame each other for delays and damage…) What particularly gets me though is the exclusion for partner carriers.

  • janice

    But if you book Air France operated by Delta and then a separate Air France ticket, as I understand it, you are out of luck.

  • Lids

    How will that play out when people are forced to check their bags at the gate, which has happened to me on several occasions recently.

  • Pingback: Checked-Bag Fees: Going up? | Best in Travel News

Previous post:

Next post: