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