What Are Interline Baggage Agreements And Why Do They Matter?

Once you earn enough points and miles to book an award trip, you may quickly find out that booking a ticket from your home town to the decided destination on your preferred dates with the miles you have is near impossible. However, if you do find that trip, book it immediately and then run to the store to get a lottery ticket because it’s obviously a lucky day for you.

Rest assured, there’s going to be a time where you’ll need to fly from your home airport to the departure city for your award ticket. In award travel lingo, that’s called a positioning flight.

Choosing which airline to take for your positioning flight may make the difference between an almost seamless connection or a sense of déjà vu where you’ll need to do the entire airport check-in process all over again. That means you’d need to land, go to baggage claim to collect luggage, head back up to the departures lane, recheck your bags and go back through security. If your international flight is leaving from a large airport like JFK, LAX or O’Hare, you’ll also need to take a train between terminals with all of your luggage (except you can’t do that from O’Hare right now).

That is, unless the two airlines you’re flying have an interline baggage agreement. These agreements go into airlines’ booking tickets on the other airlines and accommodating delayed passengers as well, but what we’re interested in is the baggage rules.

Here’s a simplified list of the interline baggage rules for the major U.S. carriers:
NOTE: You’ll see the term PNR thrown around in these descriptions, which stands for Passenger Name Record. That’s the six character number assigned to your airline reservation. You can save several flights under the same PNR, even from different airlines. The issue we are discussing involves having two flights on different airlines with different PNR’s
Bold type is for emphasis on rules for two separate tickets.

Delta

Effective for travel on or after January 11, 2016, Delta will check a passenger’s baggage between the origin and destination airports that are issued on a single or conjuncted* ticket exclusively. When issued on one ticket, Delta will also continue to check baggage through to the ticketed destination for interline itineraries.  If a second ticket is presented for travel, Delta will only check the bag to the destination of the Delta ticket(s). Baggage may be claimed at the Delta-ticketed destination, and then re-checked by the customer with the downline carrier for the next flight.

* A single ticket also means a conjuncted (i.e., conjunctive) ticket. Conjuncted tickets are sequential in number on same ticket stock.  It is not possible to conjunct tickets from different airlines.

Exceptions

In cases as noted below, when more than one ticket is presented, Delta will continue to through-check baggage from the origin to the destination.

  • An entire journey (itinerary) consisting of Delta-marketed / Delta-operated flights
  • SkyMiles Award plus a ticket with Delta-marketed / Delta-operated flights
  • Delta ticket plus a ticket on the Delta partner airlines listed below:   
    • Aeromexico (AM)
    • Air France (AF)
    • Alitalia (AZ)
    • China Eastern (MU) 
    • GOL (G3)
    • Jet Airways (9W)
    • KLM (KL)
    • Korean Air (KE)
    • Virgin Atlantic (VS)
    • Virgin Australia (VA)
  • Delta ticket plus a:
    • SkyTeam pass ticket
    • Ticket with travel on a Visit USA (VUSA) fare
    • Connection to a Delta charter flight

United

If you have a separate ticket on another carrier, you must claim bags at the destination of the first ticketed itinerary and check bags with the other carrier to the final destination. Baggage can be checked through to the final destination if the separate ticketed itinerary includes Star Alliance member airline-operated flights

 

Alaska

Travel that includes multiple airlines or tickets

If your travel includes multiple tickets, and/or travel on more than one airline, your baggage fees and rules may be determined by the other airline. Please check your ticket, or call Alaska Airlines Reservations at 1-800-252-7522 to help determine which airline rules and fees apply to your journey.

When making international connections on a separate ticket to other airlines within twelve (12) hours of arriving in the connection city, you may follow the baggage allowance and weight restrictions of the international airline – provided a ticketing and baggage agreement is in place between Alaska Airlines and the other carrier.

American

When there are separate tickets issued in separate PNR’s, customer’s baggage will be checked to the final destination of the American 001 ticket. The customer is responsible for the baggage fees associated on the second ticket when the baggage is re-checked with the Oneworld airline. This may involve exiting the secure area to claim and re-check the baggage. International flights may require clearing customs and rechecking on the other airline to the final destination.

American’s policy even is applied if you purchased two separate tickets FROM AMERICAN.  If they’re on two different PNRs, you need to collect your bags and recheck them for your next flight. You know your policy is too complicated when you need a chart to explain it.

Oneworld-ThruCheck

Southwest (From a Southwest message forum)

Hi @Ruth0821,

You’ll have to retrieve your bag from baggage claim after the end of your Southwest flight and check it on Hawaiian for the next portion of your trip. 

Lindsey
Community Manager
The Southwest Airlines Community

 

JetBlue

JetBlue does not provide baggage transfers or disruption protection during irregular operations for customers traveling on separately booked tickets between JetBlue and our partner airlines or between JetBlue and our non-partner airlines.

Hawaiian

We understand that sometimes you have to book different portions of your journey on different airlines using separate tickets. When this happens, we cannot ensure there’ll be a long enough connection time to transfer your bags to your next flight. That leads to misconnected bags, which is not a good thing for anyone. 

If you’re booked on separate tickets with another airline connecting to Hawaiian Airlines, please collect your bags from the baggage claim at your connection airport and re-check them with a Hawaiian Airlines agent. At that time, baggage fees may apply.

Spirit

I was expecting to see something like a big “NOPE!” but instead, there’s no mention at all of the interlining of baggage.

Final Thoughts

The only three airlines that will allow you to check a bag from your departure city to the final destination on two different tickets are Alaska, Delta, and United. Each of them will only allow you to check bags onto airline partners. I remember that you could check a bag anywhere, years ago, as long as you had a ticket.

These restrictions were one of the big reasons I booked us on Delta flights to JFK to meet our Virgin Atlantic flight to London. I could have flown on JetBlue or American but by flying on Delta, we can (hopefully) check our bags all the way to London

VA_Delta_Aircraft_0

An added advantage of flying Delta to JFK is that we may not have to reclear security even though we’re going to need to change terminals. It looks like there’s a bus that travels between the terminals air-side. That’d be a huge advantage over needing to leave the terminal, take the SkyTrain and re-clear security. Anyone with tips on making a DL-VS connection at JFK?

between_2_and_4

Finally, I like the peace of mind I’ll have in knowing Delta and Virgin Atlantic are partners. If there’s some sort of delay on our flight from MCO to JFK, Delta will be more willing to help us find an alternate way to get to London, either on Virgin Atlantic or a Delta plane. To me, that’s worth the extra $20 a paid for the Delta ticket compared to flying on JetBlue.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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