Take caution when checking bags with multiple tickets, as two airlines have recently announced policies restricting the long standing practice of allowing passengers with multiple tickets to check a bag through to the passenger’s final destination. Hawaiian Airlines (HA), effective June 1, and US Airways (US), effective Aug. 1, no longer allow passengers to check bags through to the final destination with multiple tickets. US Airways, has indicated one exception, which is for split tickets that are produced from a single Passenger Name Record (PNR).
Historically, most airlines have, when presented with a copy of the e-ticket receipt of the connecting flight, allowed bags to be checked through to the passenger’s final destination, as long as the airlines named on the tickets have an interline agreement. Yet this is no longer allowed on HA and US. For example, a traveler with an award ticket on US Airways round-trip from Phoenix (PHX) to Honolulu (HNL) that has a separate paid-for round-trip ticket on Hawaiian Airlines from HNL to Kauai (LIH), can no longer check bags all the way through to LIH. As a result, additional connecting time must be factored in, as the passenger must exit airport security, retrieve his/her bags, check-in with HA and go through airport security.
US Airways has referenced a specific part of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) new consumer protection baggage rule as the premise for its policy change. This aspect of the rule, effective Jan. 26 and enforceable effective July 24, states that the baggage fees and allowances established by the first airline in a ticketed itinerary must apply throughout the entire journey, and if the first flight is a code-share, then the marketing airline’s policies apply. The rule applies to domestic and international flights to, from or within the United States. For example, if the first leg of a ticket is on airline A, and there are additional ticketed segments on airlines B, C and D, then all four airlines must apply airline A’s baggage fees and allowances.
Some airlines have argued that this rule presents challenges with interline itineraries, as the baggage fee and allowances applied by the first airline must be communicated to the other airlines listed in an itinerary. For this to efficiently occur, the airlines argue that all segments of the ticketed itinerary must be present in the same PNR. When a split ticket is presented to an airline that is not part of the ticketed PNR, it becomes difficult for the airline to identify the allowances and fees that apply.
Hawaiian references a second reason for its policy. It notes that when flights are booked on separate tickets on different airlines, it “leads to misconnected bags”, which “creates inefficiency and added costs for the airline.” While not expressly stated by either airline, there’s also a revenue benefit, as this allows two airlines, rather than one, to benefit from the ancillary bag fee revenue.
Members are encouraged to check each airline’s policy when issuing split or multiple tickets if the traveler plans to check bags, as additional connecting time may need to be considered.