Connecting baggage policies for Oneworld, Star Alliance, SkyTeam

By Chris Chamberlin , June 30 2016
Connecting baggage policies for Oneworld, Star Alliance, SkyTeam

It's not always practical or even possible to book all connecting flights under a single reservation, with many travellers fronting up at the airport with two or more separate bookings and hoping their bag will reappear at their final destination.

But it's not necessarily that simple: many airlines may only check you and your luggage as far as your first ticket takes you, even if your connecting flight is on a common alliance partner, such as of Oneworld, Star Alliance or SkyTeam.

Australian Business Traveller rounds up the connecting flight policies of the three major airline alliances – and in short, you're best to fly under a single booking wherever you can.

Connecting baggage policies: Oneworld

Under the alliance’s ‘minimum standards’ policy, Oneworld airlines must check passengers and their baggage through to their final destination, wherever possible, when their connecting flights are both booked under the one reservation.

There’s no issue if each flight is booked under a separate ‘ticket number’ within that reservation – they just need to be booked under the same reservation code, PNR or booking reference, depending on which term you prefer.

Book your flights together and you'll still be checked all the way through...
Book your flights together and you'll still be checked all the way through...

However, when a journey spans multiple reservations, such as Qantas to Singapore on one booking and British Airways to London on a separate booking, the first airline is no longer obligated to check you right through.

Qantas is making an exception until September 1 2016, but after which this benefit will no longer apply.

That means clearing passport control in the middle of your journey, collecting your baggage, clearing customs, lining up to re-check that bag and obtain your onward boarding pass, another sweep through passport control and security and then heading to the lounge or your boarding gate.

Read: Did Oneworld just make your next trip a nightmare?

Airlines are still free to go above and beyond what’s required, with American Airlines and Malaysia Airlines among those that will continue through-checking connecting passengers with multiple bookings.

Read: Oneworld airlines revise baggage policy for connecting flights

Connecting baggage policies: Star Alliance

Star Alliance operates a similar policy to Oneworld in that connecting passengers will be checked through to their final destination on any Star Alliance airline, provided all flights were booked under the same reservation.

Front up at the airport with multiple bookings, however, and your luck may be lost in transit.

Some airlines may elect to go above and beyond with Australian Business Traveller readers sharing positive experiences with Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways in recent weeks – but of course, this isn't to be expected.

There's no harm in asking politely to be checked through on an onward flight, but we'd strongly recommend allowing ample time in between flights to collect and re-check your baggage if necessary, should the airline or check-in agent be unable or unwilling to extend you a favour.

Connecting baggage policies: SkyTeam

As you'd expect, SkyTeam alliance airlines will also check you through to your final destination when your entire journey is covered under one booking, and any of those connecting flights are also on SkyTeam member airlines.

That means you could fly Korean Air from Sydney or Brisbane to Seoul and connect onward to Amsterdam with KLM, with your bags and KLM boarding passes taken care of in Sydney.

Through-check is also available via SkyTeam's automated check-in kiosks, again when flights form one booking.

As to connections across separate tickets, that's again left at the discretion of each SkyTeam alliance airline, with any policies and processes here "governed by individual commercial and/or bilateral agreements between the members," a SkyTeam spokesperson has confirmed.

In other words, don't hesitate to ask at the check-in desk, but book flights separately only under the assumption that you'll be picking up your bags along the way.

Also read: How interlining & codeshares matter to your flights

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Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

I never have any issue either book all under one single itinerary print out or several e-tickets with any 3 major alliances or even sometime through interline check in aggrement policy.

In relation to one booking, I sometime make several seperate online tickets purchase and to make my itinerary management come easy ( even I use TRIPIT apps which is very helpful. Pay for the TRIPIT pro and you will get the most benefits ) This is not ads promo. I always ask airline office to print it under single itinerary print out. I don't need to bring into change and make it into one booking. SImply ask for single itinerary print out which consist several different bookings, off course pref from the same alliance. It all can be done and its free.Its simple. JUST ASK.

Or when purchase RTW ticket on the alliance website off course it will all fall under single booking.

Bottom line I never encounter such a big deal of a problem in my over 20 years travel and check in even before alliance formed with any baggage check issues at all. In benefit I am able to meet and make new friends with many check in counter personnels at pretty much any major counter airports I ussually pass through.

Have a great day.

Hi William, we should clarify for anybody reading your post that simply entering multiple bookings into TripIt Pro and using that to print a single itinerary will not join the bookings in the airline systems for the purposes of the airline through-check agreements listed above. Of course, each airline may choose to go above what's required of them under the alliance rules in terms of checking you through on tickets booked separately (and we're glad to hear your travels have been seamless!), but simply using TripIt doesn't guarantee this.

17 Feb 2015

Total posts 4

Hi Chris, hoping you could clarify something for me. If you book your multiple e-tickets with a travel agent that uses Galileo to combine everything onto one PNR and then check-in with an airline using Amadeus- is the airline able to lookup the gal reference on their system? I thought this is why reservations normally include the airline PNR too.

I'm just trying to determine if they validate reservations such as the above scenario on their computers or just look at the printout. 

Hi Blankman, this is a question best asked of your travel agent.

Thsi will become a problem when transiting airports that require visaa in advance.  For example, you are taking a risk transiting through DME (Moscow) even on say SQ then transfering to LH.  SQ   MIGHT not even board you in SYD or SIN without the Visa.   As always CAVEAT EMPTOR     let the buyer beware.

21 Aug 2015

Total posts 90

This is the sort of problem this new policy will cause. Apathetic attempt by airlines to drive bookings to themselves and not online sales and stop cherry picking of best fre offers..............they treat passengers like self loading cargo!........QF especially. 

Hi all,

I am not refeering to TRIPIT apps, simply print out single itinerary print out by asking airline office as clearly stated in my comment.

Off course I am not try to mislead about TIPIT app for general use.

Simply asking airline ticekting or reservation to print your different e-tcikets into a single print out itinerary can be done for free. Specially when all fall under same alliance.

Thank you

williamsusanto,

That may work in the past. I doubt it will now.

P.S: We'd love to be corrected. So if you're flying OW carriers (I don't really care about *A or Skyteam) for the rest of the year, please do keep us posted if your technique continues to work.

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1256

Perhaps you are asking agent to combine bookings under the single PNR reference.

AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 307

Ok...so...how does this fairly typical scenario work? Frequent flyer ticket on the long haul eg AUS-Europe + separate paid $$ ticket on the short haul Europe leg. I've always understood Frequent Flyer tickets are stand alone ie can't have FF + $$ ticket together in the one booking. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 304

I will find out tomorrow if CX will through check onto QF from TPE-HK-Melb tomorrow.  Seperately bought tickets... Not holding my breath tho hearing the recent feedback tho :0/

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 304

Yup, can confirm that CX won't through check me on two seperate tickets onto QF in HK from Taipei. The First class checkin staff weren't 100% sure herself and had to call the supervisor to confirm.  Such a sad day to finally confirm myself. Liked the flexibility of booking seperate tickets and not booking all at once. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Mar 2014

Total posts 5

I can confirm having returned last night from a round the world itinerary which had 2 separate sectors booked on a different pnr as I'd exceeded the 25000 miles limit that BA and Cathay Pacific definitely DO NOT check through on a different reservation anymore.

Cathay advise it on their website and British Airways new check in system actually inhibits it with an error message when the agent tries.

I was on BA JFK to LHR connecting on BA LHR to TXL in paid business class and the supervisor in JFK tried and said it had worked earlier in the day. She called her support line and they informed her the inhibitor in the check in system had been implemented that day and there would be no way to through check anymore.

She said they had not been informed and that this change will cause a lot of issues and my check in was the first time the error has occurred.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 304

I still think it is BS that British Airways won't through check you even when connecting on their own metal. What a load of crap!

26 Oct 2012

Total posts 8

Adam,

Last year I flew Sydney-Singapore-Zurich-Nuremberg on 2 rewards tickets.The first was booked online with SQ and the seocnd by telephone to SQ,the carrier being Swiss/Austrian Arrows.There were 2 pnrs.

Nonetheless bags were checked from Sydney to Nuremberg.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 May 2011

Total posts 20

Good comment Sabena  SQ do still interline / check your bags throught to your final destination in most cases.

Adam will be after the 1st July 2016 when the change was made to OW.  Each seperate PRN will require him to pick up his bags and checkin for the next PNR

A very sad situation and now confirmation of BA to seperate BA to BA flights on a single PNR

06 Jun 2015

Total posts 1

Having recently travelled JFK to MEL on UA I can confirm that even though you are on the one carrier they will NOT book baggage through if you have a sector on a different PNR.

This is completely opposite to my experience at BKK when I had to undertake an unexpected sidetrip during a RTW on LX. On check in back to SIN to continue my RTW on LX the agent added my TG leg to the itinerary and booked my bags through to LHR via ZRH. All power to TG and I will avoid UA with even more zeal in future

sq

07 Aug 2015

Total posts 15

Good to see this article and your confirmation they are all doing the same. Brexit may make the situation even more uncomfortable for those of us trying to save a few dollars.

QF

01 Jul 2016

Total posts 6

As an ex QF Amadeus expert, info or GK segments can be added into a PNR via Telesales (fee involved). Amadeus will check the minimum coneecting time that has been published and if the connections are under it will prevent the segment from being saved thus negating the benefit. 

I can see both sides of the argument here but I have to side with the airlines. My reason for this is if you book a flight that is over min connex time and it subsequently changes to under min connex, why should the airlines be responsible for your onward connections when they have had no involvement in the booking or have to pay for STPC should your fare be applicable.

My suggestion would be rather than venting here and in forums, write to the airlines and request a facility to be able to add separate flights into your longhaul PNR that you have booked. Amadeus allows for segment related ticket numbers and it would also perform the min connex check automatically so this shouldn't pose too much of a technichal problem to implement. Approach it from a customer service perspective and they might just listen if enough of you ask for a similar solution. 

My .50c worth for today!

qantas

23 Jun 2014

Total posts 12

The round the world ticketsof the various alliances have become very bad value dropping from 29 sectors (when they started) to a measly 15 or 16.  It seems now that checking bags through when connecting on different airlines is now the only reason to use them.  The three main alliances have reduced their reason to exist yet again

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

06 Feb 2014

Total posts 71

Hi Chris

Do you know what happens if you are Flying the same airline , connecting in let's say Hong Kong, flying Cathay Pacific, but 1 sector on a Qantas FF booking and the next one on Asia miles , so 2 different bookings on the same Airline?

thanks

05 Mar 2012

Total posts 10

Have a new, unique one to share, that may be of interest to AusBT travellers of the Virgin Australia Alliance.

Just flew MSP-SFO on DL and SFO-AKL-MEL on NZ. 2 separate tickets. 10-Jul-16 check-in.

Checked in at MSP with Sky Priority (which VA status would give you). The agent was happy to see if she could through-check to MEL. She entered the NZ flights, and they went in no problem.

I was a bit surprised and she said, "Well, I think we're both partners of Virgin Australia, so that's probably why the system accepted the NZ codes."

Great customer service from Delta. I only wish other airlines (including NZ) were as customer-centric on this topic.


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