Many airlines belonging to the Oneworld alliance will no longer transfer checked luggage onto connecting flights if that onwards flight has been made under a seperate booking.
The changed rules – which in several cases are not being clearly communicated to passengers – are bound to cause connection chaos for many travellers who are used to having their baggage routed to their final destination on an itinerary involving several Oneworld airlines.
Australian Business Traveller first reported the revised rules which extend to all 15 members of the Oneworld group, among them some of the world's largest airlines including American Airlines, British Airways and Cathay Pacific.
While Oneworld still requires all members to 'through-check' baggage when all tickets are in the same booking or 'PNR', in airline argot, that's no longer mandatory if the flights are in separate bookings.
Oneworld communications chief Michael Blunt tells Australian Business Traveller that “individual member airlines are free to offer service above and beyond the (Oneworld) alliance minimum standard if they so choose, so some may continue to offer through check-in for customers travelling on separate bookings."
So where do Oneworld member airlines stand when it comes to implementing the new rules?
"Customers travelling on separate tickets issued in separate PNRs/bookings will not be accepted for through check-in, regardless of which oneworld carrier(s) they are connecting to," reads an AA briefing to travel agents.
Cathay Pacific has also "adopted oneworld’s new through check-in policy since 1 June 2016", a spokesperson confirmed to Australian Business Traveller.
"We will continue to honour and support separate ticket through-check for passengers travelling between Cathay Pacific and Dragonair flights or passengers flying with member carriers on separate tickets – as long as the separately ticketed segments are in the same PNR record."
In a more passenger-pleasing vein, Malaysia Airlines "will accept bags and issue boarding passes through to a passenger's final destination providing they are travelling with a Oneworld or codeshare partner airline" even if those tickets are on seperate bookings, says a spokesman for the airline.
It's different news for Qatar Airways, with a spokesperson for the Gulf airline advising that "Qatar Airways will continue to check passengers and their baggage through to end-destination when travelling on multi-sector flights under one booking within our Oneworld alliance."
"Where tickets are issued under separate bookings, passengers will need to collect their luggage during transit to minimise impact of itinerary changes outside of Qatar Airways control."
Likewise, a spokesperson for Finnair advises that "we will continue to service and through check customers normally where the interline journey exists. Where we have separate tickets in separate bookings, no interline agreement exists and therefore each carrier will look after customer to the point they have a conditions of carriage with the customer."
In other words: one booking good, two or more bookings bad.
Similarly, on its Speedbird Club website for travel agents, British Airways details its new Separate Tickets Policy which decrees that 'only customers with separate tickets issued in the same PNR will be accepted for through check-in' and 'must be transferring to/from a Oneworld partner.'
Also in that camp is the LATAM Group, which encompasses LAN and TAM: “From 1 June 2016, LATAM Airlines Group adopted oneworld’s new through check-in policy," the airlines says.
Qantas will also shift to the looser Oneworld rules from September 1st.
"From 1 July Qantas check-in agents will be informing customers checking in on separate Oneworld tickets the policy has changed and that for travel from 1 September, they will need to book connections in a single booking to be eligible for through check-in to their final destination" a Qantas spokesperson confirmed to Australian Business Traveller.
Australian Business Traveller is awaiting comment from other leading Oneworld members, and will update this article as and when they respond.
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