Oneworld airlines revise baggage policy for connecting flights

By David Flynn, June 15 2016
Oneworld airlines revise baggage policy for connecting flights

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?

As of August 2016, American Airlines is adopting the new Oneworld policy after earlier advising that it would not be "changing anything at this time" back in June.

"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.

Read: Qantas tightens up check-in for connecting Oneworld flights

Australian Business Traveller is awaiting comment from other leading Oneworld members, and will update this article as and when they respond.

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

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Aug 2014

Total posts 502

Sorry if this comes off as ignorant, but what is the incentive for airlines to not thru-check, because of all the baggage and check-in hassle or is there something else as well?

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1025

If everything worked the way it was meant to, with everything on time and all min connect times being met, there is no issue. It is quite simple for an airport agent to check people through on connecting flights, weather they are on the same booking ref or not.

The issue comes up when something happens, such as a delayed flight causing a misconnect or baggage going missing. Who pays for the needed service recovery (locating, redirecting bags, rebooking flights, etc) In the case of missing bags, it is normally the last carrier that has to locate and arrange for the transport and return of the missing baggage.

If I was flying BA, MAD-LHR-SIN, then JL SIN-HND-ITM on another ticket, only to find at HND customs that the bag never left LHR, why should JL have to pay for something BA caused?


Of course, the other issue is, the airlines have made it so that for many routings people might want, it is impossible to book at the same time on the same ticket. It is the actions of the airline that prevents the booking of "complex" (or even just routes that that airline doesn't like such as QF with CBR-ADL-DOH-FCO instead of CBR-MEL-DXB-FCO) flight routes.

Or plans might not be fully locked in, but you need to book that long hual flight now. eg, I might be going to ORD, DFW, SEA and BOS, but the order and length of the stops isn't confirmed, but I have to book that flight to LAX now while it's still available.


16 Nov 2011

Total posts 586

 Actually the carrier that is responsible is the first or accepting carrier, not the last carrier.


 And the core issue isn't baggage but passengers. Currently if the accepting carrier accepts you and through checks you on a different PNR, then if they have any delays they are essentially responsible for ensuring you get to the destination they checked you through to.

So to use your example of BA, MAD-LHR-SIN, then JL SIN-HND-ITM, if either of the BA flights were delayed and you missed SIN-HND, then BA would have to get you to ITM. Despite them getting no revenue what so ever on your JL flights.

In Australia and with Qantas I see this being a bit of an issue for domestic connections. A number of OneWorld carriers don't 'sell' QF domestic connections, so if you now book your QF domestic connection and international non QF OneWorld carrier flights seperatly you will have to collect your bags and transfer yourself. In MEL it won't be an issue, but Sydney...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Apr 2016

Total posts 6

Are you able to ask Qantas while checking in to link the PNRs so that they become checked through? Do you believe Qantas will be more happy to provide this service based on the colour of Oneworld crystal is embeded in your FF card?  

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2438

That's what this story relates to, Charlie – you can currently do this with Qantas, but you won't be able to from September 1 2016.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Apr 2016

Total posts 6

I still wonder if status will weigh in on an airlines decision to check your bags through on multiple PNRs. 

22 Jun 2013

Total posts 95

You would hope that Qantas would endeavour to go "above and beyond", as OW terms it, for its high level frequent flyers...

British Airways - Executive Club

28 Mar 2014

Total posts 70

I assume this means having to obtain a visa  to collect baggage if a journey is booked on multiple pnrs? How on earth does OW think this will enhance the travelling experience  for passenger of ground staff?

Instead of cheving in just once multiple check ins may now be necessary - and less time in the lounges  :-(

Not a great idea to alienate your custimers OW!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Mar 2015

Total posts 11

Very interesting. I have a Singapore Airlines ticket from Perth - Istanbul and an Aegean ticket from Istanbul - Athens. Without the Star Alliance through check-in this would not be possible. I think I'm definitely sticking with Star Alliance after this news. Anyone else feel the same way?

15 Jun 2016

Total posts 3

According to the Star website, its thru check-in policy is the same as the one oneworld has just introduced "To have baggage checked-in on flights that are operated by Star Alliance member carriers, the flights must be included in the same booking record." I guess, as with oneworld, each Star airline can choose to thro check on separate bookings if they want.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Mar 2015

Total posts 11

I spoke to Singapore Airlines who confirmed that they would check my bags through all the way to Athens.
Worst case scenario, the transfer desk at Istanbul would ensure re-tag the bag and give me a new baggage receipt at the gate 


07 Aug 2015

Total posts 15

Hi Yanos - I am disappointed with ABT highlighting this matter again as a oneworld attitude.  As I wrote in reply to a previous article its the same policy as Star Alliance who caught me on it 3 years ago!  What Perth will do withy your bag tag I do not know, but I can assure y ou when I wanted a bag tagged SIN-ARL via LHR on SQ first and a separate PNR on SAS LHR-ARL I was forced to land in LHR, collect my bags, recheck them at SAS despite SQ knowing in their sysyem I was on an SAS connection not booked through them. The check in mananger at SQ Changi even showed me a written instruction to all check in staff not to through check unless the sector had been BOUGHT through SQ.  It's all about money not passenger convenience.  If you need a visa to land in what you thought was a transit airport it could be disastrous.   Why ABT has not mentionned the Star Alliance situation being the same is astonishing. .

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Mar 2015

Total posts 11

Hi Dennis, I think the may just be a case of who your check-in person is. I have had no issues going PER-IST-ATH in the past, but going back the other way I've had to go to a transfer desk. I'm yet to have been forced to get my bags and check in all again at the transit airport. 

British Airways - Executive Club

17 Feb 2015

Total posts 9

BA's comment is already posted:

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Feb 2013

Total posts 44

The Qantas response in this article unfortunetly confirms my thoughts that they are now just an LCC, but with old planes. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 May 2011

Total posts 44

I have an AA booking in July that was made under the very assumption (and confirmation from AA) that a through-connection was acceptable and would be respected.

With this change being announced last week it completely undermines the flexibility that I sought in making a Qantas Australia-LA booking at an early date, followed by the requried AA booking at a later date when my itinerary was more assured. 

The most pain however is felt in the difference in pricing. For an economy return flight, LAX-JFK I paid A$850 with AA. For the same seats on the same flights but booked through Qantas as a codeshare flight on AA (for the sake of a single PNR), I was quoted A$1600.

As has been written in the article above, AA has said they are "not changing anything at this time" and will continue to honor multiple PNR's on oneworld flights. Can anyone give some reassurance as to the credibility of this for my travel in July? 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Apr 2014

Total posts 34

Hi can anyone help as I am booked on a paid BA business flight to London connecting to separate Cathay flight home on the same day in September my reason for selecting one world , will my luggage be checked through by BA  to the CX flight ? 

I don't think so. Highlight likely with these changes that you'll have to collect bags and re-check. Good luck!

20 Feb 2012

Total posts 66

Interestingly in the past I have had issues with through checking baggage with the Virgin when I had my MEL-SYD booked on points and SYD-AUH in cash. While I was able to convince the gate agent at the time they said they don't normally do this. This was when they were on the old reservation system.

I realise this article is about OneWorld but can someone confirm what Virgin's current policy is.


30 Jul 2015

Total posts 106

People need to wake up!  "Enhancements" means to the airlines bottom line, NOT to customers.  This sneaky "enhancement" is a way to discourage people from booking seprate tickets (which can result in great savings) if one knows what they are doing.  Ticketing multiple segments on the same pnr can cost considerably more at times...and the airlines know this. 

They also know that humans are lazy and wish not to claim bags only to recheck!   But for the right price, Ill reclaim my bag and recheck...I just know Ill have to allow more time.  BUT as others have commented.  Travel agents are on the rise again. Welcome back!


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1524

There are many instances when TA will not help – for example if I book some sectors by money and some by points. Also if there is no monetary penalty I always try to make separate booking – it is easier to change one sector if you need to late; well so often company became very stubborn to change anything once journey began.

And while I understand where such “enhancements” came from I fail to see how they enhance my travel experience.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 316

I agree with you.  I often find that trying to book multi-leg sectors or routings that are presented by the airline are sometimes much more expensive.  I can break up the flights and book them individually and usually able to save a few $.  Also, i often book international sale fares, and then book the domestic connecting flights at my convenience later.  Doing it at the same time usually means a higher fare.

Does it always mean a higher fare though?

That was what I was alluding to with fare rules of the different segments. Travel agents whom I have consulted suggest that the fare rules will not be a problem with multiple segments/tickets on a single PNR.

However it becomes problematic when an airline forces a married segment.

Listen, at the end of the day water will find its level. We will find ways around this to benefit ourselves. We can't just sit passively and take it. There are always solutions.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Dec 2013

Total posts 2

I understand some airlines can link bookings. If so, does the concept of different booking still apply here? I have seen one PNR link to another PNR (i.e. commerical ticket + Points ticket) Or deadset rule just on actual ticket numbers?

14 Nov 2012

Total posts 12

I am also wondering about that...  went through the process of having my separate PNRs linked for a trip early September (Qantas flight, followed by AA flight) but now not sure of what process I will end up having to follow....

21 Aug 2015

Total posts 86

This is a really bad decision by OneWorld. Good on AA, the benefits of a more competitive market. Passengers can win. QF will always put themselves first, so with CX adopting the same policy, I'll be booking with CX. QF loses by potential SYD/HK wasn't a great connection anyway. (Its a pity QF management aren't smart enough to realise that a bit of extra service might get them some business when they are still flogging old 747s to HK and have a very limited product offer.)

19 Mar 2016

Total posts 7

Deeply disappointed in CX yet again. They are resting on their laurels as a premium carrier, while providing services at a standard well below. Who would ever have thought that MH or AA would provide superior service to CX?

Funny thing is, it wasn't so long ago (~5 years) that I was able to through-check luggage with CX onto a Star Alliance itinerary with multiple stops - and obviously separate tickets. I had the *A booking HKG-IST on TK, then IST-MUC-GVA on LH. At the last minute, I needed to take a trip to SIN, which was on CX. When I checked in in SIN, to my relief and delight, CX happily checked my baggage all the way through to GVA, once I provided them the onward itinerary. As it happened, that saved my bacon, as I arrived in Europe in the midst of the snowstorm chaos. Cancelled / rerouted flights and delayed were the norm, and I was no exception. My baggage did not make it to GVA, and the airport was a scene of carnage with piles of delayed luggage everywhere. I dutifully filed my claim, but Neither LH nor GVA airport were able to tell me anything about my luggage for several days. Eventually, I called CH in HKG, and they immediately traced the luggage - it had just arrived at GVA airport that morning. Armed with that knowledge, I went back to the airport, and was able to retrieve the luggage, even though the tracing system at the airport and on the LH website were not yet updated. 

Those were clearly the good old days, before cost cutting and penny pinching at CX made that kind of customer-centric service a thing of the past. 

Isn't it ironic that now, just as "customer centricity" seems to be sweeping all industries,  CX is running as fast as they possibly can in the opposite direction?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Jun 2016

Total posts 2

Any word on JAL here? Specifically JL domestic flights (which can only be booked 2 months prior to travel) connecting to oneworld (CX/QF) flights?

As an aside, any online travel agent who figures out a way to link separately issued tickets under a single PNR for a modest fee is going to make a killing…

25 Jul 2011

Total posts 17

I have a OneWorld RTW fare booked. I am travelling QF/KA/BA/AA. There are three PNRs, and so I expect to be impacted by the change. Spoke with some people in loyalty in Qantas, and they re-iterated that this is a OneWorld change. I told them that they ran real risk of losing business on this move. By reducing the service provided to match the competition, they are killing a differentiator, and make it more attractive to look at other partners.

It's a bad move all round.

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2438

It is certainly a 'Oneworld change', but Qantas is also permitted under those same Oneworld rules to offer a higher service level above the 'Oneworld minimum standard' if it chooses. Qantas is currently doing that (where it's under no obligation to continue doing so), but from September 1, Qantas has chosen to align itself with Oneworld's minimum standard rather than to continue offering this service.

Finnair - Finnair Plus

03 Nov 2016

Total posts 1

For some reason I am not able to find this policy change on oneworld website and still find under baggage section at that: "If you are travelling on connecting oneworld flights, your luggage will be checked through to your final destination at the time of check-in."

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