Revised rules for handling checked baggage on connecting Qantas and American Airlines flights could add time and hassle to your next stateside trip.
Despite the two airlines' joint venture across the Pacific, check-in staff are no longer obliged to tag your baggage through to your final destination from September 1 2016 if your flights are booked separately rather than under the one reservation.
Instead, those bags will only be tagged as far as the destination shown on each individual booking – not where you’re actually headed at the end of the trip.
Both Qantas and American Airlines have confirmed the new arrangements to Australian Business Traveller.
It won't make much difference on flights into the USA, as travellers need to collect and re-check their bags at the point of entry – a process with which most Qantas flyers into Los Angeles are quite familiar.
Where things will get more complicated is the return journey if you're using American Airlines to fly from any US city to Los Angeles, Dallas or even San Francisco to connect with a Qantas flight back home.
For example, if you have one booking with AA from Chicago to Los Angeles and a separate booking with Qantas from Los Angeles to Australia, you’ll have to collect your checked bags from the carousel at American's LAX Terminal 4, schlep them around to the Tom Bradley International Terminal, then line up to check it in again with Qantas.
There’s also that second sweep at security to make time for, which you wouldn’t need to worry about if your bag had been tagged to travel all the way through to Australia.
American Airlines makes just one exception, and that's where one of your flights is booked using frequent flyer points and the other paid for with real money – in which case, check-in agents will still be able to check you right through.
The fix: booking flights separately but ‘together’
Making multiple flight reservations on their own can sometimes make sense – particularly if you’re the type to lock in your long-haul journey as soon as a trip is approved but then wait to book your US domestic flights only after shoring-up meetings with Stateside suppliers or clients.
That’s where a great travel agent can really come in handy: they’ll be able to sidestep these new baggage policies by joining all of your flights under the one booking, which is the key to having your bags checked through as normal.
Just tell your travel agent these magic words: “If my trip needs to be booked under multiple ticket numbers, please ensure that all tickets are attached to a single PNR to enable Oneworld through-check.”
(Consider writing that one down – the terms might sound foreign to you, but any decent travel agent will know exactly what you mean and what to do.)
As the alternative, if you’re ready to book your entire trip you could also visit the Qantas or American Airlines website and perform a ‘multi-city’ search to keep everything together.
But remember that the cost for doing so may be higher than having a travel agent make separate bookings.
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