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Here's the situation: I'm flying to London for a school program (study abroad) out of Boston on a group flight, which my institution kindly paid for. I have the e-ticket for that flight in hand. I live across the country in Seattle, so I need to fly to Logan to catch the group flight. I would like to avoid doubling up on baggage fees & having to collect my bags at Logan, only to recheck them, so I would like to purchase my flight from Seattle to Logan as a connection, so the bags are just transferred to the next plane.

My questions are:

  1. Is this even possible to do?
  2. Would you have any advice about how to do it (the Logan-Heathrow flight is Virgin Atlantic)?
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3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Changing the routing of the ticket will require "re-issuing" of the ticket, and there's no way that's going to happen without a change fee unless it's a refundable ticket. Given it's an international flight, the change fee is probably at least US$250. For a group booking, changes like this will normally need to be made by the same person that made the original booking.

If you travel on different tickets then there's three issues you need to consider :

  • Baggage "interlining". Most airlines will "interline" bags between flights, even if they are on different tickets. This means that on the out-bound flight your bags will be tagged all the way through to your final destination, and you will not need to collect them at Boston. On the return flight it's a little different - they can tag the bags all the way to your final destination, but you will still need to collect them in Boston, clear customs, and then re-check the bags (which normally just means dropping them on a belt as they are already tagged)

  • Baggage fees. This depends very much on the airlines involved, but generally if you're on different tickets on different airlines then you're definitely going to have to pay baggage fees for the first leg. Even if the bags are interlined there's a very good chance that the second airline will charge you for them as well, as when you check-in you'll need to let them know that your bags have been interlined and show them the baggage tag.

  • Delays/missed flights. If your domestic and international flights are on the same ticket, then the airlines are required to get you to your destination - so if your first flight is delayed for some reason and you miss the international flight, they will need to put you on a later flight for the connection. If you're on 2 different tickets, they have no responsibility to do this, so if you're late getting into Boston and miss your outgoing flight, then it's your responsibility (and cost!) to change flights. So if you're doing it on two separate tickets, make sure that you have a sufficient lay-over to handle at least some delays (eg, I'd consider 4 hours to be a minimum if on separate ticket)

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Interlining looks like the answer I was looking for, thanks! How does one tell the airline I want to have my bags tagged as such? –  Drew Christianson Jan 1 '12 at 21:47
    
Just ask for them to do it at check-in. Make sure you've got a printout of the details for the other flight, including flight numbers, dates, and confirmation number as normally they will ask for it. –  Doc Jan 2 '12 at 4:20
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Virgin Atlantic have US Airways as their partners. Check with US Airways if they can check in your baggage all the way through, if you fly with them from Seattle. On the VA site they also state that Continental is their partner, I'm not sure if it is still the case though. If it is - check the same with United/Continental.

Generally, they shouldn't charge you baggage fees if you're flying on a transatlantic route (I had my bags checked in for free all the way through when I was connecting with AA to LAX from SJC for an international flight with a different company that AA was partnered with). But call the companies and verify that it is the case for US Air and Conti as well.

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If you book with the same airline, usually they can modify your booking. Certainly give Virgin a call and see if they fly from Seattle.

An alternative option I did in Almaty, Kazakhstan - I arrived on one airline and left on another. However with no visa for Kazakhstan (I was transiting) I couldn't get to my bags. I explained to an airport attendant, who helpfully went out, fetched my bag, retagged it for the new airport in Kyrgyzstan and sent it back into the system.

Of course, ideally you don't want to have to risk that - I only realised it could be a problem as I was flying into the airport. But it shows how much is possible!

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