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I have a fairly complex itinerary in terms of ticketing which left me stumped in terms of codeshares and the process around checking in, which is potentially applicable across multiple airlines. (For what it's worth, this is all with Oneworld carriers which could make a difference as they are part of the same airline alliance.)

My itinerary was booked through Expedia - with Japan Airlines as the primary carrier as far as I understand - which is something as follows:

  • Outbound
    • LHR-HEL: JAL codeshare operated by British Airways
    • HEL-KIX: JAL codeshare operated by Finnair
    • KIX-HND: JAL flight (on JAL metal)
  • Inbound (10 days later)
    • NRT-HEL: Finnair codeshare operated by JAL
    • HEL-HLR: Finnair flight (on Finnair metal)

The associated Oneworld frequent flier number associated with the itinerary is my British Airways Executive Club number, and I have the individual airline-specific PNRs for each carrier as well.

When I initiate the web checkin flow with any of the three airlines, it throws me to the BA website to continue with check-in. (Only for outbound leg, of course.) Unfortunately, this is where the checkin process seems to end, as British Airways checks me onto the first flight on BA metal (but JAL codeshare) and then lists the following flights as "not available" for check in.

In a scenario like this, where the airline-specific PNRs are available, which airline should a traveller check in with to be able to check in to all flights in a leg of the itinerary?

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    In my experience, attempts to check in with the wrong carrier have been greeted with a specific (and correct!) instruction about which carrier to check in with, resulting in a loss of maybe one or two minutes of my time at most. I have also on occasion been unable to check in for all legs of an itinerary for one reason or another, but have always been able to pick up boarding passes at one airport or another with minimal inconvenience. – phoog May 18 '18 at 20:26
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You always check in with the operating carrier of the first flight. In your case, that would be British Airways. This is true both for online check-in, as well as at the airport/baggage drop/etc.

What happens after that can vary.

Depending on the carriers involved, their policies, and their computer systems, the first carrier might be able to give you boarding passes for all flight, or they might only be able to give you one/some. Which flights they can check you in for might be the same online as at the airport, or they might be able to check you in for additional flights at the (first) airport.

In some cases, if the first carrier is not able to check you in/give you boarding passes for the subsequent flights you may be able to do that online with the operating carrier for that flight. For example, I recently flew with United Airlines connecting to Oman Air. United was unable to check me in for the connecting flight, but I was able to do it myself online (on the Oman Air website) without any issues.

In your specific case, all carriers are OneWorld airlines, so there is a good chance the initial carrier (BA) will be able to give you all boarding passes, but if not, simply go to the transfer desk in either Helsinki and/or Osaka and they will be able to give you the boarding passes for the connecting flights. You WILL be able to check your bags all the way to your final destination, although I suspect you will need to collect them in Osaka being your first point of entry into Japan.

  • Update: In this case, BA's online checkin flow was not able to handle the subsequent flights, but it was generated at the first airport at the checkin desk as their system could. – Ankur Banerjee May 20 '18 at 21:49
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Always check in with the airline operating the initial flight in your itinerary. In this case, you'll check in with British Airways for your outbound flights, and with JAL for your inbound flights.

Whether you can check in to all flights on the itinerary will depend a little on the arrangements the airlines have with each other, but typically (and in my own experience), you can check into all flights with the initial checkin, although sometimes you may not be able to select a seat with codeshare airlines. I've also run into the issue where I had to print or get a boarding pass at a connecting airport.

  • The flights are business class, so I could already allocate seats for myself through JAL's manage booking system - not too worried about that that. But yeah, initial carrier was my guess and what made me ask was wondering why the checkin process ended after the first flight only. Guess I'll have to end up grabbing it at the airport(s)! – Ankur Banerjee May 18 '18 at 20:22
  • @Ankur You could always try checking in at the appropriate time using the codeshare flights' PNR code. – Jim MacKenzie May 18 '18 at 20:28

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