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My wife and kids are arriving in JFK in a couple of weeks (Air India) and have a flight to Atlanta (Delta). Separate tickets but they have enough connection time.

My question is about baggage. I understand they need to pick up baggage, clear customs and check in again to Delta. I took a similar route a few years back (DXB JFK ATL) and I remember being able to drop bags off at a delta bag drop counter immediately after customs.

Is this still true? Is there a baggage drop off counter after customs before going to the other terminal for security and then to the Delta gate? Or should she take the baggages herself all the way? Which would be a hassle because of small kids.


Update after the travel: Air India in BLR were not able to (or not ready to) check her bags all the way. May be staff in DEL would have known better. I traveled to JFK to help because neither of us were very confident of her managing the luggage and kids. There were multiple bag drop counters in the arrival level but none of them were staffed so we (and everyone) had to go to the departures level to check in. @chx was right about that.

  • On your previous travel, did you buy separate tickets as well? – Willeke Sep 13 '20 at 10:01
  • Previous travel was a single ticket. – Nivas Sep 13 '20 at 13:46
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  1. The bag drop after customs has check in desks. Although it is not unheard of DL to quietly neglect staffing them. International arrivals at JFK and DL is ... ... ... sorry the FCC rules require beeping out the rest of the sentence. So you might need to actually to make the trek to a DL desk.
  2. But you can try to avoid it by preparing at the start. Looking at GDS, AI has several agreements with DL, including what you will be most interested in, which is "MAY CHECK BAGGAGE TO". Check in to the DL flight online, print your own boarding pass and ask AI to check your baggage through using that boarding pass. They have no obligation to but they can do it and if you are landing at JFK with AI then you must come from DEL and since that's their main hub, it's more likely to have staff who knows how to enter such a thing -- but they will likely need your DL boarding pass as I said. Try this: "I will transfer in New York and I know I need to pick my luggage up and re-check it but still, could you please save me some time and tag it for me all the way through? I have my Delta boarding pass should you need it."
  • I’m not sure if it would actually be the best option to check in online and then ask for the bags to be checked through the final destination. I would probably ask the check-in staff first, it may be easier for them to actually link the two bookings first and do the check-in for both. Maybe have the DL check-in prepared on your mobile and ready to go, and only do it if check-in staff tell you it’s the better option. – jcaron Sep 13 '20 at 11:46
  • This is very useful. I did not know then was even an option. I will ask my wife to check. (She starts at BLR, BLR-DEL is a domestic/feeder flight.) – Nivas Sep 13 '20 at 13:46
  • @jcaron I would be absolutely shocked if Air India could check in a Delta passenger. But even if they can, being checked in once wouldn't matter, you can check in a passenger as many times as you want. Unrelated anecdote: when it's time for VDB vouchers, it can actually be rather lucrative to check in multiple times, UA offered a measly $120 on my first check in to take a later flight, on second check in a few minutes later, UA offered a much better $400 which I happily took. – chx Sep 14 '20 at 2:58
  • Update after the travel: Air India in BLR were not able to (or not ready to) check her bags all the way. May be staff in DEL would have known better. I traveled to JFK to help because neither of us were very confident of her managing the luggage and kids. There were multiple bag drop counters in the arrival level but none of them were staffed so we (and everyone) had to go to the departures level to check in. You were right about that @chx – Nivas Oct 15 '20 at 3:35
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Typically the bag drop after customs is designed for bags that are already checked through and tagged, which normally requires this to be a single ticket. It's easy enough to check: if the tag on the bags say JFK you need to go to Delta check in counter and have a new tag put on. If it says ATL, you can simply drop it off directly after customs.

You will also need a Delta boarding pass, but you can potentially check in online with an app.

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