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I'll be travelling to Austin from Surat (India) via San Francisco.

The itinerary is as follows

Ticket 1:

  • Surat <--> New Delhi - Air India
  • New Delhi <--> San Francisco - United

Ticket 2:

  • San Francisco <--> Austin - United

I have a twelve-hour layover in San Francisco. I wanted to know whether I can drop/checkin the baggage I pick up after landing in SFO immediately for my next flight so I can venture out in the city - without being burdened with carrying the bags everywhere.

From these two questions on the forum, it seems like a "baggage drop-off" counter exists at the SFO international arrival, however, this would only be a possibility if the bags are already marked for Austin. Which I'm not sure they would be since I booked the two United flights separately.

So my questions finally are:

  1. Will my baggage already be marked for Austin. If not, can they be (since it's the same airline)?
  2. Where and how do I request for my bags to be marked for Austin so I can avail this immediate drop-off at SFO? In Surat? In Delhi?

If I cannot get my luggage forwarded to my next flight (after customs/immigration) I would probably need to use a cloakroom - since I understand, I cannot check-in baggage for my domestic flight more than 2-3 hours prior to departure. I was hoping I could circumvent that!

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  • I'm sure someone here will be able to answer but why not just call United Airlines and ask?
    – ajd
    Jun 28 at 1:27
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    It's not clear - do you have 3 tickets, or two (ie, is STV-DEL-SFO on a single ticket)? How long is the layover in DEL?
    – Doc
    Jun 28 at 3:49
  • @ajd I've been trying to get in touch but the wait times run into 30-40 minutes. Also, it might be hard to explain my circumstances so precisely to them
    – srajangarg
    Jun 28 at 6:27
  • @Doc sorry for the confusion, clarified with an edit. The layover in Delhi is about 3 hours (but part of the same flight)
    – srajangarg
    Jun 28 at 6:27
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Will my baggage already be marked for Austin.

No. Separate tickets mean the bags will not be tagged to AUS if you bought SFO-AUS separately.

If not, can they be (since it's the same airline)?

The answer, unfortunately, is a pretty large maybe. I wouldn't count on it.

If you're purchased a separate SFO-AUS ticket, it may be theoretically possible for the check-in agent (either in Surat or New Delhi, depending on the answer to Doc's question, wherever you're starting this ticket) to link your separate tickets together and print a bag tag through to AUS. However, this apparently is a complicated process the agent may not know how to do, and it may be unavailable in some circumstances, such as if one of the tickets is a basic economy fare. And the agent you'll be talking to in Surat won't be a United agent, so they may well be unable to help.

What I'd personally do:

  1. When you check in in Surat (assuming you have purchased a single STV-DEL-SFO ticket; let us know if that's not the case), show the agent your separate SFO-AUS itinerary and ask if they can tag your bags through to Austin. I wouldn't really have high expectations of this working, especially as you won't be seeing a United rep in Surat at all, but you might as well ask I guess. If bag tags that say AUS on them come out of that process, perfect: you can drop your bags off again at SFO after customs.

  2. If you have a single STV-DEL-SFO ticket, you won't see your bags in DEL at all, so there's nothing to be done there.

  3. Assuming that didn't work, when you reach the baggage re-check area at SFO after customs, see if there's a United rep at the transfer counter. If so, show them your SFO-AUS ticket information and see if they'll take your bags. They may well not, but it's worth asking if there's not a long line.

  4. If that all fails, go up one level to the Airport Travel Agency and pay them to store your bags. It's not cheap. Pick them up when you return to SFO, walk to the next terminal (it's close and they're directly connected), and check in for your SFO-AUS flight.

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  • 2
    This is correct and thorough, but two things: as SFO is a major hub for United, it seems likely that there will indeed be a rep at the transfer counter to consult with. If they are unable or unwilling to accept the bag, it may be worth asking them (or trying without asking them) if it is possible to just check in the bag at the regular checkin counter. Although it may be early, United's baggage operation at SFO is quite possibly complex enough to be able to handle it. Of course, it may not work.
    – mlc
    Jun 28 at 5:00
  • Zach, thank you so much for the thorough answer. Your assumption about the single STV-DEL-SFO ticket is correct. I had the same steps in my mind as to how to approach this after following my research, nice to have it confirmed!
    – srajangarg
    Jun 28 at 6:32
  • @mlc thank you, hopefully, step 3 works if step 1 doesn't!
    – srajangarg
    Jun 28 at 6:33
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    The people at the baggage drop counter will absolutely NOT take the bag if it's not already tagged. They will direct you to check-in in Terminal 3, who will also NOT accept it more than 4 hours before departure.
    – Doc
    Jun 28 at 14:02

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