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In general, if I am traveling internationally with (in order):

  1. Domestic flight,
  2. International flight,
  3. Domestic flight,

all with different airlines, will I have to pickup and drop my luggage multiple times? And go through security multiple times? And where will my passport be checked: before 1) or before 2)?

Is it different if the airlines are the same? Is there a "common rule" or could there be exceptions?

I need to travel internationally through JFK and there are many options, with many airlines and different layover times. I need to know what I will be required to do, because some layovers are very short (50 minutes) and the time may not be enough.

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  • This is a dangerous idea. If one flight runs late, causing you to miss the next, your ticket is cancelled. I wouldn't risk this with less than 24 hours connection time.
    – ugoren
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 19:20
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    @ugoren: I wouldn't say "dangerous", depending on the circumstances. One time I flew from LAX-SYD with a separately ticketed cheap SYD-BNE leg a couple hours after landing. Booking LAX-BNE on one ticket would have been way more expensive. If I missed my connection, then I'd just have bought another cheap SYD-BNE flight as they are frequent. It was totally fine. Commented May 30, 2022 at 22:03
  • @gregHewgill Sure, if you know the consequences and take a calculated risk, that's fine. I doubt it's fine with OP to buy another international ticket if the first domestic is late.
    – ugoren
    Commented May 31, 2022 at 5:04

1 Answer 1

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Because there are so many variables, there is no "in general" answer to your question. Whether you can drop luggage in the first departure airport and retrieve it in the final destination airport can depend on (at least) these factors:

  • Where the flight(s) transfer or terminate. For example, if an international flight lands in the US, the arriving international passenger must pass through US Immigration, retrieve luggage, then pass through US Customs. (Even this, however, is subject to exception for arriving international travelers who departed from a non-US airport where USCBP maintains a preclearance facility.)
  • Whether the flights were ticketed on a single PNR or separately. Sometimes, a single PNR will indicate that the airline or airlines will handle the luggage "behind the scenes," allowing the traveler to drop luggage at first check-in, and retrieve it at the arrival airport ending the itinerary. Whether this can happen, however, will also be dependent upon the identity of both the airline(s) and the identify of the two airports in question.
  • The identity of the air carriers, and whether (if there are more than one carrier) the carriers have an interline agreement that allows the carriers to transfer luggage from one carrier to the other.

Thus: what you can or must do during your trip will depend upon the specific details of your itinerary, your ticket(s), and the identity of the airline(s) involved.

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    A good approach is to ask "Where is my luggage checked through to?" when you check in at the departure airport. If the answer isn't where your final destination is, start asking questions about what you need to do next (recheck your bags, transfer desk, customs procedures, etc). Commented May 30, 2022 at 0:05
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    On the first point, it depends. You do not have always to get luggage. A flight with American Airlines, from Europe (and not from a USCBP preclearance case), to the Caribbean through Miami does not need you to get your luggage at Miami. You are even prohibited to do so (happened to me after a missed connection where I had to stay during the night in Miami), there is a tag affixed on luggage making it clear for agents at Miami. Also the situation is vastly different in Europe where the concept of "Transit" exists, contrary to the US. Commented May 30, 2022 at 13:43
  • The reason for those rules in the US are that there are large numbers of local airports with no customs - "non-international airports". In Europe, basically all airports are international.
    – Aganju
    Commented May 31, 2022 at 4:22

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