My brother recently flew on a flight from the USA to Africa involving three flights on three different airlines. When he checked in, the agent told him that it was impossible to check the bag all the way to the final destination as they did not have an interline agreement with the final airline. As a result, he was forced to pass through immigration/customs on arrival in South Africa to recheck the bag, missed the last flight of the day to Mozambique and spent the night at an airport hotel in Johannesburg (at the airline's expense).

I have a hard time believing that they could sell a ticket for an itinerary that does not allow the bag to be checked to the final destination. Was the gate agent correct or just incompetent? The itinerary was booked as a single ticket through one of the major online travel websites. Also, some of flights were codeshares, but I'm not sure if that makes any difference for luggage.

UPDATE: I know that on international to domestic connections it is usually necessary to clear immigration/customs and recheck the luggage. The same is true for an international to international connection in the USA, but in both of these cases all passengers are required recheck bags even though the luggage should be tagged to the final destination. I'm asking about a situation where I know that is possible to change planes without rechecking luggage, but for some reason depending on the ticket or airlines involved they will not check the bag through.


5 Answers 5


Yes, I have seen this on many occasions, on flights to USA, Europe and Australia with multiple connections.

The scenario is exactly as you describe - at the airport where they cannot be checked through, you need to pick up your luggage then check it back in for the next leg of your journey. A long as you plan for it, it ends up just being a mildly irritating time lag.

My guess is that it happens when the different airlines' systems aren't well integrated so cannot pass flight information through.

  • 1
    Interesting. Were these international to international connections or international to domestic connections? For an international to international connection (as in my brother's case), it seems there could be cases where a visa would necessary simply to recheck a bag!?
    – user27478
    Commented May 17, 2013 at 10:58
  • All were of the form domestic-international-domestic
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented May 17, 2013 at 11:01
  • 5
    Did you know that you needed to recheck the bags when you bought the ticket or did you only find out when you checked in and the agent couldn't tag the bag to the final destination? If we had known that he would have to recheck the bag, we would of picked a different schedule. In my opinion, it was impossible to clear immigration/customs, recheck the bag and pass through security again in the time he had for his stopover.
    – user27478
    Commented May 17, 2013 at 11:15
  • 1
    I think (trying to remember exactly) that I was informed when checking in that I couldn't check my bags all the way through, not when booking!
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented May 17, 2013 at 13:21

Yes, it is an there are many reasons why it can happen. The airlines not communicating is one of them but I think the most common reasons are policies of transit airports. This is why luggage is nearly always tagged to its destination with all flights and yet the passenger has to move it himself. In some airports there is an express way to check luggage back in but if they force you to pass immigration, it can take longer.

The international to domestic transition and vice-versa has already been mentioned and is particularly related to the airport policy. Since it can imply a terminal change, it can make logistics complicated. Airports may decide for any reason, including local and global laws and regulations, that they simply require passengers to collect their luggage and check it back it. This allows local people to validate, inspect and approve (or not) the luggage in question.

The best way to diminish the issue is to contact someone. The airline should know the policy based on which airport and terminal your flights are scheduled for. With this information you can decide to go through another route which I have done many times before or choose flights with longer transit times, depending on what is available. Just note that different regulations may apply going and back, so make sure to check both halves of the trip.

  • 1
    Please see my update to the question. I am aware of the cases where it's necessary for passengers to collect and recheck their luggage to clear customs, security etc., but in these cases all passengers must recheck and the luggage is still tagged to the final destination even if the passenger is forced to carry it themselves at some point. I'm asking if there is a case where a certain kind of ticket or combination of airlines makes it impossible to check the luggage to the final destination. This is different than asking if the passenger might have to carry their luggage at some point.
    – user27478
    Commented May 18, 2013 at 6:19
  • For simply not tagged, versus not checked, refer to the second sentence above: Airlines not communicating. In this case, insisting gently with the gate agent may help if he can enter information manually which is sometimes the case.
    – Itai
    Commented May 18, 2013 at 14:25

Without knowing which airlines were involved, I assume that noone is able to answer your question reliably, but it might very well be that the luggage really couldn't be checked through to the final destination.

Another common scenario for this is if the last leg of a multi-leg trip is a domestic flight. In this case, customs must be cleared at the first airport in the destination country. Unless there are any local facilities to make the process easier, this means that you have to go through immigration, pickup your luggage, clear customs, recheck your luggage and go through security before you can board your last flight.

  • 2
    I didn't put the names of the airlines because I wanted to ask a generic question about this situation. Regarding clearing immigration/customs when connecting international to domestic, the luggage is still checked to the final destination (look at the luggage tag) even though you may have to physically carry it yourself.
    – user27478
    Commented May 17, 2013 at 10:36

It has already happened to me, and I think the gate agent just made his work. Who sold you the ticket (be it a travel agency, a website, or so on) should have indicated that you would need to pick your luggage and check in again. And by doing so you (your brother) should have planned to have enough time to do so.

In general it happens in domestic - international - domestic flight, specially when customs are in the middle of the trip.


In the US, Southwest Airlines does not interline with anyone (except ATA on its codeshare flights), so it is impossible to check luggage through to or from a Southwest Airlines flight connecting to another carrier -- one of many reasons I won't fly on SWA.

I believe EasyJet and Ryanair have similar restrictions.

  • 1
    Yes, but I don't believe it's possible to buy a single ticket that would involve a connection between Southwest and another airline.
    – user27478
    Commented May 18, 2013 at 6:08
  • @user27478, You are correct, I missed the single-ticket part. BY definition, if one airline doesn't interline with another, you can't buy connecting tickets.
    – tcrosley
    Commented May 18, 2013 at 15:50

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