1

Note: I'm aware that some countries (e.g. the USA) require you to pick up your luggage on international flights. This question assumes that there is no such legal requirement.


When booking multi-city international flights under a single reservation, under what conditions, by default, is my luggage transferred automatically across two consecutive flights? Note that these are not booked as "connecting" flights, but rather separate flights under a single booking.

For example, I imagine that if two consecutive flights are separated by 1 hour, then my luggage should be transferred automatically, but if they are separated by 1 week, then they shouldn't. So what exactly is the in-between cutoff? Is it listed on airlines' websites somewhere? Or is it listed under the fare rules? And is it something I have any control over (and if so, how do I request what should be done)?

(I'm just looking for a general rule of thumb here... if you think it differs widely across airlines or countries, then please just give a couple of contrasting examples for two popular countries or airlines.)

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    How do you distinguish between "connecting" and "separate flights under a single booking"? – Henning Makholm May 18 '16 at 7:07
  • @HenningMakholm: Well, when you book it, you either place the connecting stop explicitly (making it a multi-city booking), or you don't. It also appears differently on the itinerary -- for the itinerary I have in front of me, the entire forward direction is "Flight 1", even though it's actually two connecting flights with an airline change noted. However, the return path (which again only has 1 stop) consists of "Flight 2" and "Flight 3", because I placed a stop explicitly in the middle. I don't know if all itineraries are like this, but mine is. – Mehrdad May 18 '16 at 7:11
  • x @Mehrdad: The bookings I have made just consist of a list of legs some of which happen to be on the same days. This has generally been true no matter whether I constructed it via a search engine that added connections on its own initiative, or I emailed the corporate travel agent a list of individual flights to book. – Henning Makholm May 18 '16 at 7:17
  • @HenningMakholm: Well I'm just telling you what's in front of me so I guess our experiences have been different. – Mehrdad May 18 '16 at 7:33
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Baggage will normally be transferred automatically if you are on a multi-segment trip consisting of transfers (connections) rather than stopovers. A transfer is normally 4 hours or less on a domestic itinerary and 24 hours or less on an international itinerary. If the itinerary consists of multiple airlines, the airlines must have an interline baggage agreement to allow the automatic baggage check-through. On some airline combinations, this may also occur even if the itinerary consists of separate tickets.

Certain airlines and airports may have other restrictions, for example a given airport may not allow baggage to be checked through if there is an overnight layover at that airport, even though it would be allowed if the layover was the same duration during the day.

If your baggage is checked-through to final destination, the final destination and intermediate transfer airports will be shown on the bag tag, so it is useful to glance at this to make sure it has your intended destination on it; sometimes your bag will be checked-through to a different airport than you were expecting.

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The general rule of thumb is if it is a single ticket on the same airline or their partner airlines, then your baggage will be checked through to the final destination for that day's flights. (that "day's flights" being a series of flights you can check in for at one time, which may cover several calendar days)

If it is a single ticket using multiple non-aligned airlines (such as through a travel agent or 3rd party booking sites), then the ability to check bags through would depend on the interline agreements in place between each pair of connecting airlines.

The allowable time for not claiming bags at layovers varies depending on airport and airline policies. I have had to claim bags during an 8 hour layover and have checked bags through with a 22 hour layover. This is an aspect that only the airline can answer with certainty.

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    Also, an airport change usually requires carrying your luggage yourself between the two airports. (You'd think this should be obvious, but the question appears here sometimes...) – fkraiem May 18 '16 at 4:56
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Generally, if the stop is inserted in a flight section by necessity (to change planes or such), the luggage is checked through.

If you book the section of the flight to a city, and then another section from there on, you make that stop happen, and then you get your luggage out.

There are exceptions, like when your layover is very long, or if you ask to have your luggage not checked through; and at the end it all depends on the airline and its internal policies.

If you want to know for sure for a specific case, you have to ask them (and it might still be different later).

  • +1 awesome, just the kind of answer I wanted. One last detail: in general, if you ask them to check your luggage through (and the duration of the stop is reasonably short etc.) when they would not have done it by default, will they do it for you? – Mehrdad May 18 '16 at 2:59
  • If they can do it, they would do it by default. You would have to ask to not do it. – Aganju May 18 '16 at 3:03
  • OK I'm confused then. I thought you just said they won't do it unless the stop was inserted as a necessary connection rather than manually by me... but now you're saying if they can do it at all, they will do it. Which one is it? – Mehrdad May 18 '16 at 3:06
  • There really isn't a hard and fast rule I think. The only way to be absolutely certain is to clarify this at the counter when you check your bags in. I always try to eyeball the airport code on the tag to make sure it is correct (and a good airport agent will make a point of explicitly bringing this up). As a default, I would say they will check your bags through unless there is an unusually long gap. If there is such a gap (say a 20 hour layover), you need to clarify that with them at check in. – Zach Lipton May 18 '16 at 3:30
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    @Mehrdad: The fact that I the tickets I have seen do not contain any such distinction seems to me to strongly suggest that the distinction doesn't exist in the airline's backend. If it did, I would expect it to be visible on all bookings. – Henning Makholm May 18 '16 at 8:40

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