Luggage and Connecting Flights
Not all flights are nonstop; for example, you might travel from LAX to Barcelona with a stop in JFK. So do you need to pick up your checked luggage in the baggage claim between flights and recheck it? What a hassle! Sometimes the connecting airport will secure your luggage and transport it onto the plane you will be using for your next flight. But not always, so pay attention to make sure your luggage won’t be lost!
Changing Airlines with Checked Baggage
Getting from point A to point B with your luggage intact proves a challenge if your trip calls for changes in airlines. Many airlines have interline agreements meant to make the transition of luggage ownership easier, but not all airlines have these contracts in place. It is the traveler's responsibility to verify that your luggage lands on the right flight with your chosen carrier. For trips that require more than one airline, take enough time to ensure that all your suitcases arrive when you do. You might have to claim and check your bag after multiple stops.
1. Note how many airline services you will use
Look at your ticket and note how many airline services you will use. If your boarding pass says you purchased a single ticket, that means your air travel is through one airline and you will not need to do any baggage transfers for your second flight. But, if it is different airlines, even if they are both domestic flights, you need to figure out how to transfer your baggage. Contact each airline by phone to verify that all the airlines you plan to use are partner airlines or have an interline agreement. Airlines like Frontier, Delta, and Lufthansa offer lists of partners on their websites.
2. Show each airline a copy of your itinerary
Show each airline a copy of your itinerary. Ask the staff to verify that no additional baggage fees will be charged. Also, compare the baggage limits for each airline. Some airlines, like Alaska Air, only take checked bags that weigh 50 pounds or less.
3. Visit the baggage terminal after every flight
Visit the baggage terminal after every flight. Check the suitcase tag, and replace the tag if it is missing or torn. If your layover is more than four hours long, keep your bags with you. Assume that you need to check your own bags through when flying internationally. When flying internationally, pay the checked bag fees with the largest or most prominent airline. You should not have to pay baggage fees twice on an international flight.
4. After every flight to claim your luggage
Stop at the baggage carousel after every flight to claim your luggage. Examine the bags to make sure everything is intact. Take the luggage to the next airline listed on your itinerary. Check the bags and pay any required fees with a credit card.
If you've traveled with checked baggage, you know that when all goes well, it ends up in the same place as you at the end of your trip – no matter how many connections you've made – unless you requested otherwise. What might remain unclear is what exactly happens to the checked luggage while its owners are in flight to ensure it ends up exactly where it's supposed to be. Unlike carry-on bags, your checked bags are out of sight while you’re in the air, but never out of mind.
Due to these complexities of navigating stopover flights and interline agreements, many flyers choose to just take carry-on luggage so they can avoid worrying about their checked bags. If it’s your first flight where you have had a connection and are unfamiliar with the baggage process, you can always ask a check-in agent at the check-in counter to familiarize yourself with the process to qualm your worries. Looking on social media for any tips and tricks can also be helpful as a first time flyer, but at the end of the day, the airline should be able to take care of you and get your luggage to your final destination!
Tie a bright-colored tag on your suitcase handle to make identifying it easier.
Some companies, like Alaska Air, no longer check bags through to the final destination if you present separate tickets at check-in. Allow yourself time between flights to check and re-check your baggage.