Why I just lost £104 (and nearly £416) to BA’s stupid new baggage policy

As I have mentioned a few times before on Head for Points, the oneworld airline alliance changed its rules on baggage handling late last year.  They told member airlines that they no longer had to check through baggage between member airlines when the flights were on separate tickets.

What this means is that if you buy a ticket from London to Hong Kong on British Airways and then a separately ticketed (different booking reference) flight on Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to Sydney, there is no requirement to check your bags through.  You would need to collect them in Hong Kong, pass through Hong Kong immigration, go to check-in and deposit your bags before passing back through security.

It’s a great idea, clearly ……  So great that some airlines, such as Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific, have already partially or completely back-tracked on it.

British Airways adopted this plan with gusto.  They were so keen that BA even banned checked through baggage between two of its own flights.  If you buy a cash ticket from Manchester to Heathrow to connect to an Avios ticket from Heathrow to, say, Tel Aviv – all on BA – you need to collect your bags in London, go landside and check them in again.

Why did this cost me £104 yesterday?

Due to work issues, my wife asked me to shorten our October holiday to the Middle East.  The only outbound Avios flight that now worked for us was Heathrow to Doha (BA), connecting to Doha to Dubai (Qatar Airways).

Now, here’s the thing.

The taxes and charges on Heathrow to Doha are £305

The taxes and charges on Doha to Dubai are £36

The taxes and charges on Heathrow to Doha to Dubai are £341 £445

Yes, you pay an extra £104 in taxes when you book this Avios trip on one ticket.

Why?  Mainly because BA adds a ludicrous £90 one-way fuel surcharge to the teeny tiny hop between Doha and Dubai when it connects to a BA flight.  BA pockets this money, it does NOT pass it to Qatar Airways.

If I book the two flights separately, I save £104.  Across a family of four, I save £416.

But …. if I book the two flights separately, we need to collect our luggage in Doha, pass through Doha immigation, pay for a Qatar visa, trek through Hamad Airport – which is the biggest free-standing building on the planet IIRC – and recheck our bags.

Do you think I’m doing that with two little kids in tow at what will be (UK time) 4am?  No chance.  Especially as it would force me to take a later flight from Doha than would otherwise be necessary.

British Airways BA 787

There is a partial solution

I have to say that the guy in the British Airways call centre in Newcastle who booked this for me was hugely apologetic about the stupidity of his own employers practices.  Luckily I had an idea which saved me 75% of the extra £416 in taxes I was looking at paying.

My wife is now travelling on a through ticket, at £445 tax.  All of our baggage will be checked through on her ticket.

My kids and I are on separate tickets for each flight, so the tax is ‘only’ £341 each.

I have therefore ‘saved’ £312 compared to what an uninitiated person who rang to make the same booking would have paid.  On the other hand, I have paid £104 more than I would have paid if British Airways had not imposed their stupid ‘no checked through bags’ baggage policy.

Of course, I would also not have needed to pay the extra £104 if BA was not adding ‘fake’ fuel surcharges onto third-party flights for no other reason than they connect to a BA service.  Adding a £90 fuel surcharge for the equivalent of flying London-Paris is ludicrous, especially when BA charges £0 fuel surcharge if that same flight is booked without a connection.

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Comments

  1. Nick Burch says:

    Wouldn’t it have been cheaper and easier to send your wife on the new flights via Doha, hand baggage only and on her own, with you and the kids keeping your existing flights for the longer trip and taking all the bags with you? I’m sure you and the kids would’ve had fun “without mum” in Dubai for the extra days too :)

    • Could still happen – I haven’t cancelled the earlier ones yet. No holiday with 2 kids on your own though :-)

      • Nick Burch says:

        It’d make staying in London to work into a holiday for your wife though… :)

    • I agree. I frequently travel alone with my two younger kids. You connect better and create lasting memories.

      • My requirement to work at least 4 hours a day on the site, even when on holiday, makes such an arrangement tricky. We might do it, but it effectively means putting the kids to bed by 9pm, working until 1-2am and then getting 4 hours sleep before they wake me at 6am. Rinse and repeat every day. Not easy.

        • Michael says:

          Not meaning to pry, but what do you mean about having to work four hours every day?

          • the real harry1 says:

            self-employed rules? 28 hrs/ week? heh heh – not important as his wife works full time

            just the minimum demands per day of the site, surely

          • Er, this thing :-)

  2. Graham Temple says:

    Frankly I have never understood why you are such a BA fan? Their prices are rarely the lowest and other airlines are way ahead on service.

    • the 2-4-1 vouchers clinch it for me…. How else do I get a family of 4 to Miami or Dubai in Club World for £2k and 200k Avios…..
      Appreciate the product is not the best by a long way, but its a flat bed, and that works for us.

    • Probably because he has in excess of a million Avios, with a steady stream coming in all the time, and therefore never has to (if he doesn’t want to) pay cash for flights.

    • 241 and Avios, I’ll put up with it for now

      • Kinkell says:

        Same here✈️

        • I thought that, but at present the Avios and charges on Aer Lingus to US make 241 not such a wonderful deal.

          • Is there really much difference between the avios you need for an Aer Lingus flight and a BA flight to US. I understand cheaper “taxes”, but not avios?

      • Anthony Dunn says:

        Same here but should BA ever dream of reneging on the Amex 241 booking (see previous postings) then it really will be game over and I will use up any Avios before taking all of my and my wife’s business elsewhere.

  3. On a slightly different subject, I’ve now booked two flights on BA to Miami and PAID for the tickets instead of going all the way on Avios. Why? I, used some Avios to save a bit, got an AVIOS contribution on the flights (so got some of my initial contribution back!) and it’s only cost me a fraction more than using Avios all the way because of the massive taxes associated with the flights. And I still have my balance of over 150,000 Avios in the account to use more efficiently. Win win – but boy did I have to go round the houses to figure this out….

  4. I recently flown BA (unfortunately) to the Maldives and my goodness they have come down from what they used to be, a day or so after the flight, I had one of those marketing research e-mails and I had my revenge for their bellow par service of late and I let them have a piece of my mind.

    • RussellH says:

      I always assume that those “marketing research e-mails” are sent a) because the new management guides say that you should b) because they hope that they will make you believe that they actually might take your comments, good or bad, on board.

      Taking this logic further, I assume that the replies go either c) all into a black hole or d) are scanned for a few specific glowing phrases, with the negative ones all diverted in to the black hoile and the good ones sent to a holding pen, from where they can be fished out to ‘prove’ just how good the company is.

      “No, m’lud, never get any serious complaints,”

  5. Concerto says:

    Even Rob’s going to become anti BA at this rate. I really don’t think they would get away with all these negative things in other European countries somehow. There are definitely other options out there, which I use.

  6. Wobbly Wings says:

    We all agree it’s ridiculous. They’re just milking their pax out of the monopoly they bullied the regulators to create. Nothing will change before IAG has to compete and at this rate and at this rate I am not sure when this will happen.

    Small suggestion: I wish we could at least agree to call the co-pay element of the awards as “taxes”. They are not, other taxes other than in a minor part. Let’s call them for what they are: charges, fees, co-pay, cash-requirement. Anything we want, but let’s stop calling them taxes. Or if we must let’s say “charges and taxes”. BA are keen to mislead that the cash element has nothing to do with them (taxes, oil prices), whereas it’s all to do with them.

    • Very true Wobbly Wings!

      • I call them “admin fees” when I have to explain them to anyone. I think this term is widely interpreted as the means by which the retailer rips off the customer!

        • Wobbly Wings says:

          I love “admin fees”! This is what we should all call them.
          Apologies for my initial post in haste (was in a hurry).

    • BA doesn’t actually call the YQ a tax; in the call centre we were taught to say “taxes, fees and carrier charges” – a mouthful but exactly what they are. The initialism TFCs makes it easier…

      It’s only because the YQ appears in the tax field on a ticket that the lazy generic term ‘taxes’ is used – it’s kind of like referring to a generic cola as Coke. Everyone knows what it means, nobody really tries to correct it, but pedants still know it’s not right…

      Start using the term TFCs and you’ll feel better.

  7. This. 241 is the only reason. If this is stopped or more stories appear of BA prioritising downgrading companions without compensation then I’ll so flying BA. Especially once the third runway appears at LHR and other airlines are given more slots.

  8. Axil23 says:

    To me even a 2-4-1 doesn’t make sense. Lets looks at Dubai for instance. AA requires 170k plus £200 tax. BA requires 120k + £1000 tax. Yes its 50k cheaper but you end up paying £800 extra. AA lets you fly EY on their A380’s with 4 across and with BA you get well BA.

    • But that assumes you can generate 170k AA miles easily ….

      • Do AA have a shop Rob? That’s the only I can think it could work?

        • There is a mall, yes. And they have a UK credit card and they are a Starwood transfer partner at the usual decent 1:1.25 rate. But 170k is still a lot ….

  9. Mr Cinnamon says:

    The 241 is the clincher for me, plus relatively easy to collect Avios from many non-flight purchases.

    Poor availability of reward flights has led to me booking trips to places I would not normally have considered visiting and so far not been disappointed with the destinations.

    Upcoming First returns to Tokyo for £500 each is a bargain.

    • Oh yeah? Any other sweet spots? Mexico City seemed to have decent availability.

    • I agree, there’s no way I’d be able to take the family on holiday in CW otherwise. Now if another airline and credit card offered something comparable…

  10. Rob – I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous!! No wonder you felt compelled to vent your rage. My traditional thoughts were one of the perks of a legacy operator like BA was the ability to connect with ease. Re-checking baggage is one thing (which one might be able to handle) but charging for that privilege is obscene.

  11. How is it possible to pre-arrange a visa for Qatar fee-free, if not flying QR?

    • Don’t think you can

      • Didn’t know that. Makes the situation even more of a pain then.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          only $20 on arrival though so cheaper than the BA surcharges

          As you say hassle factor with the kids so makes sense. Flying QR first to Dubai?

          • the real harry1 says:

            compared to their demanding road licence test it’s not so bad – didn’t have to do it until we got their police commissioner in London for drunk driving, then he retaliated

            1. reverse hill start up a 45 degree hill (artificial slope)
            2. dodging in and out of stupid bollards about 4m apart plus reverse parking into a slot
            3. show your road skills by driving on the real (empty) road – PS there are 3 Indian chappies in the back waiting their turn.

            All at 4am as it was Ramadan.

  12. OT…can i book Marriott reward stay abroad for my mum and dad?

    • Yes, just make sure you put a note in the booking saying your parent will check in. If you ring the call centre they may (or may not) be willing to change the name on the booking, otherwise name one parent as 2nd guest.

  13. SimonS says:

    Looks like you are beginning to despise them like the rest of us!

    I only book BA shorthaul on merit now (i.e. not very often) and if it were not for 241’s and my banked Avios then I would have already seriously looked at alternatives for longhaul.

    Death by a thousand cuts is not a pleasant way to go…

  14. I understand your annoyance; I too would be cheesed.

    However, imagine this article is read by someone at BA who could make a difference; do we think their reaction would be:

    a) That’s wrong and annoying, I should fix that discrepancy.
    or
    b) I just brought in £104 of revenue! Result!

    I think we know the answer and how much is likely to change…

  15. George says:

    Sounds like you lost that money because you booked an award flight through BA that charges a fuel surcharge, not because BA won’t check your baggage through.

    Had they checked it through you could have saved that money, but that’s not actually the same thing. These are two separate tockets for flights on two separate carriers and your frustrations aside, it was your choice to book it that way.

    I think cross-checking baggage was a great benefit when it existed, but gosh… the entitlement in your post is ludicrous and very off-putting, not to mention misplaced and simply inaccurate.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Wha exactly is the point of the Oneworld alliance if they don’t make it easy for you to travel on each others services?

  16. What's the Point says:

    We have an Avios booking with Cathay – Bali to Hong Kong which lands in HK at 21.00. The same night we have a BA Avios booking onto LHR departing HK at 23.45.
    Would Cathay book our checked bags through all the way to LHR?
    If they don’t is the time between flights enough to check back in?

    • Cathay are really good about checking through luggage, remember they were the first to reject this absurd one world policy, due to pressure from premium pax. And yes you have time, only problem is if your Bali flt is delayed leaving. Rarely happens with CX. Have you looked at earlier availability from DPS to HKG? Might be worth changing. Or spend a few hours by the harbour if you can only get an earlier flight. We have done that route many times, and usually have around a few hours in the Pier. or the Wing.. Fab places.

      • There is only one flight a day DPS HKG on CX.

        • Or dragonair? Is that still going?

          • Yes there is a KA flight twice weekly but even if it runs on the day that What’s the Point is travelling it is even worse – it gets into HKG at 2330! The current 2h 45m connection should be ample at HKG.

          • what's the point says:

            Thanks for your advice. Will stick with what we have and ask nicely at DPS check in.

    • I took that flight on Sunday CX DPS-HKG. We got in about 21.45 I think. Technical difficulties with the 777 at DPS.

  17. Chelseafi says:

    O/T just received my new virgin white credit card, I now want to refer my OH before the extra signup points drop back down, unlike Amex online account I can’t find any option or link to email? Do they offer bonus points for refer a friend? any advice, thanks

    • Genghis says:

      MBNA might send you an email. I got one out the blue (but quite a bit after Rob)

      • Ditto, I got my email with referral link about 4 months after opening the card. I had contacted both MBNA and VS prior and neither of them knew anything about the referral scheme!

  18. It seems even the chap who runs head for points is realising BA are turning into that all important budget airline!
    Perhaps it is time we simply labelled it as such considering what is happening with the airline and just deal with it!.

    Perhaps there should be more enthasis on other reward point programs.
    If H4P contact other airlines to see how best to advise us of some great opportunities else where..

  19. The statement in the article “They told member airlines that they no longer had to check through baggage between member airlines when the flights were on separate tickets” suggests that it *could* be done in discretionary circumstances. The posts here indicate otherwise.

    I recently returned HAV-MAD and MAD-LHR on separate tickets, I asked at HAV check-in if they would check our bags through to London, and was told “no problem” – then they got the booking up on the system, and said it wasn’t possible as it was separate tickets. I asked why, and was told it was a new policy introduced about a month earlier (i.e. January). They said they used to do it, but now they could not, the system would not allow it. They could not explain the reason for the new policy of course…

  20. Rob – glad to see this is still open.

    Thinking about booking a one-way 241 (Lloyds Avios) to Doha and then a connection with Qatar to Male using BAEC Avios. The connection is just 1hr 15. Will I categorically be forced to re-check? If so, that presumably waves goodbye to that connection? Is there a way of combing tickets? Frustrating that the Lloyds Avios wont let you bolt on Qatar flights.

    Any ideas much appreciate.

    Of course if LGW to Male was remotely accessible it would be a no brainer.

    • Nothing you can do – unless you don’t use the voucher, in which case it will all be on one ticket and will be checked through.

  21. Lady London says:

    Have just been done over again by BA not honouring a fare offer when their website failed and I’ve got proof.

    Rob surely the mountain of air miles you’ve got that you earned before Head for points can be the only reason you ever fly them now?

  22. Worzel says:

    Not a nice term and not warranted in IMO- hopefully Rob will use his rubber (eraser for those across the pond) to delete!

  23. This has happened to me before including when I paid £10 to reserve the flights but they could not recognise the res number.
    Plus the airfare was £186 more then the previous day.
    Funny thing was less then a week later it dropped back down but I decided to book with Thai airways instead.
    Silk class brought a whole new meaning to business class just ackward flight times for what I needed.

    “Giving BA club world one last chance in May”