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British Airways stops ‘two ticket’ bag transfers and disruption protection – even to other BA flights

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Back in mid May, a HfP reader sent me some gossip which I found a little hard to believe and which I couldn’t verify.  oneworld alliance airlines would no longer be required to check baggage through to other oneworld airlines from 1st June when travelling on separate tickets.

This means that if you were flying from London to Berlin on British Airways for cash and then onwards on an Avios redemption on airberlin to Abu Dhabi (which is an amazing value redemption) British Airways is no longer required to check your bags through.  You would need to collect them in Berlin and recheck them.

1st June came and there was no announcement – not surprisingly, as I was told that this would be done very quietly in the hope that no-one noticed.  Slowly but surely examples started to emerge.  Not from British Airways but from Cathay Pacific.

British Airways has, finally, now made an announcement and it isn’t good news:

From 1 June 2016, the oneworld policy on accepting customers travelling on separate tickets was changed. BA, along with our oneworld partners, has implemented this change in policy which is as follows:

Only those customers that have separate tickets issued in the same PNR/booking for flights operated by a oneworld partner, will be accepted for through check-in.

If you are changing between oneworld airlines on the SAME ticket you do not have a problem.

It will only apply when you are connecting to another oneworld flight on a separately booked ticket, which is likely to be the case if you are mixing an Avios ticket with a paid connection.

This is, to be honest, a bit of a kick in the teeth for customers who thought that by booking flights with members of the same alliance they could have an easier time.  There could be real issues here, especially if you need to exit the airport in order to check in your baggage before clearing security again.

You may even need to obtain a visa pre-travel for the country where you are transiting in case you are required to go landside to re-check your bag.  This is not scaremongering from me, this is what Cathay Pacific has written in their own guidelines:

Please remind passengers opting to travel on two tickets that additional connecting time at their transfer point might be required as they will be required to re-check in either after landing or at the transfer point depends on each airport’s set up and facilities. Landing visa for transfer point might also be required.

BA will not even check baggage to other British Airways flights

In a separate document issued to the travel trade, BA has said that it will not even check baggage through to other British Airways flights now if each flight is on a separately booked ticket.

This is slightly crazy because BA is creating extra work for itself by having to check your bag in twice.  It is VERY possible that you might be mixing two British Airways flights on separate tickets.  If you live in Manchester and cannot get an Avios redemption on short-haul to match your long-haul redemption, you may well decide to pay cash.  That will now cause you serious difficulties.

You will have another snag.  You will no longer benefit from the rule that says you get the highest luggage allowance carried across to other flights.  This means that if you paid cash for a Manchester to Heathrow to connect to a Heathrow to Miami on Avios, you may end up paying for additional luggage on the short haul flight – even if you are inside your allowance on the long haul flight.

Whether going BA to BA or BA to oneworld, it is possible that you may have existing flight bookings where it will now be impossible for you to make your connection due to the time required to do this.

It might reduce overcrowding in airport lounges though – by the time you’ve got your bag and queued up to check it in again, it will be time for your next flight.

For the record it is worth noting that Cathay Pacific, in a similar document to travel agents, has specifically said that it WILL continue to transfer baggage to other Cathay or Dragonair flights on separate tickets.

Disruption protection has also been removed

There was also an unwritten rule in the past that oneworld partners would protect passengers who missed their flights due to a late connection from another oneworld partner.  This has also been removed, when the flights are on separate tickets.

BA has also removed this protection from its own connections.  If you miss your flight to Miami on BA because your BA flight from Manchester to Heathrow was late – and you booked on separate tickets because you couldn’t get an Avios redemption for the connection – BA is no longer obliged to reroute you.

Here is the official wording:

What it means for customers if they are not accepted for through check-in

  • Do not use Minimum Connecting Times
  • They will have to collect their bags on arrival at the destination on the ticket
  • They will have to re check-in at the departure airport of their onward travel
  • Different baggage allowance may apply to for each flight
  • If the arrival flight is delayed they are eligible for normal compensation (i.e. EU Legislation) for the delayed flight only
  • They cannot claim any costs associated to their onward flight if the arrival flight is delayed

In reality, I am sure that BA would still help you out – but it would probably tell you to come back in two days when the next spare BA seat was available, rather than paying to reroute you on another airline.

So, to clarify …..

If you have connecting flights on the same ticket, nothing changes. 

If you have connecting flights but on two tickets with two ticket reference numbers, your luggage will no longer be checked through.  It must be collected and rechecked at each airport.  You will need to pay additional baggage fees if your long haul allowance is larger than your short haul allowance.  If you miss the next flight in your schedule due to a late incoming aircraft, there is no obligation to reroute or rebook you.  This applies even if connecting from BA to BA.

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Comments (198)

  • Majunga says:

    Hi Rob,

    Thank you for this post. Very timely as I was starting a AMS-LHR-JNB on J on Saturday with a same day LHR-AMS positioning flight.

    First the good news:
    – LHR-AMS was a RFS booked in eco and I was upgraded to CE, first upgrade in quite a few years. The hot scones tasted even more delicious!
    – The back to back at AMS worked wonderfully: exit gate = departure gate so you don’t need to clear customs etc… Definitely the best back-to-back I have experienced so far.

    The not so good:
    – the positioning LHR-AMS was departing at 15:55, the back-to-back AMS-LHR landing at 19:20, the JNB connection departing at 21.20. I arrived at the F check-in around 2pm. The plan was to check one piece of luggage for the LHR-JNB leg before the positioning flight. Whilst this has been tried and tested before, it became very apparent that the four BA people who got involved in the process (counter + IT support + counter manager + manager on the phone) were super reluctant to let that happen: They used a variety of excuses, my favourite one was when they claimed I already luggage in transfer from AMS, which was physically impossible… Anyway, it took me 45mns to get them to accept my luggage. Not sure if this is linked to the new policy, the “enhancement” to the check-in systems or the obvious fact that I was on an ex-EU lower revenue fare but had I not read your post that morning; i would have clearly not allowed for that extra time.
    – The 747 upper deck was full and the two attendants were totally overwhelmed. I absolutely regretted not flying QR as I did on this route the last couple of times.

  • Luca says:

    Here here, let’s not be negative about BA!

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  • Tony says:

    Following on from my last message to @British_Airways (see above) I did not get a response so I followed up:

    @British_Airways I assume that the article was correct? Any response/comments?

    @myresponse Hi Antony. The new policy is in line with our oneworld partners. We’re sorry to hear you’re unhappy with the changes. ^CH

    At least they are now aware…

  • Peter Taysum says:

    Sat in the lounge at NCL awaiting the 06:00 to LHR

    The lovely lady at check in has checked my bag through from NCL to LHR to MAD to VLC in spite of two PNRs… (BA Gold, in the “cheap seats” on RFS, bus only available LHR to MAD so didn’t see the point).

    I politely stated that customer services had advised that check in staff have discretion to do a manual baggage check, but I completely understand if I have to check in at LHR.

    She was “I think I’ve managed to do it” and voila…

    She couldn’t give me a boarding card for Iberia flight operated by Air Nostrum MAD to VLC (and I want to change my seat, anyway BA app wouldn’t let me select when directing to Iberia!)
    but advised to do that at LHR or MAD. Plus I need to change LHR to NCL on the return, another benefit of RFS, do will ask the lovely staff in the lounge to help…

    Excellent front line staff (often the case) for frustrating policy change…

    • harry says:

      Well done her. I guess it doesn’t change the legal position on compo, though. Just because your bag has been checked through on 2 PNRs presumably does not change the first carrier’s NOW stated zero ‘obligation’ to look after you in the case of missing the connection.

      You buy tickets on 2 PNRs, you miss the connection because first flight is late, now you won’t get hotels, food etc and they might not even feel they should try and get you on a later flight. Certainly never an alternative route with a competitor carrier.

      When it’s BA on both PNRs, this is really poor service compared to the previous position.

      • Alan says:

        Although only AA ever had a published policy on covering connections in separate bookings so I never banked on being looked after in this situation anyway, even BA to BA.

        • harry says:

          I guess the difference is: now BA has overtly stated you definitely won’t get the compo/ hotels/ food etc if you miss the connection to PNR #2 flight.

          • Alan says:

            Agreed, by no means a good change now they’re explicitly denying it but overall I find the baggage check through element much more frustrating!

  • Pid says:

    I was obviously very lucky on Wed when I purposely asked to check my bags through from my BA LHR>CPH RFS flight to my QR CPH>DOH>MLE flight. The agent at the F desk (as BA Gold) was very happy to oblige. The only downside was that he did not provide boarding passes so had to wait until the gate opened in CPH before I could check in.

    All very smooth so glad I asked even though I knew the policy had changed.

  • Damien says:

    So what happens if you your luggage gets delayed on the first leg? Will they forward the luggage to your ultimate destination?

    • Rob says:

      No, because they don’t know where you are going! Your bag is only ticketed to the first airport. If you are late arriving you need to decide whether to sacrifice your flight or your bags.

      • Damien says:

        Hi Raffles,

        I’m not talking about a delayed flight…. only delayed luggage. Say (for some reason) you arrive with tonnes of time to collect your luggage and get your next flight. But discover that your luggage (for some reason or another) didn’t make it onto the flight you arrived on. After filling in the lost luggage form, will they forward it to you final destination when they finally locate it?

      • harry says:

        You could catch your connection – but swiftly go to lost luggage with your checked luggage stubs/ references & ask them to forward the luggage onto you in the next country?

        I wonder how far that would get you.

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