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

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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.

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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You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

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(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for our latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios this month from offers and promotions.)

Comments (134)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • 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…

  • JAXBA says:

    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.
    b) I just brought in £104 of revenue! Result!

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

  • 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?

  • 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?

    • Polly says:

      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.

      • Alex says:

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

        • Polly says:

          Or dragonair? Is that still going?

          • Alex says:

            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.

    • Leo says:

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

  • 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)

      • Alan says:

        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!

  • Keith says:

    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…

  • Will says:

    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.

    • Rob says:

      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.

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