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.
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
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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