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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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Comments (134)

  • Klaus-Peter Dudas says:

    What happens if the first flight is delayed in this case and you miss your connection?

    • anon says:

      It wouldn’t be a connection on separate tickets. Officially you would forfeit the ticket you missed checkin for.

    • John says:

      £104 is a bit much but I would not mind paying something like £25 to link separate tickets together and guarantee a connection.

      This is different from baggage interlining. Even if bags are checked through, a delay on the first flight causing you to miss the second flight will not get you rebooked unless it is possible within the rules of the second ticket or airline 2 wants to be generous, and who knows what will happen to your bags.

  • BrianDT says:

    Is this not one for the Office of Fair Trading?

    • JAXBA says:

      You mean Competition and Markets Authority? Not really. BA can set their prices, they just can’t collude with another company to do so (without permission anyway) or they can’t try and squeeze more money out of you once both parties have agreed on the price.

      BA presents its price; we decide whether to accept or not. Oh, but there are cheaper ways of doing it! Yes, but they’re not as convenient are they?

  • BA Sucks says:

    The new electronics ban in hand luggage will complicate matters too. Although I suspect BA management are thrilled about the extra revenue they will yield from more inconvenience to passengers. Bunch of scoundrels.

  • Alan says:

    How can the visa fee in Doha not be paid? Is this just if you’re having to go landslide to check back in?

    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      Qatar offers a free ‘transit’ visa, presumably to encourage people to accept long layovers and visit Doha. I believe there are even free tours of Doha.

      • John says:

        But Rob would not qualify for this since it is only available to passengers booking a through ticket on QR metal AND QR ticket stock, who have 5 to 96 hours between their connecting flights.

        Again, the free tours of Doha are only available when flying QR, and when the shortest possible scheduled connection exceeds 8 hours during daytime. If QR is operating flights less than 8 hours apart, even if they are already oversold so that you can’t actually book despite being willing to pay thousands extra for the highest fare bucket, then you don’t get a tour.

    • Peter says:

      Very easy online process – got mine yesterday 48 h after applying, up to 5 days in Doha included.

  • Toby Warren says:

    Is there anyway you could get a BA rep on to try and answer for some of these crazy decesions?

  • Anon says:

    Rob, are you tracking all of these “enhancements” since the start of last year in an article?

    It would make a good favourite page for you to add to when Cruz & co have another brainwave…

    They probably see such surcharges for UK connections as pax paying insurance against any pesky EU261 claims.

  • Leo says:

    Well there is a solution of sorts – and that is to just stop flying BA. That said I never fly BA revenue long haul anyway. If you can get your head around forgoing the 241 (cue comments about “standby voucher” etc) that is and redeeming avios for O/W partners albeit at “peak rates” I’m betting that you avoid most of the frustrations of the enhancements of recent times. I’m not going to chase 241s after these last 2 I have and I’m going to switch to using avios for short-haul. The Waitrose deal with Virgin has enticed me back to concentrating on VS – as long as they continue to fly to HKG which gives me an option for flying East.

    • Leo says:

      Forget the bit about redeeming with OW partners as this is clearly what the article is partially about – bit early still.

      • Polly says:

        Good morning Leo, just asking how easy it’s been for you to redeem on FC to HKG, as going East is our main route, either kl, sin or HKG, usually. Do they run UC, presume they do, on the HKG route also? This would be totally new for us to even consider another FFP from avios, but as we do shop in W and you mentioned HKG, thought l would pick your brains. We would fly out of school hols time too.

        • Leo says:

          Never redeemed to HKG with VS only to US – they fly daily to HKG on a 787. I usually fly other OW carriers going East but if I put the majority of my FF eggs in VS basket I want to know I at least have an option to redeem going East as I currently do with Avios etc. It’s apparently quite difficult to redeem with VS partners. It was recently noted on here that the VS Clubhouse in HKG has closed (Feb 5th) and some speculation as to whether or not this meant that VS was not committed to the route – but I understand that was possibly more to do with the lease of the lounge coming to an end. VS now use the Plaza Premium lounge at HKG which is okay – not as good as the CX/Qantas lounges in my opinion but good enough.

        • Matthew says:

          I’ve recently booked a HKG-LHR UC with VS for I think 55,000 miles (off-peak) plus £30 tax one-way. Availability was good 6 months out and you can select your seat for free immediately. If you collect most of your miles in MR or SPG then Alaska or JAL are very useful and often save more or equivalent to a 2-4-1. For e.g. I have redeemed 42,500 Alaska Miles (via SPG) for LGW-HKG CX business (A350) plus £180 tax. Then 40,000 United miles (via Marriott travel package) for Thai First HKG-SYD. Alaska even do one free stopover on one ways so you can go as far as Bali in business from the UK for 42,500 miles inc a stopover in HKG.

          • Polly says:

            Tnx Mathew and Leo, food for thought. Might be useful to have for o/w redemptions when out in Asia, as we would jump off from one of the main three to Bali or HKT. Shame not to build the,map when we are in W anyway a few times a week. Just don’t really want another FFP but this could just be a backup option for us.

          • rams1981 says:

            Matthew you raise some great points about miles availability elsewhere. Is there an easy resource to check these?

          • Polly says:

            Rams, l remember reading a great Alaska air thingy on God Save The Points recently. It outlined much of what Mathew mentions. Might be worth a look. It piqued my curiousity then. So now that W are in on the act, we might just collect FC as a backup…as long as they don’t expire too early.

          • Matthew says:

            Cathay availability using Alaska miles is generally what BA shows -1. So if only one seat visible on BA, then it’s most likely to be unavailable using Alaska miles. You can’t redeem online with Alaska and have to phone but I’ve done it a few times and its pretty easy. I like the way you can cancel >60 days out for a full refund of taxes and miles or you can makes changes for free too. Thai availability can easily be checked online using United Mileage Plus. United miles are pretty hard to accrue in the UK but the SPG to Marriott link especially with a travel package is fab. It’s 30,000 miles one-way in business from certain parts of Asia to Oz and it you do a return you can add the free (one-way) excursionist perk to NZ for example too.

  • Nick says:

    Presumably this means you can use flight connections in DOH if you’re HBO and confirmed? Or will you take the kids through immigration and regroup with your wife airside?

    Speaking of baggage and the laptop ban, wonder what this will mean for the BA ‘long haul basic’ fare slated to be introduced later this year? Laptops banned completely unless you pay the ‘ransom fee’ to check in your bag?

    • Rob says:

      No-one is going landside now. We will onward boarding passes and the luggage is through-checked now I paid the extra £104 for my wife to have connecting tickets.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Sure it was mentioned on here Doha was one of the airports which would retrieve your luggage for re-check airline.

        Also assume there’s no issue on the way back anyway as qatar would have through checked?