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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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How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (January 2021)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

There are two official British Airways American Express cards:

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BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

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

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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)

  • James A says:

    BAs surcharges are scandalous, especially in the situation you describe but also in general to be honest.

  • PFB says:

    My wife and I travelled to BKK via HKG (transit HKG) in January – EDI-HKG with BA and HKG to BKK with Cathay. On arrival in HKG we went along to the Cathay transfer desk before moving through to departures and they sorted everything out re bags and rebooked our bags to BKK without us having to collect them and recheck in ground side. Not sure if this is an official Cathay process or if we were just lucky. On arrival in BKK bags turned up with replacement luggage labels. Had Cathay not been so helpful, having to go and collect bags, go landside and then recheck in would have been a real pain.

    • Polly says:

      Cathay were the first to backtrack on this ludicrous baggage rule. There was a mass uprising from their top premium flyers, who l think threatened to boycott the airline! So they are more than helpful esp, if you are in J or F. And QR are helpful too.
      HKT staff for QR and MAS check ins, l mean, are really good, they will certainly check through if they can for you. Their systems appear to allow it, when our own BA systems just don’t here at LHR. Just real basic greediness.

      • will says:

        At the end of the day, Polly has it spot on. The only way BA will change for the better is by people like us not buying BA product. Yes, the 2-4-1 ties you into BA, but it’s inconvenient booking a year in advance (to get 2 in CW) and it puts you in the spotlight for downgrades on the day. There comes a point when the glittery adverts for BAPP cards no longer suck us in. Everyone has the choice to leave the Amex carrot and avoid the BA stick.

        I just find it hard to understand the lack of customer care in the new BA policies when they are competing with QR and CX and others. We all like to think BA is a public utility, but management are paid to enrich shareholders. Customers have to walk away if they don’t like the product. That is the only way the management will reverse unpopular decisions.

        IMO, the concept of Oneworld seems to be failing now that baggage does not get checked all the way on separate PNRs. Is Star Alliance the same?

    • John says:

      Picking up your luggage for you and retagging it is a feature of HKG airport, but it may not be possible with some of the HK LCCs

    • RIcatti says:

      Standard operating procedure.

      SIN Changi airport will also pick luggage for you and re-check even if you arrive/depart from different Terminals!

      No such thing at Heathrow or other “developed world”.

      • Polly says:

        Ricatti, that’s useful to know.
        Is this the real Alex Cruz writing to,you Rob?
        Baggage transfer is really a hugs issue for,your pax. Maybe rethink this one???

      • Oonagh cacioppo says:

        Hi! How can you arrange for luggage to through through Changi to Bali if booked on Air Asia from Singapore to Bali…? BA CW .Is it Possible?

        • Rob says:

          Not possible. BA wouldn’t have done it even before this new rule.

          The reason is that BA does not want to be responsible for paying for your bags to get to Bali if your inbound flight is late.

  • Alex Cruz says:

    You invest inordinate effort on getting one over on the travel providers. And then you scream “foul” when they get one over on you. Don’t you think we did some serious spread-sheeting on the change in our checked baggage police. In a low margin business, small tweaks can have a disproportionate impact on the bottom line. You’ve been hacked !!!

    • Worzel says:

      @ Alex Cruz 8:33 am:

      Rob mentions (above) an event it seems both you and Anika will be attending-perhaps you could explain further to her then?

    • Clare says:

      If that really is Alex Cruz on here leaving comments, then the Trumpish behaviour seems to be escalating – issuing contradictory statements “we are not LCC, but we cut every thing in sight” and peevishly and borderline offensively responding to critical comments on a website, right down to the overuse of PUNCTUATION!!!!. Remind you of anyone’s twitter feed?

      In addition, that comment just reinforces the point that BA is no longer “The World’s Favorite Airline” but run by a copy of Michael O’Leary (IS it Michael O’Leary in a different suit?) But, actually, it can’t be Micheal O’Leary because even he has seen the error of his ways and announced in 2015, ““If I’d only known that being nice to customers was going to be so good for my business I would have done it years ago”.

      If it IS Alex Cruz, then BA’s press office need to keep him away from a keyboard.

      • Really says:

        You people are amazingly gullible…Such sharp wit when it comes to maximising value from travel but zero judgement whatsoever.

        You really think the CEO of BA would leave a post on this forum? Maybe Trump and Farage will join in soon as well!

        • Clare says:

          Clearly I didn’t actually think it was – which is why I pointed out the Trumpish behaviour.

    • Anna says:

      I hope that the real Mr Cruz would not be allowed to be so discourteous to customers, let alone boast about “getting one over” on them…!

  • Sam says:

    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.

  • Nick says:

    I’ve historically converted Amex points and Clubcard to BA but on the basis of their recent cuts, i’m switching to Virgin/Etihad where I can!

  • 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 🙂

    • Rob says:

      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… 🙂

    • ABC says:

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

      • Rob says:

        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

          • Rob says:

            Er, this thing :-)

  • 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.

    • Simon says:

      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.

    • Brian says:

      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.

    • Mike says:

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

      • Kinkell says:

        Same here✈️

        • mark2 says:

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

          • Walty says:

            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.

  • Rebecca Jay says:

    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….