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Checked-Bag Fees: Going up?

Baggage fees are one thing. But now major airlines have given travelers a second reason to eschew the checked-luggage line.

US Airways and Delta will no longer transfer bags when passengers have connecting flights with other airlines. According to a report from Consumer Traveler, the two major airlines have quietly tweaked their baggage policies: US Airways made the change last summer. And beginning January 15, Delta will follow suit and only check bags as far as the next destination served by the airline.

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The transfer of passenger luggage from one airline to the next is known as "interlining baggage." When bags are interlined, they pass through to passengers' final ticketed destinations. With Delta and US Airways' new policies in place, however, flyers with connections to new airlines on the same itineraries will have to pick up their bags in the claim area, go through airport security, and recheck their luggage before getting on the next plane.

So if you're flying, say,  from New York to Chicago on US Airways, and then from Chicago to Los Angeles on American Airlines, you'll have to make sure you have plenty of time between connections to pick up any checked luggage. 

Adding insult to injury, for many travelers this could also result in a second checked-bag fee for the connecting flight.

Is there a silver lining to the policy change? According to Consumer Traveler, "Some claim that claiming and then rechecking luggage will increase the likelihood of bags arriving at a final destination, assuming the connection is actually made." This could be. But rechecking a bag during a tight connection is always a risk. If you don't give airline staff enough time to load your luggage onto the plane, your bags might not make it. We recommend travelers check bags no later than half an hour before departure.

Flyers with international connections usually have to claim checked luggage and go through customs when landing in a new country, so the policy change won't affect this group as much. Still, it's something to keep in mind when flying on the aforementioned legacy airlines. What do you think of the new policies?

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