Single air trips involving two separate tickets have always been a problem, but starting next year, three airlines will make it worse.
Delta, Hawaiian, and US Airways have announced that they will no longer transfer checked baggage to/from other lines on flight connections that use two separate tickets. Previously, big airlines would generally accept checked baggage on many two-ticket trips without the need for you to claim and recheck at a connecting point.
This service was always limited to airlines that have "interline" agreements -- typically, the big "legacy" lines -- but now several lines say "only if both flights are on our line." They even exclude transfer to partner airlines in the same alliance.
Normally, you don't face this problem: If your itinerary requires a connection, you buy one through ticket. But in a few cases, you do better with two separate tickets:
As far as I can tell, no airline contracts of carriage deal specifically with this issue. Acceptance of two-ticket baggage on different airlines has been a policy rather than a commitment.
Apparently, however, the three lines have decided to quit doing this, which means you'll have to claim your baggage and recheck it -- and recheck yourself -- at the connecting airport.
And claiming and rechecking can create a major hassle: Typically, even on a domestic flight, you have to exit security, claim your bag, then go through separate security and check-in lines at your connecting airport. On an international connection, you'd have to exit security, process through incoming immigration, claim your bag, get in a check-in line, re-enter security, and maybe pass through exit immigration before catching your connection.
Two-ticket itinerary problems go beyond just baggage. On a two-ticket connection, if a late first flight makes you miss your connection, the second airline treats you as a no-show. That could mean having to buy a new ticket at a much higher fare than you originally paid.
In my experience, even airline personnel are not well informed about two-ticket policies. On a recent two-ticket trip, a check-in agent told a traveler I know that he couldn't check his bag through to another legacy line. The traveler finally asked to see a supervisor, who said, "Sure, we can do that."
However, a couple traveling from Scotland to Quebec City on an itinerary that started on British Airways connecting to Air Transat in Paris, had a BA agent tell them that they could check their baggage through, but when they arrived in Paris, British Airways didn't transfer the baggage. So the couple had to wait to claim their bags, then schlep them to a different terminal. By that time, their flight had left, and they had to wait overnight for the next Air Transat flight, which went to Montreal rather than Quebec.
The lessons here are clear: Avoid two-ticket connections unless they provide a big advantage. And, if you can't avoid them, allow at least four hours connecting time.
Contact Ed Perkins at email@example.com.