Effective Jan. 15, 2013, Delta Air Lines will no longer check a passenger’s bags to their destination when they are traveling on more than one ticket, even if the airline indicated on the second ticket is a partner airline. According to the airline’s new interline baggage policy, “Delta Air Lines policy will be to check a passenger’s baggage between the origin and destination points that are indicated on a single or conjuncted ticket exclusively. If a second ticket is presented for travel on another airline beyond the destination of the first ticket, the passenger will be advised that Delta will only check the bag to the destination on the first ticket(s). The passenger must collect the baggage at baggage claim for their first ticketed destination, and then re-check their baggage with the down-line carrier for the next flight.”
Bottom line: This change won’t have an impact on passengers purchasing a ticket where only one reservation is issued, but for travelers on award tickets who may have purchased a flight because they couldn’t find availability on a segment of their itinerary, this is going to be a hassle. For example, a traveler who wants to fly to France from Detroit with SkyMiles may have been able to book an award flight from New York to Paris on Air France but wasn’t able to find award availability from Detroit to New York on Delta. If they purchase the Detroit to New York flight on Delta Air Lines, they will need to pick up their bags from baggage claim and go to the Air France ticket counter to have them checked in to Paris. If you are traveling on a different carrier on separate tickets, you will need to allow plenty of time at the connecting city to gather your bags and check them in again. Note that the change only applies when multiple tickets are issued. In the above scenario, if the passenger was able to book an award flight from Detroit to Paris on Delta and Air France on a single reservation, their bags will be checked all the way to Paris.
Delta says, “This clarification of policy helps Delta ensure that checked baggage service is consistent for all customers.” But more than likely, this is in reaction to a new rule by the DOT regarding baggage fees. The DOT rule provides for no more than the initial segment’s bag fee for the remainder of the itinerary. US Airways has also changed their interline baggage policy and other airlines might follow.