Booking award tickets is complicated, especially if you only want one ticket versus multiple tickets with multiple connections on different airlines. Sadly, it doesn’t always work out to be one ticket. In fact, it’s very rare that it does unless you’re in a hub city.
For first time award travelers on a complex booking with multiple airlines not in the same alliance, you may be wondering what to do with your baggage. Do you have to collect it at every connection and recheck it? No… Well, sometimes, but fortunately, many airlines give you to ability to interline your baggage to avoid the check, collect, and recheck monstrosity.
Interlining (also known as “interline ticketing”) is a voluntary commercial agreement between individual airlines to handle passengers traveling on itineraries that require multiple airlines.
Interlining baggage works the same way, except instead of handling passengers traveling on multiple airlines, they handle baggage. For example, take my trip to Australia. We flew on United, Air China, Japan Airlines, and Qantas. That’s two different alliances and tickets between those four airlines, which means if it wasn’t for interlining our baggage, we would have had to do the check, collect, recheck dance multiple times during that trip.
It’s extremely easy to interline your baggage, but for a first timer it may seem complicated, so here’s the rundown.
Interlining your baggage is a great solution for award travels, however, it’s not without its hassles.
These are the current US Airlines Rules as of March 2015.
Alaska does interline baggage to other carriers. In 2012, they announced that they would stop interlining baggage, but fortunately, it caused such an outrage that they changed their minds.
American Airlines used to allow interlining on all major airlines, but they changed that in October 2014. Now, they only allow interlining baggage to Oneworld partners, US Airways, AA, US Express, and American Eagle.
Delta does not allow interlining of baggage to other carriers, even other SkyTeam members. It sucks, I know.
Frontier does not interline baggage to other carriers.
Hawaiian Airlines is not part of an alliance, but they do have interline agreements with 28 other airlines.
JetBlue has interline agreements with 37 different airlines, so if you have a multiple award tickets, you should have no problem interlining through JetBlue.
Southwest does not interline baggage.
Spirit does not interline baggage.
United is by far the most generous US airline when it comes to interlining. They have agreements with most Star Alliance carriers, Oneworld carriers, and Skyteam carriers as well as major non-alliance carriers. The only caveat, is that you have to pay United fees for baggage regardless of your second ticket’s class.
US Airways does not allow you to interline your baggage to other carriers, however, once the merger of US and AA completes, I’m sure this will change to AA’s policy.
Interlining your baggage is by far the best way to deal with checked bags on multiple award tickets. Without it, you’d have to run through the hassle of picking up your baggage, rechecking it, and going through security again. It’s a slick deal. Now if only all airlines had interline agreements…