The oneworld alliance has made changes to checked baggage effective 1 June 2016. These changes are going to have a profound affect on frequent flyers, especially those who create itineraries that include mileage redemptions as part of the journey.

Cathay Pacific have summed it up quite succinctly on their web site –

With effect from 01 Jun 2016, all oneworld carriers have agreed that through check-in will apply ONLY to passengers travelling on an oneworld itinerary ticketed on a single ticket or where segments are ticketed separately but in the same PNR record.

Therefore oneworld airlines are no longer obligated to check your baggage through to your final destination when you have multiple bookings. This means that customers who might have a booking using miles for say DUB-LHR and then a connection to a paid booking from LHR-HKG would have to reclaim their baggage at LHR, go to check-in, get a boarding pass, go through security screening and then to the lounge or the flight.

British Airways have put it this way on their British Airways Trade Support web site –

Customers that have separate tickets issued in separate PNRs/bookings will not be accepted for through check-in, regardless of which carriers they are connecting on to, including BA or any oneworld partner.

These customers, and their baggage, will only be checked in to the destination showing in the system. No on carriage details are to be added into the check-in system at any stage.

It also means that the airlines will no longer be liable for rebooking you or for any additional costs that you might incur if you miss your connection travelling on separate bookings. Previously if you were delayed, your connecting flight on a separate booking would be rebooked for you by the airline. Not any longer.

Image courtesy of oneworld

Image courtesy of oneworld

Of course, I must stress at this point that if you have one single booking with multiple flights in it, your baggage will still be checked through to the final destination and you will be protected in the event of flight delays and cancellations. This only applies if you have made separate bookings and have separate PNRs.

I imagine for the vast majority of passengers this is not going to be an issue as most people make a single booking to and from where they’re going.

Frequent flyers like me who use a combination of mileage redemptions and cash tickets will be hurt by this.

I am flying Qatar Airways in April from Pisa to Auckland and then Auckland to Berlin. I need to make a separate booking to get from where I live to Pisa and another booking from Berlin back home.  It’s going to mean I will need to allow extra time to collect my bag,  go up to check-in, check-in and go through security. What a palaver. I remember the alliance slogan being “oneworld revolves around you” – well, perhaps it does as long as you don’t want to create your own itinerary with multiple bookings!

Speculation abounds that the reason for this is due to a limitation with the Amadeus Altéa Departure Control System, which is why British Airways and Cathay Pacific are the first two airlines to implement the change as they use this modern system. Who knows!

In addition to British Airways and Cathay Pacific, Finnair and Qatar Airways have confirmed they will also follow the policy and Qantas confirmed they will also, from 1 September.

Happily, American Airlines and Malaysia Airlines have advised they will continue to through check baggage on multiple bookings. Hooray for the people who live in those countries!

This change in oneworld policy directly alienates some of the alliances most frequent flyers. It remains to be seen if this will cause people to move to a competing alliance.

With thanks to the wonderful people at FlyerTalk for their wealth of knowledge that contributed to this post and Australian Business Traveller for additional information.

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