Cathay Pacific Admits it Made a Mistake, Will Again Check Bags Through on Separate Tickets. Will American Relent Too?

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Cathay Pacific Admits it Made a Mistake, Will Again Check Bags Through on Separate Tickets. Will American Relent Too?

On June 1 the oneworld alliance (which includes airlines like American, British Airways, Iberia, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, and more) changed its policies so that member airlines no longer had to check bags to their final destination for passengers traveling on more than one reservation on a oneworld airline.

Almost immediately British Airways and Cathay Pacific became the first oneworld carriers to forbid through-checking bags on separate reservations.

Airlines still can do this, the alliance just doesn’t require it. On June 10, an American Airlines spokesperson reassured, “we will continue to thru-check bags on multiple PNRs with oneworld carriers.” Yet on July 19, they notified travel agents they were doing the exact opposite.

Cathay Pacific now realizes this was punitive, likely harming exactly the customers they didn’t want to inconvenience, and has walked back the policy. (HT: @xJonNYC)

Refusing to through-check bags on separate reservations is purely punitive and doesn’t even really help the airline. Take an upcoming Dallas – Abu Dhabi first class award I have on American’s partner Etihad. There’s no award availability for me to fly Austin – Dallas. And that creates problems on a two week trip with my wife.

  • If a saver award was available, I’d get the flight included for no additional miles or money. The booking would be on a single ticket, and I would be able to through-check bags to Abu Dhabi.
  • But since American isn’t making a saver award available, I have to spend more. American’s poor domestic award availability means I have to come out of pocket (buying a domestic segment is like paying hidden fuel surcharges).
  • It doesn’t just mean more money — for the privilege of buying an extra ticket on American, I’m not going to be able to through-check bags. I need to book a longer connection, wait to claim bags in Dallas, then re-clear security.

This is a policy in place that’s purely punitive, which doesn’t even really benefit the airline: Airlines don’t want to share their checked bag fees — the Department of Transportation requires one checked bag fee for your whole journey but travel on different airlines means the airline collecting the fee has to share it with downline carriers — so they just make you pick up yours bags and re-check them so you have to pay again if you’re on a separate ticket. But this itinerary would never have involved checked baggage fees to begin with — I’m an American Executive Platinum and this is a first class award ticket. So it’s pure inconvenience, to no benefit.

Now, American will allow customers traveling on separate tickets to include them in a single reservation where one ticket is award and the other one is paid — but only when both involve travel within the oneworld alliance. That’s no help to me with travel on American and on their non-oneworld partner Etihad.

And it’s no help flying paid business class on American Airlines to Hong Kong, and connecting on a separate ticket on Cathay Pacific in paid business class. I’d have to collect bags in Hong Kong and re-check them. (But flying the opposite direction, Cathay will through-check onto American.)

In contrast, both Delta and United will through-check bags on separate tickets as long as both tickets are for travel within their respective alliances. American’s policy is thus more restrictive than either of their major competitors.

Will American learn from the experience of oneworld partner Cathay Pacific — that this idea is just plain sticking it to their customers?

Waiting at baggage claim, then re-checking luggage, is a pure waste of customer time. I don’t blame this man sleeping on a baggage carousel.

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