Alaska Airlines has just announced a frustrating policy change which will go into effect on January 15, 2013, regarding interlining bags. Specifically, they’ll no longer allow bags to be interlined for travel on separate tickets.

“Interlining” bags simply means that your checked bags are checked to your final destination even if your itinerary involves multiple carriers. For example, Alaska will often sell itineraries that involve travel on both Alaska and Delta, so this simply means that your bag can be checked through all the way to your final destination.

The same is true if you’re traveling on multiple reservations. For example, I recently flew from Hong Kong to San Francisco on Cathay Pacific using American AAdvantage miles, and then connected from San Francisco to Seattle on Alaska using British Airways Avios. I could have checked my bag all the way to my final destination since Cathay Pacific and Alaska have an interline agreement, even though I was on separate reservations. While checking in at Hong Kong Airport I would have just shown the agent my onward receipt and they could have checked it through.

That’s what’s changing. As of January 15, 2013, Alaska will no longer allow interlining bags on separate reservations. They blame new DOT regulations, though in practice this is just a way for them to extract more money in baggage fees.

This is disappointing, since it doesn’t just mean that it’ll cost more to check bags when flying on separate tickets, but also means it’ll take a lot longer to transit when traveling on multiple tickets since you have to claim your bags at baggage claim and re-check them in.

Another change at Alaska Airlines that’s “South of Expected,” which seems to be the norm for them as of late.

  1. December 4th, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    MileageUpdate said,

    It truly is a slow erosion of benefits and positives from airlines. Slowly and surely the are gonna nickle and dime for everything. Progress, you just cant stop it. :(

  2. December 4th, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Gary said,

    I’m not certain you couldn’t still through-check your bags with CX in HKG.

    The Alaska website says they will no longer through check bags onto separate tickets unless the separate ticket’s first segment is an Alaska flight.

    But — and while it COULD BE the case — the website doesn’t say they won’t ACCEPT interlined bags checked through by another carrier.

    I wonder whether the policy change applies only to Alaska Airlines as-first-flight?

  3. December 4th, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Julian said,

    I’ve interlined bags both ways with Alaska and New Zealand Air. Not only is this financially annoying, it throws a wrench into travel plans as layovers now need more time to account for the baggage claim.

  4. December 4th, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    Gary said,

    And here’s a situation I find especially frustrating.

    Say I redeem Alaska Airlines miles for a ticket on Cathay Pacific, SFO-HKG-DPS.

    But there’s no Alaska Airlines space SEA-SFO. So I buy an Alaska Airlines ticket for that flight.

    Alaska will no longer through-check the bag to Cathay. Even though both tickets are Alaska Airlines tickets, and it’s Alaska’s own lack of award availability that forced the separate tickets. So Alaska gets extra revenue due to lack of award availability AND enforces the inconvenience.

    And guess what? It now makes more sense to buy SEA-SFO on United instead of Alaska! Even connecting up to that Alaska Airlines award.

  5. December 4th, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Ozaer N. said,

    time to take it to social media….heck, it got me extra Starwood points for complaining about something legitimate…might as well try that and see if the noise will make them change their idiotic policy.

  6. December 4th, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    aaron said,

    I agree that this is a big negative for the few who this affects, but I disagree with your analysis. AS isn’t exactly leading the pack here; US, F9, HA, and BA already implemented the same change and DL is about to.

    AA is changing too but saying they’ll check your bag through but charge you BOTH airlines’ fees. They are really the only airline who you could claim is extracting anything more from customers.

  7. December 4th, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    David said,

    I don’t think in your example you can check you baggage from HKG all the way to SEA because at SFO you have to go through immigration where you have to pick up your luggage and drag it through inspection point. Or, do you Americans not have to do that?

  8. December 4th, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    autolycus said,

    Let’s again say our thanks for laws/regulations that are intended to help consumers but that ultimately hurt us! And yes, Dodd-Frank (Durbin Amendment), I’m saying my thanks for you too.

  9. December 4th, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    AC said,

    I have the same question as David. I remember being at LAX and the immigration officer said all bags need to be picked up and inspected through custom before continuing your connecting flight. Otherwise there may be a loophole for smugger..

  10. December 4th, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    Loran said,

    @David – You are correct that everyone has to pick up checked baggage at the US entry point. But the advantage of having a bag tagged all the way to the final destination is that if the bag is mishandled along the way it should eventually get to the final destination. Without interlining the bag could end up stuck at an intermediate point, and I bet one would have a hard time getting either the arriving or departing carrier to accept responsibility for the bag.

    This sucks. As a PDX-based flier I not infrequently buy tickets on AS to get to SEA/LAX/SFO international flights or to a premium transcontinental flight. Now connections will take longer, and I’ll lose the small bit of bag protection.

  11. December 4th, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    romsdeals said,

    Pack light, bring one bag/backpack, and don’t worry about lost luggage or waiting for luggage.

  12. December 4th, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Todd said,

    I tweeted this: Disappointed with @AlaskaAir They will no longer check bags through to destinations purchased on a separate ticket #customerservicefail

  13. December 4th, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    TravelBloggerBuzz said,

    Two thoughts came immediately to mind reading the title:

    1) Beaubo’s FTU Presentation: The squeeze is on, become a Free Agent!
    2) Or this could be a precursor to a Delta Alaska merger?? :-)

  14. December 4th, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    rk said,

    @David, you are correct you do have to pick up your bags for customs at SFO in Lucky’s example.

    But @Loran, the other (and main IMO) advantage is that as soon as you clear customs you just give it to a baggage handler who routes it to your next flight that you’re already tagged for. Another advantage is coming of intl you won’t have to pay any check bag fees.

    Without interlining, you’d have to lug your bags to the AS desk, which in SFO is in an entirely different terminal, & lose a ton of time waiting to re-check there.

    FWIW, I just did this flying CMB-SIN-HKG-SFO on CX, last leg in F. I then had a separate AS ticket SFO to SEA. I checked my bags in CMB all the way to SEA, taking advantage of F baggage limit. It took me like 15 minutes in SFO to get bags, clear customs, and recheck post-customs.

  15. December 4th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    russell said,

    If they just want the fee, surely they could offer to interline but you need to pay at the gate for your connection.
    i.e. Say you went AA LAX-SFO and AS SFO-HON you should get your bags sent through to HON but at SFO have to pay the AS agent at the gate their piece of silver in order to board.

  16. December 4th, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    TransWorldOne said,

    I’m curious why you used two separate rewards. Was your AAdvantage redemption from the oneworld chart instead of an All Partner award?

  17. December 4th, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Chase said,

    Let’s throw the facts in here though. While it may be frustrating, this really is a valid case (and demonstrated by many other carriers following suit) of over-regulation by the DOT. It’s kind of an unintended consequence, but passengers are paying the price.

    As a result of the DOTs rules put in place recently, it’s required that the same baggage allowances and fees apply throughout a customer’s trip – something that requires a lot of coordination among airline partners selling tickets together, or in this case separately.

    If an airline agent messes up (which would be very, very easy to do in this fee-crazy environment), airlines have to “reimburse upon request’’ the fees, according to DOT. Can you imagine the administrative costs of handling these requests?

    That’s just insane, and the DOT should have never put this rule into place (although many others I do support). I don’t blame Alaska or the other airlines one bit.

  18. December 4th, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Golfingboy said,

    @Chase, the primary reason for the DOT implementing this rule is to prevent unexpected surprises or unrealized upcharges at the airport. For instance, you can check one bag for free on B6, so naturally a reasonable customer [those who flies once a year or so] would book an B6 coded AA operated flight thinking that they are flying on B6 or the fee schedule on B6′s site is what they can expect when they arrive at the airport. Then all of sudden when checking in with AA, the agent asks for the customer’s Credit Card. Same with booking on AS for a DL flight where DL charges $25 for checked luggage whereas it is $20 on AS metal. The DOT’s goal is to tackle this unfair and deceptive behavior, which obviously backfired on the customers.

    While the DOT will have to re-asses this regulation and modify it, but keep in mind “over-regulation” is due to the abuse [i.e. sitting on the tarmac for 9 hours with no service and barred from using the lavatory], deceptive practices [i.e. not advertising the actual fare total and being vague with their fees which ultimately leaves the customer with no choice at the airport], etc. This is another attempt to curb the airlines’ shrewd behavior.

    Bottom line, the blame is entirely on the airlines, they are the ones that started the fire and the DOT, who I bet would very much rather trust that the airlines will act in good faith and reasonable manner, has to muddle themselves into this mess to straighten the ship.

  19. December 4th, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    DiscoPapa said,

    Chase nailed it. It’s not a revenue grab by AS (nor is it by DL).

  20. December 4th, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    Rick said,

    Normally, I’ve seen that in such a case where the airlines didn’t check bags all the way through due to two separate reservations and absence of an interlining agreement, the airlines with the first leg of the second reservation will waive baggage fees if the travel is within 24hours of an international flight.
    I did that just as recently as last week.

  21. December 4th, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    Chase said,

    @Golfingboy,

    I get what you’re saying about codeshares, but that is a very very different subject however, and the DOT tackles that with operating carrier disclosure rules. Like I said, I actually agree with many of the DOT’s latest rulings. But this one was just not wording correctly and the implementation was very sloppy to begin with.

    The reality is that airlines were doing customers a favor in the first place by interlining baggage on separate tickets. They are not required to do this when booked separately, as it creates increased liability on them if the bag goes missing. So with the DOT meddling in this situation and adding even the slightest complication to such an issue is enough to make any company pull back the olive branch. Unfortunately, the customer loses.

  22. December 4th, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    lucky said,

    @ TransWorldOne — Because instead of including the San Francisco to Seattle segment on the itinerary I decided to save a future San Francisco to New York one-way for future travel.

  23. December 4th, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Rebecca D. said,

    I’ve got a trip coming up in January. BOS-JFK on AA (paid for this flight) and then JFK-HKG on CX (award flight in F). Will AA allow me to interline my bag in BOS all the way through to HKG even though they are separate reservations? Would love to not have to deal with picking up the bag at JFK, switching terminals, and rechecking. Thanks!

  24. December 4th, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Rebecca — As of now they would, though their policy can change.

  25. December 4th, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    nsx at flyertalk.com said,

    The obvious solution is for all the airlines to merge into one company. No more interlining needed!

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