Even though I live in hotels full time, I’m still traveling with my Tumi Carry-On. I haven’t been planning my travel more than a few days in advance this summer (if that), so it’s hard to justify taking more luggage internationally.
Not sure how I’d carry this many bags, even if I could check them all for free
However, I recognize many people prefer to check bags, particularly when traveling internationally, and I get questions every day asking if bags will be checked through, how many bags one can take on a given airline, etc.
So I thought I’d try to answer some of the most frequent questions, and consolidate many of the airline baggage allowances as it’s surprisingly hard to find baggage information on many of the foreign carriers websites.
Can I check my bag all the way through to _____?
Airlines have “interlining” agreements which determine whether or not they can check bags through on another carrier. If you are on a single itinerary it’s generally pretty straightforward, but even if you are on separate tickets you can typically provide the check-in agent with your connecting information and they will often be able to check your bag through to your final destination.
If you need to look up interline agreements for a particular airline, the best resource is typically ExpertFlyer. You can enter the airline code and the tool will display all the other carriers that airline has an agreement with.
Lufthansa, for example, has dozens:
As does Delta, despite threatening to end interlining a few years back:
Meanwhile JetBlue only has a couple dozen interline partners:
And Southwest doesn’t have any:
US International Arrivals and Customs
Regardless of whether your bag is “checked” through, you will have to pick up your bag at the first airport you land at when arriving to the United States. This is a requirement of Customs and Border Control. The one exception is if your international flight originates at an airport with a US Pre-Clearance facility, in which case you land in the United States as a domestic passenger.
So for example if you fly from Frankfurt to Miami to Tampa and check your bag through to Tampa, you’d still need to pick it up in Miami, have the bag in your possession when clearing customs, then place it on the conveyor to recheck the bag to your final destination. You don’t have to go to the counter or anything though.
Stopovers, Layovers, and Long Connections
For the most part, as long as your connection is same day, you should typically still be able to check your bag all the way through to the final destination.
Some carriers and airports won’t want to keep bags overnight (and I’m not entirely sure you’d want them to), but otherwise I haven’t found it to be an issue. This does depend somewhat on individual airport and airline policies, so is unfortunately something you might not be able to confirm until check-in. I’d strongly advise against leaving a bag with an airline overnight, even if it is an option.
Conversely, if your connection is less than 24 hours and you specifically want to have access to your checked bag, make sure you tell the airline agent. They may be able to “short-check” your bag to an intermediate destination. Just mention to the agent that you need your bag in whichever airport, and they’ll tell you if they can accommodate you. Again, there are some individual airline policies that prohibit short-checking, so you will have to ask based on your specific itinerary.
Finally, all the bags associated with your reservation will generally need to be treated the same way. So you can’t generally check your bags through to your final destination but ask that one individual bag be held at your connection point.
International Baggage Fees
Just because airlines have interline agreements does not mean they have reciprocal baggage fee policies.
In general, the highest baggage allowance will apply for all flights issued under a single ticket number. So if you have an economy flight on American from Houston to Dallas, then connect on British Airways to London in business class, the higher allowance for the international itinerary would apply to both segments.
However, if you were then connecting on a separate Air France ticket, the agent in Houston should be able to check your bag all the way through, and would also collect any applicable baggage fees. They’ll notate your record, if they can, and will give you a receipt to show the connecting airline agents.
International Baggage Allowances
With that out of the way, here is an overview of international baggage allowances. I’ve only listed the major carriers that I tend to fly myself or frequently book for others, but hopefully this gives you a starting point.
Note: baggage allowances on wholly-domestic itineraries in the US are another thing entirely, so the below apply only as long as there is at least one long-haul international segment:
|Aer Lingus||1 bag - 23kg||n/a||3 bags - total 69kg||n/a|
|airberlin||1 bag - 23kg||n/a||2 bags - 32kg||n/a|
|Air Canada||1 bag - 23kg||2 bags - 23kg each||2 bags - 32kg each||n/a|
|Air China||2 bags - 23kg||n/a||2 bags - 32kg||2 bags - 32kg|
|Air Dolomiti||1 bag - 23kg||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Air France||1 bag - 23kg||2 bags - 23kg||2 bags - 32kg||3 bags - 32kg|
|Air New Zealand||1 bag - 23kg||2 bags - 23kg||3 bags - 23kg||n/a|
|Alitalia||1 bag - 23kg||2 bags - 23kg||2 bags - 32kg||n/a|
|American||1 bag - 23kg||n/a||3 bags - 23kg||3 bags - 23kg|
|ANA||1 bag - 23kg||1 bag - 23kg||2 bags - 32kg||3 bags - 32kg|
|Asiana||2 bags - 23kg||n/a||2 bags - under 32kg||2 bags - under 32kg|
|Austrian||1 bag - 23kg||n/a||2 bags - 32kg||n/a|
|British Airways||1 bag - 23kg||2 bags - 23kg||2 bags - 32kg||3 bags - 32kg|
|Brussels Airlines||1 bag - 23kg||n/a||2 bags - 32kg||n/a|
|Cathay Pacific||2 bags - 23kg||2 bags - 25kg||2 bags - 32kg||2 bags - 32kg|
|China Southern||2 bags - 23kg||2 bags - 23kg||2 bags - 32kg||3 bags - 32kg|
|Delta||1 bag - 23kg||n/a||2 bags - 32kg||2 bags - 32kg|
|Emirates||2 bags - 23kg||n/a||2 bags - 32kg||2 bags - 32kg|
|Etihad||2 bags - 23kg||n/a||2 bags - 32kg||2 bags - 32kg|
|EVA Air||2 bags - 23kg||2 bags - 28kg||2 bags - 32kg||n/a|
|Japan Airlines||2 bags - 23kg||2 bags - 23kg||3 bags - 32kg||3 bags - 32kg|
|Korean Air||2 bags - 23kg||n/a||2 bags - 32kg||3 bags - 32kg|
|LAN||2 bags - 23kg||3 bags - 23kg||3 bags - 23kg||n/a|
|LOT||1 bag - 23kg||2 bags - 23kg||2 bags - 32kg||n/a|
|Lufthansa||1 bag - 23kg||2 bags - 23kg||2 bags - 32kg||3 bags - 32kg|
|Malaysia Airlines||2 bags - 30kg total||n/a||2 bags - 40kg total||2 bags - 50kg total|
|OpenSkies||1 bag - 23kg||2 bags - 23kg||3 bags - 23kg||n/a|
|Qantas||2 bags - 23kg||2 bags - 23kg||3 bags - 32kg||3 bags - 32kg|
|Qatar||2 bags - 23kg||n/a||2 bags - 32kg||2 bags - 32kg|
|Singapore Airlines||2 bags - 23kg||n/a||2 bags - 32kg||2 bags - 32kg|
|Swiss||1 bag - 23kg||n/a||2 bags - 32kg||3 bags - 32kg|
|TAM||2 bags - 23kg||3 bags - 23kg||3 bags - 23kg||n/a|
|Thai Airways||2 bags - 23kg||n/a||2 bags - 32kg||2 bags - 32kg|
|United||1 bag - 23kg||n/a||2 bags - 32kg||3 bags - 32kg|
|US Airways||1 bag||n/a||4 bags||4 bags|
|Virgin Atlantic||1 bag - 23kg||2 bags - 23kg||3 bags - 32kg||n/a|
|Virgin Australia||2 bags - 23kg||2 bags - 32kg||2 bags - 32kg||n/a|
Exceptions and additional fees
On top of that, each airline has their own policies for excess baggage, and many of them offer additional perks for elite members of their respective frequent flyer programs. You can click on the link for each airline in the above chart to be taken to their baggage fees page.
Anyway, I hope that helps give you an idea as to what some of the baggage fees are for international travel.
The best solution though, in my opinion, is still to just avoid checking a bag to begin with! 😉