American’s Latest Unfriendly Baggage Policy Change

While I think the Star Alliance is the all around most comprehensive in terms of their member airlines, historically oneworld is the best in terms of creating a relatively seamless experience for passengers. In the context of the quality of alliances, I don’t think SkyTeam even has to be mentioned, even though they have a few decent airlines.

Where does oneworld beat Star Alliance?

  • Generally all oneworld airlines make all/some premium cabin award space available to partner airlines; conversely in Star Alliance, airlines like Singapore and Swiss don’t generally make first class award space available to partner airlines
  • Oneworld gives first & business class passengers lounge access when traveling internationally even during same day connections, while Star Alliance only offers access before your eligible segment (in other words, if you’re flying Lufthansa first class from Frankfurt to Chicago and United first class from Chicago to Los Angeles, you don’t get lounge access in Chicago)
  • Oneworld Emerald members get first class lounge access, which is an awesome perk; I love using lounges like the Qantas First Class Lounge, Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge, Japan Airlines First Class Lounge, etc.

Japan-Airlines-Lounge-Tokyo-Haneda - 19

Unfortunately in June, oneworld eliminated one of their other most useful benefits for passengers traveling on multiple oneworld tickets. Specifically, oneworld has offered the following benefits to make the passenger experience as seamless as possible:

  • If you’re booked on two separate tickets on oneworld carriers, you’ve been able to check your bags through to your final destination
  • If you’re booked on two separate tickets on oneworld carriers, you’ve been protected in the event of a misconnect or cancelation

Cathay Pacific conformed to these new rules pretty quickly, though obviously airlines have been allowed to go above and beyond if they’d like. At the time American said they wouldn’t update their policy, and would continue to check bags when traveling on multiple oneworld airlines on separate tickets.

Well, it looks like American has changed their mind. According to View from the Wing, as of September 1, 2016, American will no longer allow passengers on separate bookings to check their bags through, even if travel is entirely on oneworld airlines.

American-Baggage-Policy

View from the Wing claims that there’s an exception in place where if one reservation is an award ticket and the other a revenue ticket, you can still check them through. However, that’s not something I’d count on frontline agents knowing.

This sucks, plain and simple. This was a nice advantage for oneworld for so long, and it’s so silly that they eliminated this, since it cost them nothing. Now if you’re traveling on separate tickets internationally you can enjoy clearing immigration at your intermediate point, waiting at baggage claim, checking in your bags again, and then queuing for security.

This change comes at a time when American’s operational performance is horrible, so that makes this especially bad. If traveling on multiple tickets you may want to leave a really long layover, given that you’re not protected if you misconnect, and also have to claim your bags and check them back in.

There’s a lot of substance to American’s #GoingForGreat marketing campaign, eh? I used to think they were being modest by suggesting they were only going for great (and not already great), though nowadays I feel like that’s a serious stretch as well…

Going-For-Great

Comments

  1. Seems less like an alliance and more of a passenger ticketing interline pact now. No baggage interlining and soon less earnings transfer. Do we expect Oneworld to fall anytime soon? No, but this could mean there might be a switch-up in memberships.

  2. Seems like they’re trying to pull a more unilateral version of Delta’s policy, e.g. if it’s not on their metal, then they want to absolve themselves of responsibility. From one side, that’s somewhat understandable, but factoring in their recent operational performance, it’s ridiculous.

  3. Sooo you’re saying AA that is going from a “ok” to a “nono” airline is finding ways to weaken its offer even more ? Well they sure are going for something, that something just might not be great.

    Living in Paris I use skyteam because Air France blabla convenience. But I have to say… ST really needs to step its game up … I mean when I see the oneworld emerald advantages, I just standing here drooling.
    *Looks at Qantas first class lounge at SYD and slowly makes the walk of shame to ST lounge …*

    And there’s the casual stuff like the Delta Korean “feud” …
    What do you think about that btw Ben ? I know its not the place but, KE seems to have an extensive network in Japan, the kind of thing Delta lacks right ?

  4. Don’t forget oneworld typically allows elites of one airline to select premium seating on another. Not a benefit of Star Gold. But agree this new restriction is stupid.

  5. What’s worse is that if your bags don’t make it to the intermediate point, then it’s likely that American won’t take responsibility for getting your bag to its final destination. If you’re on an outbound flight to vacation, you might be left without bags for the entire trip!

  6. “If you’re booked on two separate tickets on oneworld carriers, you’ve been protected in the event of a misconnect or cancelation”

    Has it been confirmed this is no longer included? What if it is only on AA?

  7. It all has to do with the bag fee that you pay for. The 2nd carrier doesn’t get any money from the first carrier to transfer your bag with only one bag fee… Tough luck. 🙁 Start padding those connections or you’re gonna be out of luck – because the MCT barely gives you enough time to make your connection as it is now…The days of interlining your bag to a different carrier (let alone one that’s NOT in their “alliance”) are long gone!

  8. No need to mention SkyTeam? Are you kidding me? You’re the one trying to jump ship fro AA to DL. As a ST Elite +, I’ve enjoyed the lounge benefits on int’l ECONOMY tix + 1 guest. No problem with interlining luggage, extra luggage allowance, SkyPriority…etc. Since you can’t squeeze more miles out of AA now and UA still bans you, your only option, being based in LA, is Delta / SkyTeam.

  9. “Oneworld gives first & business class passengers lounge access when traveling internationally even during same day connections, while Star Alliance only offers access before your eligible segment (in other words, if you’re flying Lufthansa first class from Frankfurt to Chicago and United first class from Chicago to Los Angeles, you don’t get lounge access in Chicago)”

    I don’t think this is incorrect. In my experience if you are a Star Gold cardholder you gain access to lounges before all segments on an international itinerary. I’ve flown EWR-YYZ-YUL and obtained lounge access both in EWR and YYZ. I was only MP Gold/Star Gold at the time.

  10. AA has just decided to enforce a rule that was always there but never really enforced. I believe they decided to implement this to avoid the problem where people buy two separate point to point tickets because they are cheaper than the connecting fare. I think honestly it makes a lot of sense

  11. Of course apart from AA previously it was never a published OW benefit that they would look after you on disparate tickets – and there’s definitely been evidence of them not doing so. Disappointing to hear that AA are getting rid of this though.

    The baggage side is presumably because it *did* cost them something – passengers were buying cheaper separate tickets and then if there was a misconnect the airline had the cost of getting the bag to the final destination. This new setup absolves them of this responsibility. It totally sucks, esp when separate tickets were often a necessity, but I would say it had zero cost to them.

  12. Unfortunately moving to Europe forced me to start flying *A this year

    Two more comments re OW vs. *A:

    – OW has a top tier elite level across the board with Emerald. *A only had mid-tier *A Gold. Getting treated like a top tier on partners is really nice.

    – I just found this out last week: Free extra baggage as *A Gold doesn’t always apply. I bought the cheapest LH ticket with no baggage allowance thinking I can get an extra bag with my UA/G. Nope. Apparently I can only check a bag for free if I already have the ticket that allows one bag. So it was either no bag at all (and pay), or get two bag with the higher fare.

  13. “If traveling on multiple tickets you may want to leave a really long layover, given that you’re not protected if you misconnect, and also have to claim your bags and check them back in.”

    I recently connected through HKG on two different oneworld tickets, and worrying about the new bag policy decided to do exactly this. Check-in wasn’t open, so I had a nice long wait at Starbucks with all of my baggage.

    Considering that there should’ve been so reason for me to leave the transit area in the first place, this is really is a very customer unfriendly policy.

  14. This needs editing. Its unclear and somewhat contradictory because of the use of grammar:

    “Unfortunately in June, oneworld eliminated one of their other most useful benefits for passengers traveling on multiple oneworld tickets. Specifically, oneworld has offered the following benefits to make the passenger experience as seamless as possible:
    •If you’re booked on two separate tickets on oneworld carriers, you’ve been able to check your bags through to your final destination
    •If you’re booked on two separate tickets on oneworld carriers, you’ve been protected in the event of a misconnect or cancelation
    Cathay Pacific conformed to these new rules pretty quickly, though obviously airlines have been allowed to go above and beyond if they’d like. At the time American said they wouldn’t update their policy, and would continue to check bags when traveling on multiple oneworld airlines on separate tickets.”

    Did you mean the following instead?

    “Unfortunately in June, oneworld eliminated one of their other most useful benefits for passengers traveling on multiple oneworld tickets. Specifically, oneworld had offered the following benefits to make the passenger experience as seamless as possible:
    •If you’re booked on two separate tickets on oneworld carriers, you would have been able to check your bags through to your final destination
    •If you’re booked on two separate tickets on oneworld carriers, you would have been protected in the event of a misconnect or cancelation

    With the change, the benefits described above have now been eliminated.

    Cathay Pacific conformed to these new rules pretty quickly, though obviously airlines have been allowed to go above and beyond if they’d like. At the time American said they wouldn’t update their policy, and would continue to check bags when traveling on multiple oneworld airlines on separate tickets.”

  15. Ben (not lucky)

    it is the same with BA in OW. The extra allowance does not apply in cabin only ticket fares..

    So not different to what you are seeing in LH

  16. @Ben and @palermo

    On AF hand-luggage only fares (MiNi) you do get the extra checked bag if you are ST Elite/Elite +, i believe it extends to the rest of ST as well. SkyTeam still has a long way to go but it is getting a lot better.

  17. @TLB: Not really. If your bag doesn’t arrive at the intermediate destination, they are obligated to forward it to wherever you are, not just the arrival city.

  18. I definitely see the downside in a scenario where you save a ton of money booking two separate tickets or need to split due to award space but it’s still quite rare for me.

    Disappointed but it’s not worth losing sleep over.

  19. And…..what if you would happen to need a visa to enter the interim stop country to claim and re-check your bags??? Hmmmm

  20. @Mike – It sound like the answer from American would be “We don’t care either way.”

  21. @Franklyn I think that’s the policy for people with premium cabin tickets but aren’t elite members. You can’t access United Clubs if you are flying domestic First Class but I believe (I’m not 100% sure) that you should be able to access partner lounges. In this particular example of LH FRA-ORD/UA ORD-LAX, you won’t be able to use any of the United Clubs in Terminals 1 or 2 but you should theoretically* be allowed into the SAS Lounge (Their lounge access page simply says, “If you are traveling in First Class with a Star Alliance airline, you have access to our lounges on the day of travel.”). I say theoretically because there are no airside transfers in ORD between Terminal 5 and all the other terminals so security at T5 may not let you through with a UA boarding pass. Star Alliance Gold members should be able to access United Clubs even when flying domestically UNLESS the program through which status was earned was MileagePlus.

  22. So what happens if it’s a codeshare flight? If I’m flying a BA codeshare flight on an AA plane and then board a BA plane for a connection, does this effect me?

  23. I had a BA award ticket ATH-LHR in C class with a connection to an AA PAID F class LHR-ORD. The individuals at the Athens check-in counter are the most unaccommodating I have EVER experienced anywhere in all my travels. They REFUSED to check the bag through to Chicago. I am not an argumentative person even though I pressed the issue. I had to get my bags, take the train to the American terminal and check in my bags at the American Flagship Lounge – I misconnected of course and most of the flights had left having me to spend then night in London. I couldn’t believe it.

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