Airlines' new baggage policies on itineraries booked on more than one ticket. Also, sources for checking airlines' safety records.

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 2 of the November 2012 issue.

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 441st issue of your foreign-travel magazine, the one you can help write.

An azure sky, towering palms and turquoise waters — idyllic Bora Bora. Photo by Debi Shank

A heads up — airlines are introducing baggage-policy changes that you need to be aware of.

According to new rules announced in January by the US Department of Transportation, as of June 2012, airlines in the US must disclose all fees at the time of ticket purchase, whether the purchase is done in person or online. Also, when a single-ticket itinerary involves more than one airline, the policies, baggage fees and baggage allowances (limits on bags’ size, weight and number) applied by the airline operating the first leg of the flight will apply to all flight segments of that itinerary.

For example, you want to get from Los Angeles to London, so you book a flight on US Air from Los Angeles to Atlanta followed by a flight on United Airlines from Atlanta to New York and on to London — all on one ticket. You would check your bags in Los Angeles and pick them up in London and pay only one baggage fee (to US Air).

Hold your cheering.

When a flight itinerary involves more than one ticket — for example, you purchase a bargain-fare ticket with United from Los Angeles to New York, then separately purchase a ticket using frequent-flyer miles with British Airways to get from New York to London — the airline operating the first flight segment on your second ticket might have more restrictive baggage allowances or charge additional fees.

Because of this, many airlines have changed their policies on flight itineraries that are booked on more than one ticket. (If more than one ticket is purchased, more than one ticket number will be assigned.)

Previously, “interline” agreements between airlines allowed baggage to often be checked through to a passenger’s final destination no matter how many tickets the itinerary involved and no matter which airlines were used.

But with the changes that many airlines have just made, bags will be checked through only to the last destination listed on each ticket. So, with itineraries using multiple, separately booked tickets, a passenger might not be able to automatically check his bags through to his final destination and now might have to pick them up at one or more of the stops and recheck them with each separately ticketed airline, complying with its policies and baggage limits and paying the baggage fees it charges.

Back when the DOT announced that airlines would have to disclose all baggage fees at the time of ticket purchase, airlines said they would be unable to do that when the itinerary included multiple airlines. The DOT agreed that it would suffice if each airline’s ticketing website simply stated that “additional fees” might be charged by other airlines and included links to the other airlines’ webpages showing their baggage policies.

So pay attention to the fine print on an airline’s webpages. If your flight itinerary involves more than one ticket, you might have to look up the fees of the first airline on each additional ticket to know the true total cost of your flights. Be prepared to pay more fees at the airport, though, in case you weren’t thorough.

Some airlines allow you to check extra bags for free if you are a premium-level member of their frequent-flyer program. If your flight itinerary with more than one ticket includes an airline down the road that does not consider you a high-status member, however, you might have to pay to check the extra bags.

Also, if you have to collect your bags between flights and recheck them, a short connection time that used to be adequate could now be a huge problem. It could be even worse when switching between international flights or to a domestic flight, if you have to repack bags to conform to lower weight limits. Repacking is not a such a concern between domestic flights in the US, where baggage allowances are mostly the same (50 pounds and 62 inches maximum).

If you’re wondering about the safety of air travel in a particular country, there are several organizations that maintain lists on airlines’ safety records. Because these lists are updated frequently, most are available only online.

Take comfort, and this can’t be overstressed, that airplane accidents and crashes are very rare. According to the “2011 State of Global Aviation Safety” report issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization, in the year 2010, out of the 30 million commercial (passenger and/or cargo) flights that took place worldwide, there were 121 accidents, of which 19 included a fatality or fatalities.

The UN breaks the globe into five regions: Europe; Asia; Oceania; North America, and Latin America & the Caribbean. Interestingly, and obviously because this is where the most air traffic is, the highest percentage of airplane accidents in 2010 (29%) occurred in North America — but none of those accidents were fatal.

Twenty percent of airplane accidents occurred in Asia, but 47% of those were fatal and they accounted for 67% of the flight-related deaths that year.

The thing to keep in mind, however, is that an accident, no matter how tragic, might not be an indication of how safe a particular airline is. According to the FAA, “… there currently is no evidence in accident data that would support the ranking of individual airlines based on their safety records.” Instead, the FAA focuses on countries that may have inadequate oversight of their airlines.

• The FAA provides a list of countries that do not meet the standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization. For a current listing showing the results of ICAO flight safety audits by country, visit and click on “USOAP/CSA Audit Results.”

• Regarding US airlines and airports, the FAA also tracks security, safety, on-time reports and more. For that info, visit . . or contact the Flight Standards Service (Aviation Data Systems Branch, AFS-620, Box 25082, Oklahoma City, OK 73125; 405/954-4173).

• The European Union regularly updates a list of airlines that, because of poor safety records, are not allowed to land in EU airports. The list is organized by the countries in which the airlines are based. Visit and click on “List of airlines banned within the EU.”

• The International Air Transport Association (IATA) runs a voluntary program of safety and operational audits that are considered very reliable. The International Operational Safety Audit independently evaluates airlines for safety issues, and member airlines get certified about every two years. For a list of all of the member airlines that currently are certified, visit and click (on the right) on “Search for Our Airline Members.”

• A warning about this last website — it matter-of-factly lists the facts about airplane crashes and mishaps, reporting numbers of people killed, etc.

The Aviation Safety Network is a database maintained by the Flight Safety Foundation, a private organization that tracks data on aviation accidents and crashes and airplane incidents and provides safety-related information.

On the homepage, click on “Database.” Their database covers aviation accident information from 1942 to the present, sorting the incidents by plane type, geographic region/country, cause of accident, airline, airport and country of registration. It even has some information drawn from government investigations into crashes plus transcripts of “black box” recordings that have been made public.

In the September issue, I wrote about the TSA’s airline-passenger-prescreening program called Pre√™ (Precheck), in which members of the Trusted Traveler programs Global Entry, SENTRI and NEXUS can use a special lane when going through security with certain airlines at selected US airports.

Gary Koenig of Albany, California, pointed out that membership in one of the Trusted Travelers programs is not the only way to qualify for Preê.

He wrote, “You also may be eligible if your airline’s frequent-flyer program participates and offers you the opportunity to opt in. I am not in any of the Trusted Traveler programs, but I am a United Airlines MileagePlus member and received an e-mail from United.

“I followed the link to a webpage and opted to ‘apply for pre-screening.’ I did not have to provide any additional personal information. Some time later, when the Pre√™ program was brought on line at IAH (Houston International) terminal C, I found out that I was prescreened.

“Apparently, I qualified based on info they had about me from standard frequent-flyer records plus additional profile info previously required by the TSA for purchasing tickets plus, of course, all of my travel history. Of course, there was no guarantee that I would be granted Pre√™ clearance.

“Once you’ve qualified, your eligibility will be encoded in your boarding pass, which is scanned before you get to the TSA ID check. The scanner indicates whether or not you should be directed to the special Pre√™ line.

“To be able to take advantage of Pre√™, you must be at a participating airport and ticketed with a participating airline. It also varies by concourse and even by security line.

“Finally, if you happen to have significant metal in your shoes or boots, you will still have to remove them. On the plus side, you no longer have to go through the full-body-screening machine.”

Participating airlines include Alaska, American, Delta, United and US Airways. For more info, visit or one of the automated kiosks in select US airports (Sept. ’12, pg. 2).


Lise Aissen of Carmel, California, read Pat Carberry’s letter, titled “Global Entry Program ‘How To’” (Sept. ’12, pg. 11), and wrote, “I hold a Global Entry card, which is not supposed to be necessary at Customs except when traveling to Canada or Mexico. I did not have my card when I came in to San Francisco from Frankfurt, Germany, on Aug. 25. At the kiosk, I tried to scan my passport, but nothing worked. Finally, I went to the Customs people, who told me that I had to have my card.”

Lise asked us to forward her letter to Pat, who replied, “My husband and I each have a card and also were told it was needed only when driving into Canada and Mexico. When we attempted to use it to get to Niagara Falls in August, both the US and Canadian sides wanted only our passports to process us for the Precheck line.

“The Global Entry program is fairly new. I am sure that, with time, the process will be easier.”

And more consistent.


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