Interlining bags on separate tickets

This item appears on page 24 of the March 2018 issue.

From the EditorITN subscriber J. Roger Nowell of Seattle, Washington, related an experience that his wife and daughter had when they tried to have their luggage interlined (that is, have their bags moved from one airplane to another without having to claim and recheck them) between two British Airways flights, one from Nice, France, to London, England, and the second from London to Seattle.

Mr. Nowell wrote, “My daughter, Sara, made the reservations because she had 125,000 frequent-flyer miles and a free companion ticket with British Airways (BA). She used them to purchase two round-trip business-class tickets from Seattle to London for her mother, Leigh (my wife), and herself.

“Sara then, separately, purchased BA economy-class tickets for flights from London to Madrid and from Nice to London, since their European excursion was to start in Madrid and end in Nice.

“When Sara and Leigh first flew from Seattle to Madrid via London on April 16, 2017, their bags were checked all the way through to Madrid, as was expected from prior experience.* But when they checked in to fly home from Nice on May 6, they were refused straight-through booking of their bags all the way to Seattle and were required to retrieve them at Heathrow, clear Customs and recheck them before boarding their BA flight to Seattle.”

Roger continued: “The result, due to the long delay, was that they missed their flight out of Heathrow. Sara had to purchase two new tickets (£2,335 apiece, then about $3,125) for the following day’s flight, and she and her mother also incurred the expense of a night at the London Heathrow Marriott Hotel (£264).”

On his daughter’s behalf, Mr. Nowell wrote to British Airways’ Customer Relations USA (P.O. Box 300686, Jamaica, NY 11430-0686) requesting a refund of the cost of the missed flight and reimbursement for the cost of the hotel. 

A representative from British Airways responded, “We’ve refused your claim because, unfortunately, your bookings were booked under separate reference numbers**….

“If you’ve booked all your flights under one booking with the same ticket number, you only need to check in your bags once when you start your journey, then collect them at your final destination. Unfortunately, because your flights were booked separately, you had to collect your bags and check them in again for your second flight. 

“I’m sorry this meant you missed your flight. However, under EU legislation, we’re not liable to pay any compensation or reimburse your expenses for this kind of situation…

“You may be entitled to a refund for the flight you missed, but I’m afraid our Customer Relations team are unable to assist you with this. Our Refunds team are in the best position to help you, as they deal with all refund queries….”

After receiving the reply from British Air, Mr. Nowell sent a letter to the airline’s Refunds team using the return address on the letter he received from the Customer Relations office in England, but he got no response.

Mr. Nowell then wrote to ITN. ITN staff noticed that in the airline’s response to Mr. Nowell, the representative had provided a phone number for Mr. Nowell’s daughter to call in order to speak to the Refunds team (+41 344 493 0787 [option 1]). ITN suggested that, rather than his having written again to British Air, Mr. Nowell should have had his daughter — as instructed — call that number for a refund.

Six days later Mr. Nowell wrote, “My daughter called and spoke to BA at your suggestion. The result was that BA will not refund the ticket cost.

“However, as a backup, she asked for a refund of the taxes levied on the tickets of the missed flight. As you doubtless know, these taxes are quite substantial when flying in and out of Heathrow. BA is refunding them. Case closed!”

For the taxes on the original tickets, Mr. Nowell’s daughter received a refund from BA for $978.

***In regard to having luggage interlined, on June 1, 2016, the oneworld airline alliance (, which includes British Airways, changed its policy regarding passengers connecting on flights with separate reservation numbers.

Before that date, anyone connecting from one BA flight to another would have had his bags interlined regardless of whether or not his flights were booked under separate reservation numbers.

According to BA’s current policy (which is similar to that of most other airlines), a passenger with an ongoing flight booked on a separate reservation “Cannot be accepted for through check-in.” That is, his bags will not be interlined from one oneworld member airline’s flight to another or even between two BA flights. (Even among oneworld member airlines, each airline determines its policy regarding interlining between its own flights on separately booked tickets.)

It seems that, in Seattle, when starting their trip to Madrid, Mr. Nowell’s wife and daughter dealt with a BA representative who was nice enough to check their bags all the way through to Madrid despite the fact that their flight to London and their flight to Madrid were booked separately. However, anyone flying on British Air (or on any oneworld airline) and using separately booked tickets should not expect similar treatment.

ITN emailed a copy of the above account to British Airways and received the following reply from a representative, Michele: “We hugely value our customers and always want them to have the easiest and most convenient flying experience possible. 

“Like all airlines that are part of oneworld, we currently check passengers and their baggage through to their final destination wherever possible when their connecting flights are both booked under one reservation code, PNR or booking reference. However, if a journey spans multiple reservations on separate bookings, we aren’t able to check luggage through.”