You can't transfer my bag, or you won't transfer my bag?
October 17, 2010 7:14 PM   Subscribe

My flight from Toronto to Newark a couple of days ago was canceled, and when I asked whether I could be put on a flight to LaGuardia or JFK instead, I was told that they couldn't transfer my bag from one flight to another -- that I would have to pass back through customs to the ticketing area to retrieve my bag, and then go through customs and security again. (And in order to do that, I'd also have to return my duty-free items and re-purchase them.)

I'm just curious -- why would this have been necessary? They were able to put my bag on a Newark flight five hours later, so why couldn't they transfer it to a different flight? Airline policy? Security issue? Federal regulation? I can't figure it out.
posted by cider to Travel & Transportation around Canada (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I had a similar experience flying from Amsterdam - Minneapolis last week. In my case, I wanted to switch to an earlier flight, but since I had checked bags at my origin airport and they were checked through to my destination, they said no. They only told me "security reasons" as an explanation. I've been looking for more info, but no luck yet.
posted by cabingirl at 7:34 PM on October 17, 2010

LaGuardia isn't an international airport, so there's no chance you could go there from Toronto without stopping somewhere else first. I have friends who have flown from LGA to Mexico, but they stopped in DFW and had do to the customs thing there both ways.

JFK, no clue.
posted by AlisonM at 7:43 PM on October 17, 2010

For whatever reason, LaGuardia does do flights to Toronto. The worst flight I ever did was Johannesburg to JFK to shuttle bus to LaGuardia to Toronto. Ugh.

I wonder if is just too much of a pain for the airline to find your luggage retag it and put it in the appropriate pile.
posted by keeo at 7:55 PM on October 17, 2010

My understanding is that, post 9/11, you have to fly on the same flight with your bag (unless it misses your flight), with the idea being that people might be more likely to send explosives or some such on a flight they are not on themselves. Something like that.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:55 PM on October 17, 2010

AlisonM: there are tons of flights from Toronto to LGA. Toronto (and most major Canadian airports) have US Customs preclearance, where you go through US immigration and customs before going to your gate in Toronto. When you land, you arrive at the regular domestic terminal with no fuss, as you've already been screened. LaGuardia has flights to/from Canada, the Bahamas, and other international destinations within its distance limitations.
posted by zachlipton at 7:58 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

On the question of international flights to LaGuardia, I imagine that what makes it "not an international airport" is that there are no customs/immigrations officers there to sort through international travelers. If this is the main reason, then flights from Toronto would be no problem since passengers go through US customs and immigration in the Toronto airport.

Aren't there extra security measures in place for JFK and LaGuardia? I know there's a separate belt you put your luggage on in Toronto if you're going to DC. Isn't there something like that for New York? Not sure why it wouldn't apply to Newark, too, though.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:00 PM on October 17, 2010

Whoops, sorry re: Toronto -> LGA! So I guess I don't have any kind of answer then.
posted by AlisonM at 8:07 PM on October 17, 2010

This is an FAA regulation: No bag travels without its accompanying ticketed passenger.

The policy was a response to the Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie in 1988, where the bomb was placed in a suitcase and checked in on Air Malta, but the passenger did not board the plane with it—allowing the bomb to be remotely detonated after departure from a stop in Heathrow.

So, at the point when your Newark flight was cancelled, you were no longer ticketed for any flight out of Toronto. Therefore according to FAA regs, the airline can't have possession of your luggage. Even though you're obviously going to be on a plane at some point soon... for that period of time, you weren't a ticketed passenger so you had to reclaim your bag, and for that you have to leave the sterile side.
posted by pineapple at 9:18 PM on October 17, 2010

pineapple: So, at the point when your Newark flight was cancelled, you were no longer ticketed for any flight out of Toronto. Therefore according to FAA regs, the airline can't have possession of your luggage.

Except, pineapple, as he points out, when they re-booked him on a different flight to Newark, they didn't have to give him his bag back. It was only when he wanted to be booked to a different destination that they wanted to do that.

My suspicion is that they can't put a new luggage tag thingy on it without bringing it back to the main airport and having it go through again. Since it had a Newark luggage tag thingy already, it was fine, but if they had had to put an LGA tag on it, they would have had to go through the process again. This is, however, total speculation.
posted by brainmouse at 10:41 PM on October 17, 2010

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