Why is this blowing my mind?
May 1, 2008 8:39 AM   Subscribe

International flights. Multiple carriers. Checked baggage. Layovers.

My friends and I are going to Athens this summer. They already booked their flights and are taking multiple carriers that includes one layover. They booked the flights together online.

However, I'm trying to book the flights now and for some reason the second flight isn't showing up on the "aggregate flight search" websites, but it is showing up on the carrier's website. So, I'm going to have to book the flights separately.

My question is, how will this work with checked baggage? Would I have to get my luggage, go through customs, and check in for the next flight (which is not feasible)?

Also, what if one of my friends just checked the bags for me? How does the carrier for the second flight know that I'm already in the airport... would I have to re-check in with the new airline?
posted by andrewdunn to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
Well to your last question...if your friend checks your bag, then it is your friend's bag for the duration of the voyage. As far as the airline goes, it is not your bag at all. This is actually a nice approach to the problem if there aren't any surcharges or problems with the extra baggage.

I suppose that you could get some extra questioning about why you were traveling internationally with so little baggage.
posted by mmascolino at 9:08 AM on May 1, 2008

If you buy the legs of your flight on different reservations, you will have to pick up your luggage at the carousel, go through customs, check it again, then go through security and board your flight. Having a friend of yours check it for you at your first departure airport seems like the best solution in this case.

Also, checking luggage on multi-leg flights is always a PIA--I've had mine lost or delayed for many weeks on multiple occasions (every single time I've had a layover in Amsterdam, for a total of four times over the past three years, as well as both times I've flown through London Heathrow). My advice is that you should give some very serious consideration to just packing light and carrying your luggage on board with you.
posted by halogen at 9:09 AM on May 1, 2008

It's blowing your mind because international travel with multiple passengers on multiple itineraries and multiple carriers is HARD. If it wasn't, "The Amazing Race" wouldn't be so entertaining. The main thing we would need to know to really help you: are you booking codeshare, interline or point-to-point? What about your friends? If they booked through Expedia or Orbitz, etc.

Codeshare: Carrier #1 receives all the money for the tickets. Passengers might be flying on airplanes that have Carrier #2's name on the tail, but the flight itself has a Carrier #1 flight number. Check in one time; check baggage one time; claim baggage one time.

Interline: some people consider interlining the same as codesharing, with carrier cooperation, except with different flight numbers. (I for one usually say "interline" when I technically mean "point-to-point.")

Point-to-point: Check in with Carrier #1. Arrive at destination. Depart sterile area. Claim baggage from Carrier #1. Return to counters and check in with Carrier #2; go through TSA again. Rinse and repeat as necessary. (This is what it sounds like you are doing, from your original post.)

If you are booking a codeshare/interline itinerary, you usually do not have to collect your baggage and re-check-in.... EXCEPT. You said, "Would I have to get my luggage, go through customs, and check in for the next flight (which is not feasible)?" Depending on the immigration policies at the airports through which you are traveling, you might have to do this anyway, regardless of your itinerary and carriers. At the point where you deplane for the first time into the EU, you will likely have to collect your luggage, show your passport, get stamped, and then re-drop it with the carrier or the next carrier anyway.

Also, what if one of my friends just checked the bags for me? How does the carrier for the second flight know that I'm already in the airport... would I have to re-check in with the new airline?

Your friend could check your bag for you -- but then he/she has to be fully responsible for it all the way through, and if he gets detained at customs, and says, "Oh, I didn't know there was a Swiss Army knife in there, I'm carrying this for my friend," he can expect a long fun night in a windowless room. So, I would recommend against this for a host of reasons -- not the least of which is the risk that the bag doesn't get to Greece on your outbound trip... and then you're stuck buying a new travel wardrobe in euros.

Also, I'm not really sure what you mean, "how would the 2nd carrier know". How would they know anyway, whether you did or didn't have bags? I might just be confused. Can you give us a rough itinerary, just "MSY -> ATL -> LHR -> AHN", for example (airport codes), and indicate where the carrier switch would be?
posted by pineapple at 9:09 AM on May 1, 2008

I don't know if it's different for international or not, but every time I've flown on multiple carriers domestically, the baggage is always checked through to the destination. The bowels of the airport (mostly) knows what to do with your stuff. All of the airlines have interconnected reservations and check-in systems, so one airline can check you in on another.

Again, this could all change on international, especially if the other carrier is a small regional airline.
posted by hwyengr at 9:12 AM on May 1, 2008

Oh, but nonetheless pack a change of clothes and your essentials in your carry-on. The one time I flew multiple carriers internationally, my luggage was already lost before that point. And remember, the last airline you fly on is responsible for finding your luggage if (when) it goes missing, no matter when it gets lost in the system.
posted by hwyengr at 9:18 AM on May 1, 2008

If your friend is going to check your bag, make sure they're there when you pack it, because they will be asked if they packed it, and if it has other peoples stuff in it. If they participate in the packing they don't have to worry about an awkward answer when checking in. Some people react funny when under pressure.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:54 AM on May 1, 2008

Spend the extra thirty to fifty dollars and use a travel agent to book the whole thing and one continuous trip. they should know how to do this.
posted by Xurando at 11:12 AM on May 1, 2008

Be very careful to ensure that you have a long layover between your flights. Because they're not connected, and you've got multiple carriers, if you get delayed somewhere and miss your next flight it's going to be a pain. Agree with going to a travel agent if you can't work this out online.
posted by wingless_angel at 2:29 PM on May 1, 2008

Don't check anything. Travel hand-luggage only (maybe using this) and send your suitcase over using a luggage service such as First Luggage or Excess Baggage.
posted by krisjohn at 3:54 PM on May 1, 2008

Get a lock for all your bags. You likely already do this, but it's especially important when traveling internationally.

About 50% of the time when I fly to India, a bag gets lost. We always get it back, but it's an inconvenience you should be prepared for.

And just be aware of what's going on. In India, they unload baggage after they've been around the belt a couple times. My first time traveling alone, I waited 20 minutes before realizing that all my bags were piled on one corner of the room.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 4:43 PM on May 1, 2008

It's hot in Athens in the summer. You could very easily pack enough clothes for almost any length of trip in a small backpack and wash them there if you need to. I was in Europe for a month last July and carried only a bookbag. Sure, I did laundry a couple of times, but it was such a boon to be able to carry on my entire luggage.

Plus, the amazed looks you get when you're flying out after four weeks and tell the inspector that yes, this is all you've got...priceless.
posted by crinklebat at 9:13 PM on May 1, 2008

If you MUST check luggage, then asking one of your friends to check it (you might have to pay) could be a good option.

But I'm with crinklebat - try to do carry-on only. You don't necessarily need to do it totally backpacker style, either. This article on packing carry-on only was written for cruises, but the concept applies pretty generally.

Just keep in mind that European budget airlines are particularly strict, so check your airlines' rules carefully.
posted by CruiseSavvy at 1:07 PM on May 23, 2008

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