I must confess that I am the check in agents worst nightmare at outstations. They see me approaching with my sheaves of paper and begin to shiver with despair at what I might be about to ask.
Yes, I’m that guy – the one who books some flights with cash and others with miles. These two bookings combine to actually get me where I want to go at a price point I can afford.
Two Tickets Cause One Problem
Airlines can interline baggage which means they can send your bag on from one carrier to another. This is usually seamless and results in the passenger receiving their bag at the other end with no issues.
In the oneworld alliance, holding one ticket with several connecting flights is no problem and your bag will be checked through. Two tickets means your bag won’t be interlined and you will need to collect it and check it in again for your next flight.
This is not customer friendly and in my opinion really penalises frequent flyers. We are the ones with the savvy to be able to put together itineraries using both miles and points and our reward is having to spend extra time collecting and re-checking our hold bag.
Some Airlines Put Their Customer First
The airlines in the alliance can either conform to the rule above or do what they want. For example, Qatar Airways will interline your bag on other alliance carriers even if you have two tickets.
Qantas neatly recognise the conundrum of people booking award flights with miles and other flights with cash. They have a table which shows that an exemption applies when there are separate bookings using a combination of award travel (miles) and revenue travel (cash). Nice work!
Other airlines in the alliance vary from allowing baggage interlining on separate tickets to following the oneworld alliance baggage policy to the letter. No guesses which airlines I prefer to fly on!
Pain at Outstations: Part 1
Twice this year I have flown to Australia using business class tickets on sale. In April I travelled from Pisa to Auckland on Qatar Airways using a cheap cash ticket and then Auckland to Sydney on LATAM using miles.
Check-in took ages. First the agent told me that they could not through check on separate tickets. I assured him that he could. Next there were questions about what airline LATAM is. Apparently no-one got the memo about the merger between LAN and TAM and they only copped on when I mentioned LAN.
Next question they asked? Are LAN in the oneworld alliance. It’s only been 17 years so I guess someone could have missed that fact. To be fair though, Pisa is a new station for Qatar and the agents are extremely nice and helpful.
A supervisor came to assist and radio calls were made back and forth to a back office. An affirmative answer was received and eventually the bag was checked through and I even got my connecting boarding pass. Success!
Pain at Outstations: Part 2
Another sale and another visit to Australia. This time I headed from Stockholm to Auckland on Qatar Airways. Auckland to Sydney on LATAM followed on a separate ticket.
In an astonishing case of history repeating itself, my experience was almost exactly the same. “Your bag will be checked through to Auckland and you will need to check in again.” “No, please interline the bag onto LATAM.” “I don’t think we can do that, are they oneworld?”
Once again a supervisor assisted the agent. After much typing they eventually got the machine to print the bag tag including the connection on the fourth try. The boarding pass could not be issued so I collected that in New Zealand on the way.
The staff – this time provided by SAS – were very friendly throughout. I am a little more surprised at the issue though as Qatar have been flying to Stockholm for a number of years.
Should It Be This Difficult?
In short, no and there are clearly two factors at play. First, outstations may only handle one or two flights per day of the particular airline and staff will handle several carriers. That means there is a lot to remember and there could be deficiencies in training.
I also suspect that while interlining a bag across different tickets is possible, it is not easy. Each time it appears to be a lot more time consuming for the check in people even when they know what they are doing.
Spending ten to fifteen minutes at a check-in desk waiting for the agents to work it all out does not bother me. I feel sorry for the poor passengers next in line behind me who have to cool their heels while I am served.
As a passenger I should not really know the rules better than the people serving me however this is clearly the case here. Whether it is an education issue, a systems issue or a combination of both, these need to be addressed.
It should be simple for the agent to do what they need to do and they also should know what they need to do. Have you had a similar experience or have any thoughts on what I have written? Feel free to leave a comment or question below. Thanks for reading!
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Featured image via the Star Alliance web site.