How to retrieve checked-through luggage if I don't board a connecting flight?
Assume I have a flight ticket from A->B->C and at A I checked in luggage all the way to C. However after the first flight I don't board the second flight but decide to remain in B. As I understand procedures my luggage will need to be unloaded again from the plane in B when they notice I did not board the flight.
- How and when can I retrieve my luggage at B? (Or if not, what is the fate of my luggage?)
- Is there any way I can advise airport/airline staff in B to not load my luggage in the first place? (I understand that asking to do so when checking in in A would be declined / met with a fare recalculation)
This question is different from this one here in that I am looking for a general answer, whereas in that case B happened to be the port of entry to the US where you have to collect your luggage in any case. Also it is different from questions about hidden city ticketing in that I do want to check in luggage from A to B. Finally I am also aware that possible further legs of my trip would be cancelled. This question is asking essentially the same but was marked duplicate to the above two questions that do not answer my question.
Interesting question. I can totally see this as completely legitimate, btw. If, for example, you're meeting a friend at Airport B during your layover and want to give them a bottle of whiskey as a gift ( which you can't hold in your carry-on ), you'd need your luggage. If you wanted to change into a suit and didn't want to carry it or take it as carry-on, or probably the most common. You book a flight that connects in your home airport on it's way to a neighboring airport because it was cheaper than a direct... my guess this situation is the latter. lol.
Very important point: If it happens that a flight A->B is more expensive than A->B->C, they will likely try to charge you the cost difference. When this is done on purpose, it's called "hidden city ticketing", and it's generally accepted/recommended that you cannot use checked baggage with this strategy. The one thing you can try is to convince them at checkin to only check your baggage to B, because you need it for some reason. They will only do this if you have sufficient connection time at B to collect your baggage, re-check it and clear security, probably at least 2 hours.
A lot depends on where A, B & C are. Are we talking three different countries or three cities in the same country? Procedures in each of these scenarios would be different. Are we talking a tight connection or a longer layover in B?
@Tom good comment! For example say A is in the US and B and C in Europe (both Schengen) but different countries and the layover in B is 2-3h.
I haven't flown A-B-C going to the EU in recent years, I always go A-C. As I understand, you will clear immigration at B and perhaps customs as well? But if you don't need to claim your bags normally, then the best course is to ask the agent meeting your flight about the change. They can either call down to have your bags pulled and sent to baggage claim or direct you to the person who can. It may also require paperwork changes, as the airline has already filed paperwork that it transported XX passengers and YY checked bags to B.
@Tom do you have any personal experience of having done so? (even if not in EU but somewhere else is fine, just if B is the first port of entry to the US it is a different case as you get your luggage in any case). If so, please go ahead to post an answer!
No, if I buy a ticket to C, I fly to C. The only time I have voluntarily changed my routing was when my mother passed and I changed direction of travel midway, spoke with the gate agent, got my bags back then went to the ticket counter to get a new route back booked. It was in Europe, but before the EU.
Answering your second question first, if you are travelling A-B-C and want to retrieve you bag at B, you would ask to short-check your bag to B. Airlines have varying policies around this and whether they will allow you to do so. This may depend on the connection time at B, whether you have an overnight stay, or whether you're on a fully flexible ticket. Check-in staff may be able to make an exception to their policy if you give them a convincing enough reason, such as you have medicines or medical equipment that needs retrieving at B, or you are delivering something to someone at B. The reasons they have policies against short-checking have been explained elsewhere and are for things such as discouraging hidden-city ticketing.
If you arrive at B with bags checked to C and you don't board your connecting flight, the rules depend upon the country you're currently in at B and whether B-C is an international flight. As Doc mentions in comments, Positive Passenger Bag Matching rules apply to certain flights.
Positive passenger bag-match (PPBM) is a security measure aimed at preventing baggage unaccompanied by passengers from traveling in aircraft luggage compartments. Such matching is now performed on virtually all international flights
On domestic flights in the USA this is only one option that currently may be selected if explosive detection systems are not in place.
(e)Mandatory Screening Where EDS Not Yet Available.—As soon as practicable but not later than the 60th day following the date of enactment of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act and until the requirements of subsection (b)(1)(A) are met, the Under Secretary shall require alternative means for screening any piece of checked baggage that is not screened by an explosives detection system. Such alternative means may include 1 or more of the following:
(1) A bag-match program that ensures that no checked baggage is placed aboard an aircraft unless the passenger who checked the baggage is aboard the aircraft.
(2) Manual search.
(3) Search by canine explosives detection units in combination with other means.
(4) Other means or technology approved by the Under Secretary.
If PPBM rules apply, the airline has no option but to unload your bag if you choose not to fly or do not board. If you inform them as soon as possible, this will allow the airline to remove your luggage without causing a departure delay, which failure to turn up at boarding time almost inevitably would. Theoretically you could inform the airline at A that you have no intention to board at B and that they would inevitably have to unload your luggage anyway, but that would create the risk that they would refuse to let you fly without repricing the new itinerary, or charging for short-check, e.g. on Virgin:
Our bags could be checked to LHR only for a fee of $215 per pax! Half an hour later and $430 lighter, our bags are checked only to LHR.
Others on that thread have managed to get their bags short-checked without fee.
An alternative to requesting short-check is to find an itinerary that requires you to retrieve luggage during transfer. One common method is to require a change of airport, such as LHR-LGW, LHR-LCY, JFK-LGA, CDG-ORY which is an option if the transfer city has multiple airports. Another option is to force an overnight stay. e.g. from KLM's policy:
When transferring, you only need to collect your baggage and check it in again for your connecting flight, if:
- You arrive at one airport and your connecting flight departs from another airport
- Your transfer lasts longer than 12 hours or your next flight departs the next day.
If the airline refuses to allow short-check and you arrive at B, you would inform the airline staff that you are not flying B-C and request that they retrieve your luggage. This is not at all an unlikely event as people fall sick during journeys, get lost, distracted or delayed during connections, and may need to change travel plans for other unexpected reasons. Obviously, airlines must have procedures for removing luggage in certain circumstances. Assuming the airline agrees to retrieve your luggage, there may be a considerable delay in returning it to you, and it may get lost or redirected during the process. The bag tag will still have final destination on it and there is a risk that other processes in the system result in the bag not making it to the luggage belt. Some airlines reportedly charge to retrieve your bag in this situation:
After a lot of run around to recover my bags I ended up at the ticket desk, where I was charged €275 each person for the luggage recover! By now it was too late to go with the bags to London, so other than abandoning the luggage I had no choice but pay 550 euros , to get my luggage.
And Air France (closely related to KLM):
Air France says the only other way to get my bags at CDG is to pay a €275 fee once there, as there's a policy for check-in agents NOT to honor requests to tag bags with the connecting airport.
If the Passenger does not use all their Flight Coupons and prematurely interrupts their journey, the Passenger may be required to pay a fixed amount, specified by the Carrier when the Reservation was made, in order to be able to retrieve their Checked Baggage.
Given a lack of itinerary and airlines in your question, that is all that really could be said. Each airline has different policies and procedures that may also depend on the itinerary and transfers, and you would need to request short-check at check-in and negotiate/escalate. In general, it would be best to check the airlines's conditions of carriage for any specified fees, e.g. for British Airways
3c2) Your ticket is no longer valid if you do not use all the coupons in the sequence provided in the ticket. Where you change your travel without our agreement and the price for the resulting transportation you intend to undertake is greater than the price originally paid, you will be requested to pay the difference in price. Failure to pay the price applicable to your revised transportation will result in refusal of carriage.
Providing you are skipping the final segment, failure to pay any additional fee for the journey as flown only results in the refusal of carriage. There is no mention of any charge to retrieve luggage.
There's no requirement to give a reason for reclaiming bags other than "I am not flying to CPH". However a change of plan and an onwards BA ticket would be fine. It could involve 2 hours of waiting however.
Similarly, I see no mention of a fee in American Airlines or Alitalia CoCs.
As for real-life experiences of people who have not short=checked and retrieved baggage before final segment, there does not appear to be much in the way of anecdotes of this situation. Will update answer following further research.