AIR TRAVEL - Baggage Rules for Multi-Airline Schedules - Which Allowance?

 

If you’re flying on multi-airline itineraries, or code shares, or multi-destination tickets, the question often arises “which airline’s baggage allowance do you have?". Before 2011 there were no rules governing which airline’s rules applied. Now there are two sets of guidelines/laws depending on where you are traveling.

  • IATA Resolution 302 is a code of practice for airlines and applies for all itineraries except those to and from the United States and Canada. This is known as the Most Significant Carrier rule.

  • US DOT Regulation 399.87 applies to all flights on tickets whose origin or ultimate destination is the USA. And since April 2015 Canada introduced its own regulation 144-A-2014 which applies essentially the same rules as the US. These are known as the First Marketing Carrier rule.

Note that for itineraries that simply have a through connection in the US or Canada (such as UK-USA-Mexico) the IATA rules apply.

These rules apply to checked baggage only, and applies only to flights on the same ticket. Your hand baggage (carry on) allowance is determined by each airline operating the flights, and when code shares are involved it's the operating carrier. If you are traveling on multiple airlines on the same itinerary your hand baggage must comply with the strictest of the rules set by the airlines concerned.

 

IATA Resolution 302 (Most Significant Carrier)

 

Important Note - The IATA 302 guidelines changed on 1st April 2015. The Most Significant Carrier is now the Marketing Carrier of the most significant flight. That's the airline whose flight number for that leg appears on your ticket. So if you have a code share flight you would need to check the flight number on your ticket for the most significant leg, and that airline's will apply, not the airlie operating the flight.

The most important aspects of the IATA Resolution 302 guideline are -

1) Your baggage allowance is determined each time you check in for your flight. This means the allowance for subsequent check ins (including the return) could be different.

2) For multi-carrier flights, where you change airlines at a connection point (for example British Airways Glasgow to London Heathrow, connecting to Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong) it is the baggage rules of the Most Significant Carrier (MSC) that apply.

Note that the most significant carrier is not necessarily the airline flying the longest leg (although in most cases the longest leg does turn out to be the most significant flight). It is determined by a series of IATA global and regional areas, and the airline that cross the most significant area boundaries.

IATA divided the world into three global areas, and each global area is subdivided into regional zones.


Global Area 1
Americas



Global Area 2
Europe
Middle East
& Africa

Global Area 3
Asia


Regional Zones          
North America
Central America
Caribbean
South America

Regional Zones          
Europe
Middle East
Africa


Regional Zones
South Asia (India, etc) 
Japan/Korea
South East Pacific
(Australia, NZ, etc)
Southeast Asia (Rest)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The Most Significant Carrier is the airline whose flight number on your ticket is -

  1. The first flight crossing a global boundary (for example a Europe to Asia leg from global Area 2 to Area 3). The one exception is that if global Areas 1 and 2 are crossed then the MSC is the airline operating that flight (even if it's not the first crossing).

  2. If no global Area is crossed then it is the first flight that crosses a regional zone (say Europe to Middle East, or South Asia/India to the rest of Asia).

  3. If no regional zone is crossed (for example all flights are within Europe)  the it is the first international leg.

 

Note that when the most significant flight is a code share then the marketing carrier for that flight (that’s the airline whose flight number is on your ticket) that is the Most Significant Carrier. 

 

IATA 302 Issues - What to Watch Out For

 

The biggest issues to watch out for with flights operating under IATA 302 are -

  1. Code shares. It is now the marketing airline of the most significant flight that determines your baggage allowance.

  2. Your baggage allowance on one check in could be different to another. This is because your allowance calculated each time you check in for flights on your ticket, and a new MSC is determined. Therefore the allowances for subsequent check ins could be different to your original allowance. This is particularly important when you have multi-destination tickets involving stopovers of several days, and the airlines’ have different allowances depending on the routes flown.

 

Examples

The following examples show how the Most Significant Carrier is determined.

Example 1 - Multi-carrier (interline) Itinerary

Check in       Flight(s)                                                                     Flight #           Allowance

 1

 

 Sydney (SYD) to Hong Kong (HKG)

Hong Kong (HKG) to London (LHR)   

 CX110

 VS201

Virgin Atlantic   


 


 

In this example the first flight (SYD-HKG) flies within global Area 3, but the second flight (HKG-LHR) crosses from Area 3 to Area 2. Therefore the airline marketing the second flight (Virgin Atlantic) is the most significant carrier and its allowance of applies.

 

Example 2 -  where the MSC does not fly the longest flight

Check in       Flight(s)                                                                     Flight #           Allowance             

 1

 

Manchester (MAN) to Abu Dhabi (AUH)      

Abu Dhabi (AUH) to Mumbai (BOM)

EY22

9W58

Jet Airways

 

 

The longest of these two flights is the Etihad flight MAN-AUH, but that flight stays within the global Area 2. It’s the shorter Jet Airways flight AUH-BOM that crosses into Area 3 and so in this case Jet Airways is the Most Significant Carrier. 


Example 3 - when you have a different baggage allowance at downstream check ins

Check in      
Flight(s)                                                                    
 Flight #           
Allowance
 1


 Bangkok (BKK)  to Frankfurt (FRA)


 TG920 

 

Thai Airways  

30kg 

 2



 Frankfurt (FRA) to Oslo (OSL)



 LH860



Lufthansa
1 bag @23kg

 

 3



 Oslo (OSL) to Frankfurt (FRA)
 Frankfurt (FRA) to Bangkok (BKK)
 

 LH865
 TG921

 

Thai Airways (MSC) 
30kg

  

 

In this case, at check in 1 and check in 3, it's Thai Airways' international allowance that applies (30kg) that applies, as for check in 3 at Oslo Thai is the most significant carrier. However, for check in 2 the operating carrier (Lufthansa) has only a 23kg limit, therefore if the passenger were carrying the full 30kg allowance from Thai for the entire itinerary, they would pay excess baggage fees at the second check in.

 


Example 4 - Code shares

The following examples 4a and 4b refer to the same flights, but one of them uses code shares. 

4a - 

Check in      
Flight(s)                                                                    
 Flight #           
Allowance
 1


 London Heathrow (LHR) to Tokyo Haneda (HND)


 JL44


Japan Airlines
2 bags @23kg

 2


 Tokyo Haneda (HND) to Bangkok (BKK)


 JL31


Japan Airlines
2 bags @23k

 3

 

 Bangkok (BKK) to Tokyo Haneda (HND)
 Tokyo Haneda (HND) to London Heathrow (LHR)  

 

 JL34
 JL7083
 (operated by
 British Airways) 

Japan Airlines
2 bags @23k

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4b -

Check in      
Flight(s)                                                                    
 Flight #           
Allowance
 1


 London Heathrow (LHR) to Tokyo Haneda (HND)


 BA4600     
 (operated by
 Japan Airlines)  
 


Japan Airlines
2 bags @23kg

 2


 Tokyo Haneda (HND) to Bangkok (BKK)


 JL31


Japan Airlines
2 bags @23k

 3

 

 Bangkok (BKK) to Tokyo Haneda (HND)
 Tokyo Haneda (HND) to London Heathrow (LHR)  

 

 JL34
 BA8

 

British Airways
(MSC)
1 bag @23k

 

 

 In example 4a all the flight numbers are JL (Japan Airlines) which has an allowance of two free bags at 23kg. And as JL is the marketing carrier for all the most significant legs, it is the MSC and its allowance applies.

However, example 4b (which are the exact same flights) it is British Airways which is the MSC for the flights between London and Tokyo, as it is the marketing carrier. Therefore for the first and third check ins, you will get the BA allowance of just one free bag at 23kg (unless the fare purchased for BA is a fully flexible economy fare).

 





US DOT Regulation 14 CFR 399.87 and CTA Regulation 144-A-2014 (First Marketing Carrier)

 

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) introduced its own regulation for baggage allowances and fees, and in April 2015 the Canadian Transportation Agency replicated these into Canadian law. Their focus is on ensuring that the allowance and fees remain the same for all flights on the same ticket. And they apply to all flights on tickets that originate or have an ultimate destination of the US. And note that while IATA 302 is an industry code of practice the US and Canadian DOT are law. Connections through the US or Canada (e.g. UK-US-Costa Rica) aren’t subject to these rules and IATA 302 would apply.

The US law states

  1. For passengers whose ultimate ticketed origin or destination is a US point, US and foreign carriers must apply the baggage allowances and fees that apply at the beginning of a passenger’s itinerary throughout his or her entire itinerary.

  2. In the case of code-share flights that form part of an itinerary whose ultimate ticketed origin or destination is a US point, US and foreign carriers must apply the baggage allowances and fees of the marketing carrier throughout the itinerary to the extent that they differ from those of any operating carrier.

  3. The marketing carrier for the first flight on the ticket is free to apply the allowances and fees of the most significant carrier, and that allowance would apply on all the remaining flights on that ticket.

So, it’s the allowance, and fees, of the First Marketing Carrier (FMC) that apply to all flights on the ticket.

To determine your baggage allowance, look at the first flight on the ticket and note the airline whose code is on that flight. For example if it says UA1234 then United is the first marketing carrier and its baggage allowance and fees apply for all flights on that ticket.

Don’t worry if the first flight is a domestic flight. As long as there is an immediate connection (without a stopover) to an international flight then the FMC’s international allowance applies.

Point 3 appears confusing. That is the first marketing carrier may choose to apply the baggage rules of the most significant (marketing) carrier instead of its own rules. Most major US airlines don’t do this, so why is it there?  There are regional carriers who don’t fly long haul and so don’t have a long haul baggage allowance. For example, Alaska Airlines only flies regionally and has no free baggage allowance. Yet Alaska also provides domestic connecting flights for other airlines’ long haul services. As they don’t want to constrain passengers to their baggage fees for all flights Alaska applies the baggage allowance and fees of the most significant carrier whose flight number is on the ticket, and that allowance applies for all flights. So if you start with an Alaska (AS) flight connecting to a Korean Airlines (KL) flight, Alaska will give you Korean’s baggage allowance (2 free bags for US originating flights) and that allowance is then the same (2 free bags) for all other flights on the ticket.

Also be aware that if you are making your journey using flights on separate tickets, then each ticket will have its own baggage allowance and fees.

 

Benefits of CFR 399.87 and CTA 144-A-2014

1) You get one consistent baggage allowance, and set of fees for all flights on the ticket. The allowance and fees don’t change when you check in for downstream flights.

2) Because the allowance is that of the first marketing carrier, you don’t get confused by having to check other airlines’ websites if you’ve booked a code share.


Example 5 - how the FMC provides consistent allowance for all check ins on an itinerary.

 Check in      Flight(s)                                                                   Flight #                      
Allowance        
 1



 Hamburg (HAM) to Amsterdam (AMS)

 Amsterdam (AMS) to New York (JFK)

 DL9323
 (operated by KLM)
 
DL9409
 (operated by KLM)
Delta (FMC)
International
1 bag @23kg

 2

 New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX)

 DL423

FMC
1 bag @23kg
 3


 Los Angeles (LAX) to San Francisco (SFO)


 DL6436
 (operated by
 Compass Airlines)
 FMC
1 bag @23kg
 4



 San Francisco (SFO) to Paris (CDG)

 Paris (CDG) to Hamburg (HAM)

 DL8599
 (operated by Air France)
 DL8472
 (operated by Air France)
FMC
1 bag @23kg


 

The FMC is the airline whose flight code appears on the first flight. In this case that is Delta (even though the operating carrier is KLM). So Delta's international allowance of one free checked bag applies to the first flight(s), and all flights on the ticket. This includes the domestic US legs JFK-LAXand LAX-SFO which under IATA 302 would attract the domestic baggage fee.

 

 

CFR 399.87/CTA144-A-2014 Issues - what to watch out for

 

YOU COULD END UP WITH BAGGAGE FEES ON ALL FLIGHTS 

 

If you book a multi-destination international ticket with the first flight(s) to the first stopover being US domestic or Transborder (e.g. Raleigh-Durham to Chicago on American) then the domestic allowance (zero) and baggage fees apply for all flights, including long haul international legs.

Example 6 - where baggage fees may have to be paid for all flights

 Check in     
Flight(s)                                                                 
Flight #                       
Allowance       
 1



 Raleigh-Durham (RDU) to Chicago (ORD)



 AA1450



American FMC
Domestic
0 free bags
1st bag $25
 2


 Chicago (ORD) to Tokyo (NRT)
 Tokyo (NRT) to Ho Chi Minh City (SGN)

 JL9
 JL759

FMC
0 free bags
1st bag @25
 3


 Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) to Tokyo (NRT)


 JL750


FMC
0 free bags
ist bag $25
 4


 Tokyo (NRT) to New York (JFK)
 New York (JFK) to Raleigh-Durham (RDU)
 JL6
 AA3296
 (operated by Envoy Air)
FMC
0 free bags
ist bag $25

 

In this case the first flight (to the first stopover) is a wholly domestic US flight, and therefore the baggage allowance is zero, and the first checked bag attracts a fee of $25. However, per the law that means that all flights on the ticket require the same allowance (zero) and fees ($25 first bag). So you should avoid itineraries where that would apply, such as avoiding a domestic stopover, or booking the initial domestic flights on a separate ticket.

 

FREQUENT FLIER AND CLASS OF SERVICE BENEFITS ARE NOT APPLIED TO ALL DOWNSTREAM FLIGHTS

The one area when baggage allowances can differ is when additional bonus allowances are provided by the FMC for class of service (e.g. business class) or frequent flier benefits. The downstream airline is not required to provide those benefits (e.g. 3 free bags for an economy flight); they only have to apply the base allowance which is the FMC’s standard economy allowance. In practice, downstream airlines will provide additional allowances if you fly with them in a premium cabin (their own business class allowance) and if they are an alliance partner (alliance benefit allowance).

 

Example 7 -  where allowances change due to frequent flier status

Passenger is a top tier frequent flier in United's MilreagePlus (Premier 1K). 

 Check in     
 Flight(s)                                                                 
 Flight #                               
Allowance            
 1



 Portland (PDX) to Newark (EWR)
 Newark (EWR) to Delhi (DEL)


 UA1149
 UA82


United FMC
(FMC 1 bag @23kg)
3 bags @32kg
United 1K bonus
 2

 Delhi (DEL) to Bangalore (BLR)

 9W811
FMC
1 bag @23kg
 3



 Bangalore (BLR) to Frankfurt (FRA)
 Frankfurt (FRA) to Calgary (YYC)
 Calgary (YYC) to Portland (PDX)

 LH745
 AC845
 AC8317
 (operated by Air Canada Jazz)
2 bags @23kg
Star Alliance Gold
bonus

 

In this case United is the FMC and the basic FMC allowance for United is one free bag @23kg. However at the first check in Passenger receives the United 1K bonus allowance of three bags @32kg.  For the second check in Jet Airways does not have an arrangement with United and so they apply the basic FMC allownace of one bag @23kg. The final check in is with Lufthansa, a Star Alliance member, so Passenger receives the Star Alliance Gold bonus allowance of two free bags @23kg.

 

 

IFLYBAGS - a website that calculates these baggage allowances

The Airline Tariff Publishing Company (ATPCO) has created a database and baggage calculator for use by the airlines. A simplified version of the calculator is available to the public through the website IFLYBAGS (www.iflybags.com). There is also a free app available. IFLYBAGS works best for journeys that don't originate or end at a US point and is therefore mostly geared to IATA 302. For journeys that are subject to 14CFR399.87 it does determine the First Marketing Carrier for the entire itinerary and hence the baggage charges for each check in, however it does not display multi-destination schedules correctly.