Delta no longer transfers international bags (poor service)

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Nov 19, 2018
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#1
I have for many years travelled to Ethiopia where I do supportive health work. Because KLM stopped flying to Addis Ababa, I now fly Delta to Europe and then transfer to an airline that flies to Ethiopia, such as Ethiopian. In the past, Delta has checked my bags through to my final destination. When I checked in this time in Minneapolis, the agent informed me in a abrupt fashion that this was no longer the Delta policy to check through bags unless you were transferring to KLM or Air France. The alternative, such as in London Heathrow, is to go through immigration, baggage claim and customs in the UK, reclaim all my luggage, wait many hours until the Ethiopian gate opened up and then recheck my bags with the next carrier. When I questioned this policy, I was told that Delta did not want to pay for non-Delta baggage handling fees or assume responsibility for transferring bags in a large airport.

When I tried to explain that this had not been my past experience and asked to speak to a supervisor, I told that I would receive a one-time exception but that there would be a permanent warning in my record linked to my frequent flier number so that I would never do this again. I should add that when I arrived in London and spoke with Delta officials there, they were quite surprised at this policy, and indicated that transferring bags to another airline was expected and in no way a problem. On my return flight, Ethiopian airlines also had no problem checking my luggage to my final destination. When I followed up with Delta with a customer complaint, I was given a generic letter of apology, but reaffirmation that this was Delta's policy.

This practice would seem to cause stress, physical inconvenience, and significant for large numbers of travelers, especially those who may have tight connections, or who are elderly or infirmed. Delta should change this poor service policy. If there is no change in this policy, potential fliers should be informed so that they can make alternative travel plans.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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#2
Were all the flights in the same PNR? Delta changed policy in 2016 to only checking bags through on a partner airline.

Delta's Through-Check Baggage Policy


Effective for travel on or after January 11, 2016, Delta will check a passenger’s baggage between the origin and destination airports that are issued on a single or conjuncted* ticket exclusively. When issued on one ticket, Delta will also continue to check baggage through to the ticketed destination for interline itineraries. If a second ticket is presented for travel, Delta will only check the bag to the destination of the Delta ticket(s). Baggage may be claimed at the Delta-ticketed destination, and then re-checked by the customer with the downline carrier for the next flight.
* A single ticket also means a conjuncted (i.e., conjunctive) ticket. Conjuncted tickets are sequential in number on same ticket stock. It is not possible to conjunct tickets from different airlines.
Exceptions
In cases as noted below, when more than one ticket is presented, Delta will continue to through-check baggage from the origin to the destination.
  • An entire journey (itinerary) consisting of Delta-marketed / Delta-operated flights
  • SkyMiles Award plus a ticket with Delta-marketed / Delta-operated flights
  • Delta ticket plus a ticket on the Delta partner airlines listed below:
    • Aeromexico (AM)
    • Air France (AF)
    • Alitalia (AZ)
    • China Eastern (MU)
    • GOL (G3)
    • Jet Airways (9W)
    • KLM (KL)
    • Korean Air (KE)
    • Virgin Atlantic (VS)
    • Virgin Australia (VA)
  • Delta ticket plus a:
    • SkyTeam pass ticket
    • Ticket with travel on a Visit USA (VUSA) fare
    • Connection to a Delta charter flight
Travel Agency Information
 

weihlac

Verified Member
Jun 30, 2017
1,798
1,800
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Maui Hawaii
#3
Other airlines have the same policy. I just flew UA DEN-LAX, and Air Tahiti Nui LAX-PPT. I had to get my bags from baggage claim in LAX from United and walk them to the ATN check-in and recheck them. This is nothing new for separate tickets on airlines not in the same alliance. Had I flown American to LAX they would have checked my bags through to Tahiti. Delta is not going to accept the bags and transfer them to an unconnected ticket and airline. You need to find two airlines in the same alliance and book your travel on a single reservation.
 
Likes: Nancy

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
8,224
8,163
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San Francisco
#4
Ah yes, yet another way for an airline to save a few bucks at the cost of their customers. What else is new? Frankly, on a trip like yours, I'd rather make sure my bags got on the next flight myself, even tho it's a huge inconvenience. But I can surely understand your frustration, if you were used to the old way.

Actually, you're lucky you were paying attention at MSP ... we hear from people who just assumed their bags would be transferred, only to land at their destination with the bags still at the connecting airport. And no way to get them sent on. If you use SkyMiles, I'd write Delta a polite letter of complaint and they'll probably throw some your way.
 
Likes: Neil Maley
Sep 19, 2015
4,650
6,094
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#5
Delta is part of Skyalliance, Ethiopian is Star Alliance. Did you have separate tickets or one ticket? Once you have two separate tickets there is no obligation to through check baggage.

Some airlines will not through check bags on separate tickets even within the same alliance.

It sounds as if you had two different tickets.

More details would be helpful.
 
Likes: Neil Maley

weihlac

Verified Member
Jun 30, 2017
1,798
1,800
113
Maui Hawaii
#6
I have for many years travelled to Ethiopia where I do supportive health work. Because KLM stopped flying to Addis Ababa, I now fly Delta to Europe and then transfer to an airline that flies to Ethiopia, such as Ethiopian. In the past, Delta has checked my bags through to my final destination. When I checked in this time in Minneapolis, the agent informed me in a abrupt fashion that this was no longer the Delta policy to check through bags unless you were transferring to KLM or Air France. The alternative, such as in London Heathrow, is to go through immigration, baggage claim and customs in the UK, reclaim all my luggage, wait many hours until the Ethiopian gate opened up and then recheck my bags with the next carrier. When I questioned this policy, I was told that Delta did not want to pay for non-Delta baggage handling fees or assume responsibility for transferring bags in a large airport.

When I tried to explain that this had not been my past experience and asked to speak to a supervisor, I told that I would receive a one-time exception but that there would be a permanent warning in my record linked to my frequent flier number so that I would never do this again. I should add that when I arrived in London and spoke with Delta officials there, they were quite surprised at this policy, and indicated that transferring bags to another airline was expected and in no way a problem. On my return flight, Ethiopian airlines also had no problem checking my luggage to my final destination. When I followed up with Delta with a customer complaint, I was given a generic letter of apology, but reaffirmation that this was Delta's policy.

This practice would seem to cause stress, physical inconvenience, and significant for large numbers of travelers, especially those who may have tight connections, or who are elderly or infirmed. Delta should change this poor service policy. If there is no change in this policy, potential fliers should be informed so that they can make alternative travel plans.
United and Lufthansa fly this route. They are both Star Alliance and will check your bags all the way through. The connection is through Frankfurt.
 
Sep 19, 2015
4,650
6,094
113
48
#7
I have for many years travelled to Ethiopia where I do supportive health work. Because KLM stopped flying to Addis Ababa, I now fly Delta to Europe and then transfer to an airline that flies to Ethiopia, such as Ethiopian. In the past, Delta has checked my bags through to my final destination. When I checked in this time in Minneapolis, the agent informed me in a abrupt fashion that this was no longer the Delta policy to check through bags unless you were transferring to KLM or Air France. The alternative, such as in London Heathrow, is to go through immigration, baggage claim and customs in the UK, reclaim all my luggage, wait many hours until the Ethiopian gate opened up and then recheck my bags with the next carrier. When I questioned this policy, I was told that Delta did not want to pay for non-Delta baggage handling fees or assume responsibility for transferring bags in a large airport.

When I tried to explain that this had not been my past experience and asked to speak to a supervisor, I told that I would receive a one-time exception but that there would be a permanent warning in my record linked to my frequent flier number so that I would never do this again. I should add that when I arrived in London and spoke with Delta officials there, they were quite surprised at this policy, and indicated that transferring bags to another airline was expected and in no way a problem. On my return flight, Ethiopian airlines also had no problem checking my luggage to my final destination. When I followed up with Delta with a customer complaint, I was given a generic letter of apology, but reaffirmation that this was Delta's policy.

This practice would seem to cause stress, physical inconvenience, and significant for large numbers of travelers, especially those who may have tight connections, or who are elderly or infirmed. Delta should change this poor service policy. If there is no change in this policy, potential fliers should be informed so that they can make alternative travel plans.
When did you last try to connect onto another airline?

No disrespect intended, but your past experience does not matter. In the past I was given free meals in domestic flights and not charged for luggage or seat assignments, no matter what airline I took. Airline travel has changed.

I just tried to book a MSP to ADD on Delta website -- they do not allow it without calling. So this had to be separate tickets.
 
Likes: Neil Maley
Nov 19, 2018
2
0
1
76
#8
Thanks to everyone who replied so promptly and with details. Although it is very useful to have clarification of current policy, the issue is not so much "what" as"why"? Why did the policy change? I have yet to get a clear and honest explanation of this from the airline . This would seem to be a trivial additional expense in an airline that charges a lot for tickets and supposedly prides itself on customer service. I should also note that on my most recent experience, Delta failed to transfer my bags at Heathrow in a time fashion.

To answer the question above, my total routing was on the same Passenger Name Record, so this was not an issue. For some routings, it is not possible to fly all the way through on one partner; for example, although I prefer Delta, there is no Sky Miles partner that travels to my final destination. If airlines want you travel at least part ways on their flights, they should be willing to accommodate such changes even if it means transfer to another airlines. As suggested above, I may start flying United, so Delta loses my loyalty business because of their inflexibility.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
18,207
16,316
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#9
Write to them and ask. I would bet it had to do with the fact they can’t track lost bags on non associated airlines but they are responsible for finding them if they were the major carrier. Plus if they don’t charge you for bags based on your status with them, maybe they don’t want to have to pay those fees for non associated airlines.

Only they can answer but there is a lot going on with luggage behind the scenes you probably aren’t even aware of.
 

weihlac

Verified Member
Jun 30, 2017
1,798
1,800
113
Maui Hawaii
#10
Thanks to everyone who replied so promptly and with details. Although it is very useful to have clarification of current policy, the issue is not so much "what" as"why"? Why did the policy change? I have yet to get a clear and honest explanation of this from the airline . This would seem to be a trivial additional expense in an airline that charges a lot for tickets and supposedly prides itself on customer service. I should also note that on my most recent experience, Delta failed to transfer my bags at Heathrow in a time fashion.

To answer the question above, my total routing was on the same Passenger Name Record, so this was not an issue. For some routings, it is not possible to fly all the way through on one partner; for example, although I prefer Delta, there is no Sky Miles partner that travels to my final destination. If airlines want you travel at least part ways on their flights, they should be willing to accommodate such changes even if it means transfer to another airlines. As suggested above, I may start flying United, so Delta loses my loyalty business because of their inflexibility.
Delta is no more inflexible than United. If you flew a similar route on United using one Star Alliance carrier and one that is not Star Alliance, United would not transfer your bags. Fortunately, your routing MSP- ADD would be on all Star Alliance carriers (there are actually several Star Alliance partners that fly that route), therefore they will check your bag to ADD. That's why it is important to research the options on any route so you are not faced with the problem you encountered. I would not wish to exit the secured area at Heathrow and recheck bags either.
 
Likes: Neil Maley
Sep 19, 2015
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#11
If all one ticket Delta should through checked the bag. Delta used to have an interline agreement with Ethiopian maybe that is what changed.

Now that Delta has code shares with Kenyan it sounds like there is a push to put passengers on that airline which adds an extra stop.

Why do these policies change? Costs of agreements, cost of finding bags and wanting to collect on baggage fees.

Heathrow changing terminals is a mess for baggage. But it also is not great for connections within the same terminals.
 
Likes: jsn55

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
8,224
8,163
113
San Francisco
#12
If all one ticket Delta should through checked the bag. Delta used to have an interline agreement with Ethiopian maybe that is what changed.

Now that Delta has code shares with Kenyan it sounds like there is a push to put passengers on that airline which adds an extra stop.

Why do these policies change? Costs of agreements, cost of finding bags and wanting to collect on baggage fees.

Heathrow changing terminals is a mess for baggage. But it also is not great for connections within the same terminals.
If I never had to set foot in Heathrow again, I'd be a happy camper. I wouldn't trust them to handle my bag on a connection ... ever. I would miss my favorite LHR Hilton, but Heathrow is a horrible airport. If they'd clean the terminals occasionally, that would help immensely.