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Delta Changes Baggage Policy: What this means for business travelers

Beginning January 15, 2013, Delta Air Lines will be changing their baggage policy to match that of other airlines. More and more airlines are now only checking bags through to the destination on the ticket, as opposed to what is on the itinerary. Currently, Delta will check your baggage through to the final destination, regardless of how many tickets are created to get you there. Starting next year, that won’t be the case.

Let’s take a look at this new policy and what it means to you, the business traveler. Often, there are times when it will save money to split an itinerary and issue two or more tickets. These savings can be quite significant for business travelers, particularly those flying internationally. In fact, as a business travel management company handling travel for hundreds of companies worldwide, we have seen numerous itineraries where splitting a ticket actually saves several thousand dollars. Currently the agents at Christopherson Business Travel, check that option when trying to find the best price on an itinerary. Under the current policy, this doesn’t create any significant issues for the business traveler. However, under the new policy, it would only make sense to split a ticket is if there is sufficient time for business travelers with checked luggage to pick up their bags at baggage claim, then re-check in for the next leg of the split ticket, re-check the bags, clear security (again), and board their next flight.

Also, in addition to the extra time needed for baggage claim and re-check-in (if a ticket is split), business travelers would also need to pay additional baggage fees since they will be paying for each airline they fly on. This can add significantly to the cost of travel since it is likely that one or more of the carriers involved would be one on which the traveler doesn’t have status.

I’m sure some will ask why the airlines would do this, and others might say it is simply a means to collect more fees. The reality is that the airlines have decided they no longer want to bear the responsibility for a checked bag when they aren’t even on the ticket. For example, if you were to fly Delta to London and then connect to British Air to Edinburgh and it is done as one ticket, then Delta would be responsible for collecting any fees and for solving any baggage related issues. But if two tickets were issued on this itinerary and Delta were to check the bag all the way through to Edinburgh, they have only been paid for transporting it to London. And what if British Air were to misplace or damage the bag–who is actually responsible for making the customer whole? Additionally, if two tickets are issued, the second airline is not bound to accept the bags if they are heavier or larger than permitted on intra-European flights.

As evident, there are many sides and key issues to understanding this change in policy. Christopherson Business Travel will continue to seek options that result in lower prices for business travel, and we will let the customer decide if the money saved is worth the extra time and trouble. I also expect that business travelers will see all the airlines adopting this policy fairly soon.

To read the full official announcement from Delta regarding these changes, click here.


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