Etihad clamps down on baggage transfers for connecting flights

Etihad clamps down on baggage transfers for connecting flights

Etihad Airways passengers who book connecting flights under separate reservations will no longer have their baggage checked through to their final destination.

Instead, travellers who make separate flight bookings for the one journey will only find their bag tagged to their first destination – which means collecting and re-checking that bag at the transit airport before boarding the onward flight.

Let's say you booked an Etihad flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi during a great airfare sale, and later made a separate booking from Abu Dhabi to London with the intention of going from the inbound flight to the Etihad lounge and then onto London.

Under the current rules, your checked luggage would automatically be transferred from the Sydney flight to the London flight.

The new regulations will see you collecting your bags from the carousel, then rechecking them onto your onwards flight. That means minimal lounge time and maximum hassle.

The revised rules apply to all bookings made on and from February 1 2017 when connecting from an Etihad Airways flight on one booking onto Etihad Airways or a partner airline flight (such as with Virgin Australia, Alitalia or Airberlin) made under another booking.

Passengers who book their entire journey under the one reservation (or ‘PNR’ in travel agent lingo) will continue to be checked through to their final destination: the change applies only to those who book connecting flights separately on different bookings.

Note that travellers who have already booked their flights, along with those who book prior to February 1 2017, can continue to have luggage checked through to their final destination when connecting between separate bookings.

A spokesperson for Etihad Airways told Australian Business Traveller that the revised rules "bring Etihad Airways in line with other global airline carriers in the market."

"The changes will affect only a small number of passengers who travel with the airline," adding that "guests who have separate tickets, either on connecting Etihad Airways flights or across multiple airlines, will be unaffected as long as they are under the same reference number."

“The policy ensures guests have enough time to connect without the risk of missing flights, delaying flights so they can connect, or losing their bags. The changes are designed to ensure that we continue to offer a first class service through our hub in Abu Dhabi.”

New Etihad Airways baggage rules: implications for transit travellers

For international travellers, the biggest hassle in collecting and re-checking their baggage will be clearing passport control and Customs while in transit, wandering around to the check-in desks to redeposit their bag, clearing security and then going through passport control again.

In most cases, this would take place in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where Australians can move through passport control without a pre-arranged visa – however, citizens of other countries who require a pre-arranged UAE visa won’t prove the exception to Etihad’s baggage rules.

In an advisory sent to travel agents by Etihad Airways, the airline warns that “guests must have the appropriate travel documents to enter the country at the respective transfer point.”

“Any guest who does not have the appropriate travel documents to enter the country at the transfer airport shall be denied travel,” the update continues.

What’s more, travellers who forget to collect and re-check their bags while in transit won’t find them appearing at their final destination, either:

“Etihad shall not be responsible for the repatriation and associated costs and/or interim expenses for any guest who fails to collect their baggage at the transfer point and chooses to continue their journey without it,” the travel agent briefing reads.

New Etihad Airways baggage rules: tips for a smooth journey

You can avoid the hassle of collecting and re-checking your bag while in transit simply by booking all of your connecting flights under the one reservation.

For instance, if you’re jetting from Sydney to London via Abu Dhabi on Etihad Airways, book that as a simple ‘Sydney to London’ trip and your bags will be tagged from Australia to the UK, and you’ll receive the boarding passes for both flights when you check-in in Sydney.

Similarly, if planning a journey from Paris to Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways and then from Abu Dhabi to either Sydney or Perth with Virgin Australia, keep everything on the one booking and you’ll also be checked right through.

For complex reservations, seek help from an experienced travel agent – provided they keep all of your airline ‘tickets’ within the one ‘PNR’ (booking reference), you can also be checked right through to your final destination, including when changing between airlines in transit.

If you must book connecting flights as separate reservations, make sure you’re eligible for visa-free entry to any transit countries on your journey, or take steps to arrange the necessary visa for your brief visit.

It’s also wise to leave plenty of time in between connecting flights, because if your first flight is delayed and your second flight was booked separately, you may miss that onward flight and have to purchase a brand new ticket.

In that scenario, passengers who booked their connecting flights under a single reservation would be moved onto the next available flight at no charge, although when bookings are made separately, your late arrival isn’t the second airline’s responsibility: it's yours.

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!


  • John Phelan

    John Phelan

    17 Jan, 2017 06:42 pm

    It was bad enough when oneworld decided it wouldn't interline from one carrier to another on separate PNRs, but Etihad is lowering the bar even further by now refusing to do it even when transferring from one EY flight to another! Appalling customer service.
    Member who gave thanks


  • CBR boy

    CBR boy

    17 Jan, 2017 07:08 pm

    It's about maximising their revenue by deterring passengers from combining sale fares sold at different dates or the fares for separate legs which are cheaper than the through fare.
    No member give thanks

  • jimmyair


    17 Jan, 2017 11:51 pm

    Wouldn't this just push passengers to their competitors? I mean - yes you want to maximise revenue but to do it in an underhanded way like this doesn't exactly inspire loyalty. 
    No member give thanks

  • HelpfulAmerican


    18 Jan, 2017 07:29 am

    AA is doing the same. As others have mentioned, it's bad enough that you can't through check across alliance partners on seperate PNRs anymore. Not being able to do so on the same airline is too far. 
    No member give thanks

  • Damien Harbert


    18 Jan, 2017 09:29 am

    This just really smacks of such poor customer service. Across different airlines or alliances, fair enough but an airline that can't check you bags through its own flights is just being lazy.
    Member who gave thanks


  • TheRealBabushka


    18 Jan, 2017 09:32 am

    Hang on folks, CX changed its policy as of 1 Jan 2017 to allow through check in on separate OW PNR. MH has also never implemented that discredited BA-initiated OW policy. It's not all doom and gloom. 
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  • Susan White

    Susan White

    18 Jan, 2017 09:32 am

    Thank you for alerting me to this, I have booked a flight to Abu Dhabi but have not yet booked my connecting flight because I am trying to finalize my schedule, so I will make sure to get that booked before the new rules apply or to have my travel agent put both bookings onto the same 'PNR' as you suggest.
    No member give thanks

  • Jesse Gillard


    18 Jan, 2017 11:58 am

    Last year I flew Muscat-Abu Dhabi (arriving at AUH at midnight), then a AUH-ATH on a separate Y cash booking which departed at ~9am.

    Both flights booked as EY flights and I'm a VA Plat. Muscat staff refused to check us through to Athens. Upon clearing immigration and attempting to recheck, I was told the flight was 'too early to check in' and was not allowed to re-clear immigration/ security to hang out/ sleep in the lounge. I didn't enjoy spending ~4 hours in the airport check-in area in the wee hours of the morning.
    Member who gave thanks


  • Davedownunder


    18 Jan, 2017 02:39 pm

    Penalizing a customer in such a petty way is a recipe for disaster. Cathay saw the light with the ill will their policy was causing. Great opportunity for other airlines to take their customers.

    Hardly the behavior you would expect from a so called "Five Star Airline". I thought "Five Stars" was all about customer service. Lugging your own bag around an airport, missing out on the comfort of the lounge because you bought two tickets would in my mind put Ethiad in the budget airline category.

    Take note Skytrax and add this crteria to your definitions of a Five Star airline.

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  • Graham Steele


    18 Jan, 2017 02:51 pm

    Probably an idea dreamt up by an accountant who has no idea what a customer actually looks like. 
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  • Rigs


    19 Jan, 2017 09:00 am

    This is the definition of user hostile.
    No member give thanks

  • Madicken


    20 Jan, 2017 03:03 pm

    Contrary to Singapore Airlines that do all they can to get your luggage through to your end destination. They even have a sign at check in to point this out. They got us through from BNE to GOT with a smile. A trip that basically requires the use of a travel agent in order to get a PNR if you want to use certain airlines in order to keep that platinum.   
    No member give thanks

  • Wingman


    20 Jan, 2017 07:44 pm

    Another good example of poor customer service, really embarrassing client focus from Etihad. Stay away.
    No member give thanks

  • just me


    21 Jan, 2017 06:19 pm

    Well, it says: "revised rules apply to all bookings made on and from February 1 2017". Hey Etihad, as a platinum meber i'm getting sick with your new rule, do you think twice before you change it? Even if i book my business & first class tickets on my own and spend money for that, why don't you just do that with coach class? Mean, we're all in the same plane and we've to pay for that, but that stupid rule let me think about to change to another gulf carrier. Not longer a star airline :-/ . AUH is a busy, close airport which don't let me feel well to collect my luggage again and check in again. Another way to let people go trough the airport and shops ...

    No member give thanks


20 Jul, 2019 02:58 am


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