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.