Booking your trip using multiple airlines with separate itineraries can be risky. The potential for problems can far outweigh the savings.
For example, let’s say you book the first leg of your trip on one airline and then book the second leg on a non-partnering airline on a separate itinerary. If your initial flight is delayed or canceled, causing you to miss your connecting flight, the subsequent airline would consider you a no-show. The result? You would have to purchase a new ticket and experience additional delays.
When you book your tickets on the same airline or a code-share, your rights are protected. If a flight is delayed, canceled, or you are denied boarding because the plane is overbooked, the airline will rebook your affected connecting flights, usually at no cost. In some instances, a connecting flight may be held while it waits for a delayed flight that is carrying several of its passengers.
Before booking on multiple carriers that are not affiliated, consider what you could be facing if your travels do not go as planned. You could find yourself caught in a tug-of-war between the two airlines, and, most likely, you will be the one feeling the pain with an emptier wallet.
To complicate matters even further, once you are considered a no-show by the second airline, all subsequent flights on that airline, including your return, will automatically be canceled. A no-show status creates a domino effect.
Your checked baggage can also become a burden — literally. Many airlines will no longer check your bag through to your destination when flying on a different carrier unless it is a code-share or an alliance partner airline. That means you will have to claim your bag at the carousel and recheck it with the next airline that may be located in another terminal. You will also have to pay multiple baggage fees, and the risk of your bag getting lost increases as well.
There may also be a problem with immigration and customs on international flights. When traveling on multiple airlines with different itineraries, you will need entry clearance at the intermediate airport before you can board your new flight. If that country requires a visa, you will be required to have one in order to board a flight on a non-partnering airline.
Another obstacle travelers have run into is arriving in the right city, but at the wrong airport. This inadvertently occurs when booking flights on different airlines to a city with multiple airports.
Bottom line: You end up bearing the financial risk, and it could be substantial.
If you are left with no choice and have to book with multiple airlines that are not affiliated, here are suggestions on how to minimize your risks.
- As soon as you know you are going to miss your connecting flight, contact the airline right away. Ask if it will rebook you on a later flight at no cost. Even though the airline is not required if your connection is on a different carrier, you may get a representative that is sympathetic to your situation.
- Look into purchasing travel insurance that covers onward travel and make sure the policy will provide coverage for the above scenarios.
- Use an experienced travel agent. They know how to book multiple flights and can advocate for you if a problem should occur.
- Book your tickets on one itinerary and schedule your first flight on the earliest one available. Schedule your connection on one of the later flights of the day. If you run into problems, you will have more time to make your connection. You could also opt to get a hotel room and fly your second leg on the following day.
- Complete your flight check-in 24 hours in advance. If any flights have changed, this will give you more time to rectify any problems.
Plan on being financially prepared to cover the cost of a new ticket(s) in case you end up missing a flight and are forced to rebook.
Even the most experienced travelers can find themselves in a jam, but for infrequent travelers, it is difficult to know the ins and outs associated with travel. Hopefully, this will help you avoid the pitfalls that come with booking multiple airlines on different itineraries.
For more travel insight, check out my book,
Know Before You Go: Traveling the U.S. and Abroad
available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever books are sold.