Is there anything more ridiculous than the various baggage check-in time cutoffs that airlines impose? It’s not the idea that bothers me; it’s the hodge-podge execution that drives me crazy. Delta added to the fun by changing JFK’s cutoff from 30 to 45 minutes before departure, all in the name of improving customer service. Please, give me a break. Yes, it improves customer service in that they’ll hopefully lose fewer bags, but it hurts customer service by requiring people to show up earlier.
Life could be much easier. “Bags must be checked in 30 minutes or more for domestic flights and 60 minutes or more for international.” That’s easy to understand and to communicate, right? But of course, a policy that starts out that way turns into a nightmare as carve-outs occur.
I understand that some airports could benefit from more time. In that case, I’d suggest standardizing around the more strict cutoff systemwide. I’d much rather know that it’s a 45 minute cutoff at every airport. Instead, airlines decide to make little exceptions all over the place. The worst offender is easily American Airlines. They have an unbelievable 4 different cutoff times for domestic flights depending upon from which airport you depart. How are you supposed to keep that straight? If your standard is 30 minutes, does Minneapolis/St Paul really need to be 35 minutes? Come on.
And if that’s not confusing enough, some airlines have different rules on their website than they do in their contract of carriage. The contract of carriage is the document with the final say, so stick to your guns if you met the guidelines in that document but not on the website.
Who is the best at making this easy? Well, JetBlue has a flat 30 minutes domestic and 60 international. And they fly to some of the most painful airports around, so the temptation to make JFK earlier than Portland (Maine) has to be there. While they get thumbs up for making the policy simple, they get thumbs down for making it extremely hard to find this info on their website. I’ve linked to it (as well as the others) below. Here are the baggage cutoffs for domestic travel on select carriers.
|American (Conditions of Carriage)||Default||MSP||ANC, ATL, DFW, EWR, IAD, MCO, ORD, SJU||DEN, JFK, LAS, LAX, MIA, STT, STX|
|Continental (Contract of Carriage)||Default|
|Continental (Website)||Default||ATL, DEN, LAS, LAX, MCO, PHL, PSE, TPA|
|Delta (Contract of Carriage)||Default||ATL, DEN, JFK, LAS, LAX, MCO||SJU, STT, STX|
|Delta (Website)||DCA & LGA (Delta Shuttle only)||Default||ATL, DEN, JFK, LAS, LAX, MCO||SJU, STT, STX|
|JetBlue (Contract of Carriage/Website)||Default|
|Northwest (Contract of Carriage/Website)||Default||ATL, DEN, EWR, IAD, LAX, TPA||LAS|
|Southwest (Contract of Carriage/Website)||Default||BWI, DEN, IAD, LAS, LAX, MCO, MDW, PHX|
|United (Contract of Carriage)||Default||ATL, CLT, DEN, IAD, JFK, LAS, LAX, MCO, ORD, PDX, PHL, PHX, SEA, SFO, TPA|
|United (Website)||Default||ATL, CLT, DEN, IAD, JFK, LAS, LAX, MCO, ORD, PDX, PHL, PHX, SEA, SFO, TPA, IND, RNO, SMF, SNA, YEG, YHZ, YUL, YYZ|
|US Airways (Website)||Default||ATL, BUF, CLT, DEN, DFW, HNL, IAD, LAS, MCO, OGG, PHL, PHX, PIT, SEA|
*Edited 2/4/08 to add RNO/SMF for United website policy
- If you don’t know these airport codes, you can look them up here.
- Anything that is bold in the table means that the airline has differing rules for that airport on its website when compared to its contract of carriage. I would recommend obeying the more strict of the two, but if you find yourself stuck, you can try to fight for compensation from customer relations after the fact. (You’ll never get anything resolved at the airport.)
- US states and territories as well as Canada count as domestic here
- American is the only airline for which I couldn’t find the full contract of carriage. The conditions of carriage are close enough for this purpose.
- US Airways does not actually specify this information in their contract of carriage, and that is strange. What it does mention is that “If a customer with a seat assignment on US Airways does not obtain a boarding pass at least 30 minutes (60 minutes international) before the scheduled departure time, the customer’s seat assignment (including those seat assignments on continuing or returning flights) may be subject to cancellation. This policy does not apply to US Airways Shuttle flights.
Passengers departing ATL/DEN/DFW/HNL/IAD/LAS/OGG/PHL/PIT/SEA must present themselves at the US Airways ticket counter no later than 45 minutes prior to departure. Passengers failing to comply will be re-accommodated on the next available US Airways flight.” That’s not the same thing.
You thought this was fun, just wait until tomorrow when I show the international policies for these airlines.