International Baggage Fees

Filed Under: Advice, Travel

Even though I live in hotels full time, I’m still traveling with my Tumi Carry-On. I haven’t been planning my travel more than a few days in advance this summer (if that), so it’s hard to justify taking more luggage internationally.

Not sure how I’d carry this many bags, even if I could check them all for free

However, I recognize many people prefer to check bags, particularly when traveling internationally, and I get questions every day asking if bags will be checked through, how many bags one can take on a given airline, etc.

So I thought I’d try to answer some of the most frequent questions, and consolidate many of the airline baggage allowances as it’s surprisingly hard to find baggage information on many of the foreign carriers websites.

Can I check my bag all the way through to _____?

Airlines have “interlining” agreements which determine whether or not they can check bags through on another carrier. If you are on a single itinerary it’s generally pretty straightforward, but even if you are on separate tickets you can typically provide the check-in agent with your connecting information and they will often be able to check your bag through to your final destination.

If you need to look up interline agreements for a particular airline, the best resource is typically ExpertFlyer. You can enter the airline code and the tool will display all the other carriers that airline has an agreement with.

Lufthansa, for example, has dozens:

LH Interline Agreements

As does Delta, despite threatening to end interlining a few years back:

DL Interline Agreements

Meanwhile JetBlue only has a couple dozen interline partners:

B6 Interline Agreement

And Southwest doesn’t have any:

WN Interline Agreement

US International Arrivals and Customs

Regardless of whether your bag is “checked” through, you will have to pick up your bag at the first airport you land at when arriving to the United States. This is a requirement of Customs and Border Control. The one exception is if your international flight originates at an airport with a US Pre-Clearance facility, in which case you land in the United States as a domestic passenger.

So for example if you fly from Frankfurt to Miami to Tampa and check your bag through to Tampa, you’d still need to pick it up in Miami, have the bag in your possession when clearing customs, then place it on the conveyor to recheck the bag to your final destination. You don’t have to go to the counter or anything though.

Stopovers, Layovers, and Long Connections

For the most part, as long as your connection is same day, you should typically still be able to check your bag all the way through to the final destination.

Some carriers and airports won’t want to keep bags overnight (and I’m not entirely sure you’d want them to), but otherwise I haven’t found it to be an issue. This does depend somewhat on individual airport and airline policies, so is unfortunately something you might not be able to confirm until check-in. I’d strongly advise against leaving a bag with an airline overnight, even if it is an option.

Conversely, if your connection is less than 24 hours and you specifically want to have access to your checked bag, make sure you tell the airline agent. They may be able to “short-check” your bag to an intermediate destination. Just mention to the agent that you need your bag in whichever airport, and they’ll tell you if they can accommodate you. Again, there are some individual airline policies that prohibit short-checking, so you will have to ask based on your specific itinerary.

Finally, all the bags associated with your reservation will generally need to be treated the same way. So you can’t generally check your bags through to your final destination but ask that one individual bag be held at your connection point.

International Baggage Fees

Just because airlines have interline agreements does not mean they have reciprocal baggage fee policies.

In general, the highest baggage allowance will apply for all flights issued under a single ticket number. So if you have an economy flight on American from Houston to Dallas, then connect on British Airways to London in business class, the higher allowance for the international itinerary would apply to both segments.

However, if you were then connecting on a separate Air France ticket, the agent in Houston should be able to check your bag all the way through, and would also collect any applicable baggage fees. They’ll notate your record, if they can, and will give you a receipt to show the connecting airline agents.

International Baggage Allowances

With that out of the way, here is an overview of international baggage allowances. I’ve only listed the major carriers that I tend to fly myself or frequently book for others, but hopefully this gives you a starting point.

Note: baggage allowances on wholly-domestic itineraries in the US are another thing entirely, so the below apply only as long as there is at least one long-haul international segment:

Aer Lingus1 bag - 23kgn/a3 bags - total 69kgn/a
airberlin1 bag - 23kgn/a2 bags - 32kgn/a
Air Canada1 bag - 23kg2 bags - 23kg each2 bags - 32kg eachn/a
Air China2 bags - 23kgn/a2 bags - 32kg2 bags - 32kg
Air Dolomiti1 bag - 23kgn/an/an/a
Air France1 bag - 23kg 2 bags - 23kg2 bags - 32kg3 bags - 32kg
Air New Zealand1 bag - 23kg 2 bags - 23kg 3 bags - 23kgn/a
Alitalia1 bag - 23kg 2 bags - 23kg2 bags - 32kgn/a
American1 bag - 23kgn/a3 bags - 23kg3 bags - 23kg
ANA1 bag - 23kg1 bag - 23kg2 bags - 32kg3 bags - 32kg
Asiana2 bags - 23kgn/a2 bags - under 32kg2 bags - under 32kg
Austrian1 bag - 23kgn/a2 bags - 32kgn/a
Bangkok Airways20kgn/a30kgn/a
British Airways1 bag - 23kg2 bags - 23kg2 bags - 32kg3 bags - 32kg
Brussels Airlines1 bag - 23kgn/a2 bags - 32kgn/a
Cathay Pacific2 bags - 23kg2 bags - 25kg2 bags - 32kg2 bags - 32kg
China Southern2 bags - 23kg2 bags - 23kg2 bags - 32kg3 bags - 32kg
Delta1 bag - 23kgn/a2 bags - 32kg2 bags - 32kg
Emirates2 bags - 23kgn/a2 bags - 32kg2 bags - 32kg
Etihad2 bags - 23kgn/a2 bags - 32kg2 bags - 32kg
EVA Air2 bags - 23kg2 bags - 28kg2 bags - 32kgn/a
Japan Airlines2 bags - 23kg2 bags - 23kg3 bags - 32kg3 bags - 32kg
Korean Air2 bags - 23kgn/a2 bags - 32kg3 bags - 32kg
LAN2 bags - 23kg3 bags - 23kg3 bags - 23kgn/a
LOT1 bag - 23kg2 bags - 23kg2 bags - 32kgn/a
Lufthansa1 bag - 23kg2 bags - 23kg2 bags - 32kg3 bags - 32kg
Malaysia Airlines2 bags - 30kg totaln/a2 bags - 40kg total2 bags - 50kg total
Qantas2 bags - 23kg2 bags - 23kg3 bags - 32kg3 bags - 32kg
Qatar2 bags - 23kgn/a2 bags - 32kg2 bags - 32kg
Singapore Airlines2 bags - 23kgn/a2 bags - 32kg2 bags - 32kg
Swiss1 bag - 23kgn/a2 bags - 32kg3 bags - 32kg
TAM2 bags - 23kg3 bags - 23kg3 bags - 23kgn/a
Thai Airways2 bags - 23kgn/a2 bags - 32kg2 bags - 32kg
Turkish Airlines20kgn/a30kgn/a
United1 bag - 23kgn/a2 bags - 32kg3 bags - 32kg
Virgin Atlantic1 bag - 23kg2 bags - 23kg3 bags - 32kgn/a
Virgin Australia2 bags - 23kg2 bags - 32kg2 bags - 32kgn/a

Exceptions and additional fees

On top of that, each airline has their own policies for excess baggage, and many of them offer additional perks for elite members of their respective frequent flyer programs. You can click on the link for each airline in the above chart to be taken to their baggage fees page.

Bottom line

Anyway, I hope that helps give you an idea as to what some of the baggage fees are for international travel.

The best solution though, in my opinion, is still to just avoid checking a bag to begin with! 😉

  1. > Finally, all the bags associated with your reservation will generally need to be treated the same way. So you can’t generally check your bags through to your final destination but ask that one individual bag be held at your connection point.
    Completely untrue!

  2. Are there any metro areas that will transfer your bags on a single reservation (ORD/MDW, LGA/JFK/EWR, NRT/HND, LHR/LGW, etc)?

  3. Do you know which airlines prohibit short checking bags? I’ve never had that be an issue, but good to know that it could be…

  4. Very helpful, Lucky. Seems there’s been a trend recently of airlines less and less likely to do this when not on the same ticket (lookin’ at you, US Airways!).

  5. Another exception to the US customs, you don’t need to reclaim bags in LAX if flying NZ from AKL-LAX-LHR. (even if you clear immigration for lounge purposes)

  6. Lucky,

    What do people do with their carry ons if they have a very long layover, say 6 or more, and they want to leave the airport? Are there places to store luggage for this situation, or do you have to shlup you bag around with you? I have not had to do this, but it may come up on future flights.


  7. I have a overnight layover in LAX arriving at 8:10 pm while connecting to CX flight in the morning((9:40 am). Do you know if i need to claim my bags or it will be held by US/CX?

  8. Don’t you carry things like nail scissors, etc. that can’t be carried on? Do you always carry all your bags on? I think its nice to leave the heavy bag to the (competent) airline sometimes and check it in.

  9. You are wrong about having to re-check your bags. It depends on the airport; some support in-transit transfers without customs & re-checking for I:I connections. I’ve recently experienced this at IAH and GUM, for example.

  10. Lucky, Continental agent in PHX (pre-merger) wouldn’t hold and tag my checked baggage for the connecting EVA Air flight because the transit at LAX was more than 6 hours. I had to pick up the luggage at the belt and held it until I could check in for the next flight. Last year a friend took JetBlue to JFK with a long layover (8 hours) before an Emirates flight to Dubai, and JetBlue agent at PHX said the computer wouldn’t allow him to check through his baggage because the layover was more than 6 hours, so he had to store it at luggage storage. I wonder if this is company policy, but I can’t seem to find it in writing.

  11. Timely post! 🙂

    Next month I’m flying Detroit to Hong Kong through Chicago. DL DTW to ORD, then CX ORD to HKG.

    Coach on Delta, F on Cathay Pacific

    So, two checked bags on CX are free, only one free on DL (medallion gets one free).

    You say, “In general, the highest baggage allowance will apply for all flights issued under a single ticket number. So if you have an economy flight on American from Houston to Dallas, then connect on British Airways to London in business class, the higher allowance for the international itinerary would apply to both segments.”

    Can you offer suggestions on how to get this issued as a single ticket?

    And, any idea how I can get the bags tagged as CX “First Class” for priority offload? I have E-Channel for Hong Kong, so if I can get my bags quick I’ll be outta there in a hurry! 🙂

  12. @ Dr. Jan Itor — Many airlines have it in their baggage terms, though off the top of my head don’t know which airlines do in practice. Sorry.

  13. @ Sam — Some airports do have luggage storage facilities, so when available that’s a great option. Otherwise I’ve found many hotel bellmen happy to store bags, so that’s a good alternative.

  14. @ smabyguy — I’m guessing you’ll have to claim it, and even if they don’t force you to I definitely would, so it doesn’t get lost.

  15. @ Mike — Online travel agencies can often book mixed carrier itineraries, but if you’ve already ticketed the reservation then there’s no way to convert them into one, unfortunately.

  16. Mike
    I’ve booked that routing a couple times DTW-ORD-HKG, but always on AA using avios (or AA the whole way). Any particular reason you booked DTW-ORD on DL rather than AA?

  17. Hi Ben. Do you know that if you are on a domestic itinerary and there is a overnight layover would they force you to short check your bags and then charge you the check bag fee the next day? I presume we would be able to get boarding passes for both segments at check-in even with the long 12 hour layover between flights.

  18. Anon,

    Flying reward miles on cx. Miles came from Amex membership miles, so couldn’t transfer to AA, Alaska, etc.

  19. Mike, gotcha. Still surprised you didn’t have 4500 avios or pay cash since with AA/CX you’d be protected in IRROPS.

  20. No avios, but I did pay cash for the Delta flight. I don’t understand the AA/CX/IRROPS connection.

    I understand (superficially) that IRROPS has something to do with some part of the flight going wrong… like mechanical, etc.

    I could’ve (and still could) pay cash for an AA flight, but I don’t understand how that would be any different than Delta if there was some sort of problem?

  21. @ Lucky – thank you for the comprehensive list!

    Going through customs at the first port of entry is inconvenient but it’s not too bad when you can give the backs to the domestic airline immediately after customs. What’s worse is if you have to go outside security and then stand in TSA line again.

  22. Thanks for this any many other helpful and hopeful posts.

    When traveling on Award Tickets (i.e. JL booked with AA miles, KL booked with DL miles, TG booked with UA miles, etc.) is it the airline the tickets are booked through or the metal you are flying on that determines the allowance?

    Then if you use the AA Visa to pay taxes (for AA-JL example) does this carry through with perks when flying the partner airline for baggage, boarding, etc.

    Just thought it would be helpful to shift this post (with your permission) to include award bookings and other subtleties to the itin.

  23. Was Lucky a travel agent in his previous life? I travel extensively and i think i’m the “know it all” about airline policies at my circles, but i get depressed when i read Lucky’s post as i realize i don’t even touch the top of the iceberg when compared to his information base.
    Wow. We should have Lucky’s College of AirTravel. Than put up a bronz statue of Lucky at the enterance

  24. I have a AA award flight from DFW to JFK on AA then CX to HKG on the same reservation. Yet when checking on my luggage allowance, it chose CX as the most significant carrier thus only allowing 2 bags even though I’m booked in business class on both flights.

  25. Hi Lucky, I think you are busy because you can’t update this article but I suggest it would be better if you could update this baggage fees for your world traveler readers because this article will be very helpful and beneficial for them.


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