What Happens to Luggage on Connecting Flights?

If you have to take connecting flights, your baggage will get moved around several times.

However, what happens to your checked luggage depends on the type of ticket you have. 

With separate tickets and different PNRs, you have to get your baggage through customs on every flight if you cross borders.

Meanwhile, if you travel on a single ticket (same PNR), your air carrier will check your luggage directly to the final destination.

What happens to your luggage when you take connecting flights en route to your destination? Well, the answer depends on certain factors, like whether you’re flying domestically or with partner airlines. 

In some situations, you have to claim your luggage and check-in again before your connecting flight. In other cases, you don’t.

What Happens to Your Luggage When You Take Connecting Flights?

Sometimes you get to see your checked baggage between connecting flights. And other times, you only get your bags after reaching your destination. 

But don’t worry, we will discuss all of these cases below.

Case 1: Your Connecting Flights Are With The Same Airline

If you have only one ticket to your destination, it means you are traveling with one airline. But the flight can have multiple stops in between, so you may have to go through several international airports. 

If that’s the case, your luggage will go directly to your destination.

So, there’s no need to worry about claiming your checked baggage before your connecting flight. You can just land at your connecting airport, take your boarding pass to your gate, and enjoy your next flight.

Yet, just remember that you cannot have your checked luggage at the layover airport. So, you should keep some essential items in your carry-on luggage. 

You’ll need these items with you in your carry-on bag to pass the time before your connecting flight.

Case 2: You Have Two Separate Tickets

If you have separate tickets, you will have to get your bags checked again before your next flight.

You have to check your bags again because you have completed one flight with an airline. So, according to the air carrier, you have reached your final destination. 

For example, if you go from San Francisco to Toronto Airport to wait for your layover flight to London, but those two flights aren’t on the same ticket, you’ll need to re-check. Meaning you’ll need to go to the baggage carousel and then to the check-in agent because the baggage transfer is not automatic. 

Also, in this scenario, you should be extra careful to avoid a missed connection, especially if you’re only on a short layover. 

And, remember that even when you’re on a domestic flight, you’ll still need to check your bags again before your connecting flight. The only difference is that, between domestic flights, you won’t have to go through passport control like between international connecting flights. 

Case 3: Your Destination Country Requires Customs Clearance

Some countries require every passenger at stopovers to go through customs. Thus, even if you are not entering the country, you still have to venture through customs before your second flight. 

These countries want to make sure no one brings drugs or weapons with them in their checked bags.

So, if stopping at airports in these counties, you’ll have to claim your bags after your first flight. Then, you’ll pass through customs before finally re-checking your luggage. 

You’ll need to re-check even if you are traveling with a single airline. 

Schengen Countries

The Schengen Area is a group of 26 European countries, which have no visa requirements and customs checks for each other. 

Therefore, a person traveling from a Schengen country to another Schengen country doesn’t need to take their checked bag through customs on international flights. 

But, passengers from non-Schengen countries have to go through customs after their first flight. Yet, they’ll only have to go through customs when they fly into the Schengen Zone.

Thus, if you are traveling on an international flight from the US to France with a stopover in Germany, you’ll only have to go through customs in Germany because that’s where you entered the Schengen Area.

Case 4: You Are Switching Airlines, But They Have an Interline Agreement

There is a good chance that the airlines you’re traveling with, even on an international flight, have an Interline Agreement. If they do, you won’t have to worry about your checked bag at every stop.

An interline agreement is basically when multiple carriers shake hands to make things easier for domestic and international passengers. 

The two airlines share the same rules to make connecting flights work out better for customers. They also abolish the re-checking regulations and check your luggage to your final destination.

Here is an example: Suppose you are traveling with Emirates, and you intend to later buy another ticket from the ticket counter for your final destination country. Under normal circumstances, you would have to claim your bags from Emirates and visit the check-in counter before your connecting flight. 

But if the second airline you choose happens to have an interline agreement with Emirates, they will check your luggage directly to your destination from the international airport.

However, there is less of a chance of an agreement when flying internationally. Yet, during domestic layovers, you rarely need to re-check your luggage because of agreements. 

For example, American Airlines has agreements with basically every other US carrier. 

Which Airlines Have Interline Agreements?

When you book flights through online agents such as Expedia, you just have to look at the ticket. If different airlines are on the ticket, they have the agreement.

Read Also >> Do You Have to Go Through Customs for a Connecting Flight in Europe?

Easy Way to Check Where Your Baggage Will Go

When the airport employee puts luggage tags on your baggage, just peek to see where it will go. The printed sticker on the luggage has the destination of where the bags are going.

So, if the bags have the name of the stopover airport, you’ll have to re-check them before your connecting flight.

And if you are still confused, just ask the airline directly. There is no secrecy with this information.

What if My Luggage Gets Lost?

Lost luggage doesn’t occur too often, but if your luggage gets left at your layover destination or sent to the wrong city, you must immediately file a report with airline staff. 


In conclusion, sometimes you’ll have to pick up your baggage between connecting flights. Yet, on other occasions, your baggage goes straight from one plane to the other. 

However, what happens to your baggage depends on numerous factors, including how many tickets you have. You’ll also need to pay attention to whether the layover country requires you to clear customs.