It’s usually risky to fly one itinerary on separate tickets. That’s because when you’re on one ticket, if you face a flight delay or cancellation the airline responsible for the irregularity has to get you to your final destination. But if you’re on separate tickets they usually don’t — they just have to get you as far as the end of the ticket you’re flying them on.
Nonetheless, it’s sometimes necessary to book separate tickets:
- You have an award ticket, but award space wasn’t available starting in your home city or all the way to your final destination. So you book an award but buy a flight segment. (American will allow you to buy the revenue flight inside the existing award itinerary if both tickets are theirs.)
- You’re flying airlines that don’t interline and can’t be ticketed together.
- Cost savings. You buy a ticket out of Boston for a fare sale. If the reservation started in New York you wouldn’t get the great price. It’s still a fabulous deal even when you buy your New York – Boston shuttle flight.
- You don’t know where you’ll be starting your trip from! You know you’re going to Asia but need a positioning flight once your plans firm.
- Plans change, you’re ticketed to Hong Kong but while there need a sidetrip to somewhere in Southeast Asia, and buy a ticket that connects up to your existing return flight.
These are just a few examples of why people might find themselves on separate tickets.
American Airlines has long published a policy that says if you are connecting on two American tickets, or you’re connecting to or from oneworld, they’re going to treat you as though you were flying on just one ticket.
I don’t believe I’ve written about this in three years. American has become much more draconian with several of its policies, even policies regarding separate tickets. They will no longer through-check bags on separate tickets but the customer protection policy remains valid.
American’s document containing this policy was updated last month. The policy remains.
This doesn’t help connecting between a oneworld airline and a non-oneworld one, even if they’re an American partner. But it’s great for staying within the alliance, and provides a real incentive to stick with oneworld.
Many agents do not know about this policy and won’t help. Some agents will take offense to having the policy pointed out to them (“that’s not for customers to know about”). Hang up, call back, and be nice.