Can You Get Your Luggage During a Layover?

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Sometimes, it’s important to get your luggage during a layover. For instance, you might want to access some of the stuff packed inside or pack some duty-free items in there. Whatever the reason, in this guide, we’ll tell you how to access your checked bags on a layover and tell you anything else you’d need to know.

How Can You Know if You’ll Automatically Get Your Checked Luggage During a Layover?

This situation actually has a term called “rechecking luggage“, and we’ve written a full guide about that. Rechecking luggage just means that you’ll have to check in your checked luggage again once you land on your layover (other called stopover or connecting flight).

Finding Out at the Check-in Counter

Finding out if you’ll get your luggage during a layover is really easy. When you’re checking in your bag for the first time, the airline employee at the check-in desk will attach a label to your checked suitcase. On the label, it will say where the bag is headed to. If it says that it’s heading to the layover destination, not the final one, then you’ll get your checked luggage when you land at the layover destination. You can also ask the airline employee at the check-in desk to confirm its destination.

Read Next: What Happens if I Don’t Show Up for a Flight? (Guide)

Finding Out before Arriving at the Airport

Preferably, you should understand whether you’ll be able to access your checked luggage before you start packing because, based on this, you’ll know what essential items need to be packed inside your carry-on. There are a few additional ways that you can find out, not only asking the employee at the check-in counter.

If you’ve booked multiple flights separately on different airlines with a layover between them, then most likely you’ll be able to access your checked bag when you land in the layover location. However, sometimes airlines have interline agreements, which means that checked bags are transferred automatically, so this might not always be true.

Another way to know when you’ll be able to access your checked luggage is if you’re flying internationally and the layover is in the US. That’s because the US requires passengers to recheck their luggage the first time they land in the US when arriving from other countries. For instance, if you’d be flying in from Europe, having a layover on the East coast, and your final destination would be on the west coast, you’d have to recheck your luggage the first time you land, or on the East coast.

The last way to know is to call the airline directly. This is the most surefire way of knowing if you’ll get your checked luggage during a layover.

Tip: If you want to maximize the total amount of space that you get from checked luggage, get a suitcase that’s just below 62 linear inches. A really durable and reliable option is the Pelican Case, which is most commonly used among professionals who need to protect their gear.

Can You Ask the Airline to Get Your Checked Luggage During a Layover?

A hardside suitcase inside an airport

Some airlines will allow you to shot-check your luggage, which means that you’ll be able to get your bag during the layover. Airlines are pretty hesitant to do this though because it isn’t profitable for them. Short checking for the airlines just ends up costing more in labor because the bag needs to be transported to the passenger and back. They’re also afraid that you might do “hidden city ticketing”, which means skipping the next flight.

If the layover is long enough, they’ll let you (and sometimes may even require) to short-check your bags. For really long-layovers (10-16 hours) the airlines don’t want to hold on to your bags for so long, as it ends up costing them more than handing the bags back over to you. For really short layovers (1-4 hours) the airlines won’t usually allow you to short check your bags. If the layover is somewhat long (4-10 hours), the airlines will be hesitant to short-check your bags, but they will short-check them if you provide a good enough reason.

Good reasons would include having something in your checked luggage that’s banned in hand luggage, which you’ll need during the layover – for instance, sharp items. Another good reason would be explaining that you can’t pack everything you’d need during the layover in your hand luggage due to space or weight limitations. Also, you could be needing something from the checked bag to hand over to someone in the layover location. If you provide a sensible reason and the layover is over 4 hours, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t allow you to short-check your bags.

Read Next: Can You Meet Someone at the Airport Gate?

What’s “Hidden City Ticketing”?

If you’re looking to get your checked luggage during a layover, there’s a chance you’re planning on doing “hidden city ticketing”. In a few words, this means getting your luggage during the layover and not showing up for the next flight.

“Hidden city ticketing” is so popular because often you can score cheaper flights that way. Quite often, it may be cheaper to purchase a longer flight with a layover in the middle than purchasing a separate flight to the layover destination. Also, sometimes it isn’t possible to fly to the layover destination on a single flight separately, due to limited airline routes, which is why people choose to do “hidden city ticketing”.

Although doing this isn’t illegal, the airlines really dislike this trend. Because of this, people end up paying less for their flights, which means lost revenue. Also, whenever someone doesn’t show up for their flight, the flight is usually delayed, which again results in lost revenue and unhappy customers.

Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with “hidden city ticketing” but the airlines don’t agree and they fight back by suing customers and agencies that do this and deleting all frequent flyer points for their customers. So far nobody has been banned from further flights by doing this, so if you don’t care about your frequent flyer points, it isn’t really a big issue. Usually, people end up saving much more by hidden city ticketing than losing their points. For instance, Daniel saved over 10k$ in 95 hidden city ticketing flights.

Tip: If you’re planning on doing “hidden city ticketing”, we highly advise flying only with hand luggage. You can fit everything you’d need in a carry-on and personal item if you become a minimalist packer. A really solid option for a carry-on is the Maxlite 5, which we’ve used for a long time ourselves without any issues.

Can You Retrieve Your Checked Luggage After Not Boarding the Connecting Flight?

A single red aluminum suitcase left on the airstrip

In theory, checked luggage can’t fly without a passenger. This is a rule set by the airline regulators to reduce any possible bomb threats. However, quite often checked luggage will indeed fly without a passenger.

So if miss your connecting flight, on accident or intentionally, there’s a small chance that your luggage might fly to the destination without you. Due to the constant rush of airlines, bags without passengers tend to fly out anyway, even if it’s against the rules set by the airline regulators. That’s why if you’re planning on skipping your connecting flight, it’s highly advised to travel with hand luggage only.

If, on the other hand, you’ve booked both flights separately and your bag is short-checked, then most likely you’ll receive your luggage during the layover anyway.

Once a passenger misses his connecting flight, the airline instantly tries to understand where their checked luggage is located and get in touch with the passenger. If the passenger doesn’t plan on booking a later flight and the bag is already sent to the final destination, usually, the airline will arrange a courier to dispatch the luggage back to its rightful owner. The courier fees are paid by the airline, which means that they aren’t too fond of this situation. If a passenger misses connecting flight once or twice, nothing happens, but once it becomes a habit, the airline might cut all of the frequent flyer points for the passenger.

Tip: If you’re planning on skipping a connecting flight and your checked bag isn’t short-checked, we advise placing a GPS tracker inside, which would be really useful in finding your bag if it would be sent to the final destination.

Final Words

Sometimes, you just need to access the contents of your checked luggage during a layover. Although airlines are hesitant to hand out checked luggage on connecting flights due to fears that the passenger might decide to skip the next flight, on longer layovers, they’ll allow you to get your luggage.

This sometimes also happens naturally, when the layover is within the US on international flights or if the flights are booked separately with different airlines. If you decide to leave with your checked luggage during the layover, nothing bad will happen, but you shouldn’t make that a habit if you value your frequent flyer points.

Read Next: What Happens if You Leave Your Bag at Baggage Claim?

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