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Time to separate the myth from fact when it comes to checking in luggage, and toting your carry-on pieces.
MYTHS for checked-in and carry-on luggage
1. You will be reimbursed for all the items in a lost piece of luggage - It would be nice if this was true but airlines all have the maximum that they will pay per piece of luggage, regardless of the contents. Buy insurance or check your homeowner insurance to see if you are covered, and if possible don't pack your valuables in your checked luggage.
2. If you are connecting to another airline your luggage will automatically be accepted by another - This is not necessarily true when it comes to heavier luggage. If the weight of the luggage exceeds the allowance of your connecting airline you could be charged excess baggage fees, or worse, an airline can refuse to accept the overweight piece completely. If you are traveling on multiple airlines during your trip it is important to check airline baggage policies if your luggage is nearing the accepted limit.
3. Baggage allowances are the same on airlines - Most major airlines have similar policies but low cost airlines run the gamut from generous luggage allowances to as little as 30lbs per passenger. You may not even be allowed to check in excess pieces, and some airlines charge a flat rate per extra checked bag where others may charge for every extra pound or kilogram.
4. If you travel on more than one airline your luggage can be booked through- Outside of the weight of luggage, not all airlines have ticketing/interlining agreements which means you will have to pick up your luggage and check in with the next airline. This is especially prevalent with low cost airlines, but can also occur with major airlines when you are traveling on a short flight with them and then connecting with another airline for the longer flight. For example, if you are traveling with British Airways from Geneva to London Heathrow and then United from Heathrow to Chicago, don't be surprised if British Airways only checks your luggage as far as London. The responsibility for the luggage primarily lies with the airline that tags it, so losing a bag can cost them that bit more if they tag it the whole way through.
5. People won't steal your carry on items - I met a flight a few weeks ago where after all of the passengers had finished deplaning, a laptop computer was discovered to have been stolen on board. Police at the airport filed a report on behalf of the passenger, but it's best to keep your expensive items in view - sacrifice leg room to protect your valuables.
6. Your luggage will automatically get checked through if you are connecting- Usually this is true, but sometimes even a connection on the same airline somehow doesn't link up with your check-in record. Check your luggage tags to make sure all of your flight numbers are there. And if you are connecting with another airline, let the passenger agent know that you are connecting, and ask if your luggage can be checked through to your destination.
7. If you are willing to pay extra fees you can check in excess luggage - Sometimes there are blackouts for excess luggage which can mean no extra bags are allowed to be checked even if you are willing to pay extra. Blackouts can occur for weight and balance reasons, holiday travel restrictions, etc..
8. Only checked baggage will be heavily scrutinized at customs - Carry-on items can also be thoroughly examined. In the past few months a passenger went through customs at the airport I work at and child porn was discovered on his laptop that he had brought as carry on. The customs agent had turned on the computer and examined the contents, and when the offensive material was discovered, the passenger was arrested immediately.
9. If you change airports in the same city your luggage will be transferred for you - Unfortunately, you'll need to tote it with you. London Heathrow and Gatwick are known for this as are other cities with multiple major airports like New York, Los Angeles and Sao Paolo, Brazil.
10. Lost luggage will always be delivered to you when found - An airline will often deliver luggage if it was lost on a domestic flight, but not if it was an international flight. The luggage has to go through customs, and customs may need you to be on premises in case they need to ask you about its contents. Often it will be delivered to you without doing so, but be aware that you can be requested to come into the airport if they so require.