How Do Connecting Flights With Baggage Transfers Work?

by Roni

I have worked for an airline for the past 13 years and it has given me insider knowledge into how connecting flights work in correlation to checked baggage in The USA. According to SITA, 4.36 billion travelers checked in more than 4.27 billion bags. Many of those billions don’t understand the checked bag process when they have a connecting flight. Here is all you need to know about what happens to your bag when you check it. May your new knowledge help you be a bit less stressed!

connecting flights baggage

Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

How Connecting Flights with Baggage Transfers Work

Have you ever had a connecting flight with a baggage transfer? When you are flying domestically, you won’t see your checked bag again until you arrive at your final destination. You don’t have to do anything with your bag.

However, if you are flying internationally, the process may be different. According to the National Travel and Tourism Office, 93 million American citizens traveled internationally.

There are no statistics as to how many of those travelers had to re-check their bags. However, the only time you have to get your checked bag and re-check it is when you have to go through customs and you have a connecting flight. You go through customs in the first country you land in.

How do you not miss your connecting flight? This posts can help you!

For instance, if you fly from Paris to Los Angeles with a layover in Philadelphia, you would go through customs in Philadelphia. When you go through customs in Philadelphia, you have to pick up your checked bags, go through customs, and then re-check them. You normally re-check them in the same area or an area very near to where you picked them up. Many times you have to drop them on a conveyer belt and proceed to your flight.

In this scenario, you will more than likely have to go through security again before you can catch your flight to your next destination. And if you’re traveling to Paris, you want to take my insider’s Paris guidebook with you! 

With the onset of Covid-19 impacting our lives, it would be a great idea to disinfect your bag before you touch it. Do your best to grab your bag by its handle, and after getting it, wipe it down with disinfecting wipes or spray. You can buy them in bulk because they are always needed, and put a few in a plastic bag. This way, you can pack a few and not have to be bothered with a huge container.

Now if you were doing that flight in reverse, going from Los Angeles to Paris with a layover in Philadelphia, do you have to go get your bags in Philadelphia? No, you do not.


If you check a bag and you have a connecting flight in the U.S. but your destination is in the U.S or a foreign country, you do not have to go and get your checked bags until you arrive in your destination.

Duty-Free and Connecting Flights

If you purchased anything from duty-free and it is over the liquid requirements for carry-on luggage (3.4 ounces), make sure to put your purchases in your checked luggage after you clear customs.


You were able to purchase duty-free after you cleared security for your first flight. When you go through customs, you will need to go through security again. Your duty-free booze is likely too big to be allowed to go through security.

Do you have to recheck your bag on a connecting flight? This post breaks it down for you.

If you don’t put it in your checked bag, you will be forced to either throw your item(s) away or drink it on the spot when you go through security the second time. This woman didn’t know about the restrictions and had to drink her liquor. If you’re checking bags, you may like one of these beauties! 

Liquids can only be 3.4 ounces and go through security, even if you purchased it in duty-free. Many people end up having to throw away their duty-free purchases because they can’t bring them through security and it is too late to go back and put them in their checked bag.

connecting flights baggage

Photo by Calle Macarone on Unsplash

Flight Connections

When you are flying domestic (staying within the country) and you have a connecting flight, do you have to get your bags in your connecting city?


For instance, If you fly from New York to Seattle with a layover in Charlotte, you do not have to get your bags in Charlotte. You will pick up your bags in Seattle. All you have to do in your connecting airport is proceed to your next flight.

IMPORTANT: Make sure that when the ticket agent asks, “Where are you going?” you say the FINAL destination, not your connecting one. 

What is “short-checking” your bag?

Before you leave the check-in desk, make sure your bags are checked through to your final destination. Ask the ticket counter agent to make sure. If they say no, they are “short-checking” your bag.  It is in your best interest to insist that they check your bags through to your final destination.

Only In rare instances will agents ‘short-check’ your bag, but it is worth mentioning. Short-checking will mean extra time for you during your connection. To short-check a bag means that instead of checking you to your final destination, they will check your bag to your connecting destination.

This means that once you land in your connecting city, you have to go get your bag, go back to ticketing and re-check your bag, then go through security in order to board your flight.

Do not let a ticket agent do that to you. Take the time to get everything ironed out at the ticketing counter, as this will mean less stress and worry during your connection.There have been passengers that have missed their connecting flights because ticket agents are making passengers go through those extra steps that come with short-checking a bag.

Understanding how checked baggage flows through the airports you visit can help you make the right choices up front. While we always suggest traveling with a carry-on instead of checking a bag, we know that there are circumstances where you need to check. Use the info in this post to make your trip as stress-free as possible. Read here to see how stress free travel is possible.

Need more info on connecting flights and your bags?  This post breaks it down for you.

Many times, travel is stressful due to lack of proper planning. This gives you 100 expert travel tips to help you plan the perfect vacation. 

Are you flying overseas? This post on hidden fees with budget airlines will help you not be taken advantage of.





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Leave a Comment


Jody March 25, 2017 - 5:17 am

What happens when you fly to a destination but have layovers in multiple countries? Let’s say Chicago to London to Ethiopia to South Africa? Do you need to get your luggage in each country?

Tara Darcy-Hall June 13, 2017 - 8:54 am

Great post! I found it because my family is going to attempt the following: we will be returning to the US from AMS after 6 months abroad. We currently have a flight into ORD (4 hours from our house) connecting to CVG (2.5 hours from our house). Rather than sit in ORD for our 4 hour layover, we would like to rent a car and drive directly home. From my recent conversation with United, this will work only if we retrieve our luggage in ORD (as it will be checked to CVG). Based on my experience and your post, I’m 95% sure we’ll get our luggage in ORD and be able to skip out on the leg to CVG. Do you think it’s worth the risk? If for some reason we fail to retrieve our luggage in ORD, we’re only out the rental car cancellation fee. I would appreciate your thoughts in case I’m missing a critical flaw in my plan!

JCRIC September 3, 2017 - 6:41 pm

Hey! I’m wondering the same thing with a flight into the US… and if they charge a fee for missing the connecting flight??

Jonnah October 10, 2017 - 1:01 pm

I’m travelling to the US every year and when returning, I’m flying from LAS to LAX by Delta and LAX to DXB by Emirates. For many years, Delta used to checked in my baggage up to my final destination Dubai. But last year they refused to checked in the bags up to Dubai, saying that they don’t have any agreement with EK anymore. Is that true? or just another lazy agent! It’s really a hassle especially if I have to drag a heavy bag.

Zulfiqur Chowdhury October 5, 2020 - 9:25 am

it seems does not work properly im was flying from Dhaka to Edmonton through transit in Istanbul & Toronto by Turkish air.My luggage was booked direct to Edmonton but when i came at Toronto airport they told me i have collect my luggage & then have to drop my luggage again where i got luggage tags shown direct to Edmonton.It was a horrible experience i have to over night 15 hours at Toronto airport.Ther is no food serving at Turkish air flight .