Baggage Rules Approach Backgrounder

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The Agency needs to establish a clear and transparent approach to the application of baggage rules (including checked and carry-on bags) in travel arrangements involving multiple air carriers for transportation to, from and within Canada, in order to reduce confusion for consumers and support a level playing field for industry.

Tell us what you think

Q. When a passenger’s air travel itinerary involves flights by several carriers between origin and destination, how should baggage rules be applied?

  1. different carrier baggage rules applied dependent upon the passenger’s itinerary; or
  2. one set of baggage rules applied consistently throughout the passenger’s entire itinerary.

Q. Should carriers be required to disclose baggage rules to travellers? If so, where should this information be disclosed (e.g., on passenger receipt/itinerary, e-ticket)?

Input may be submitted until April 15, 2013.


both checked and carry-on baggage.
an arrangement between airlines in which one airline (marketing carrier) sells transportation in its name (under its code) on flights operated by the partner airline (operating carrier).
"Conference areas"
divisions of the world by the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) used to establish fares. There are three world traffic divisions:
  1. North and South America;
  2. Europe, Africa, and the Middle East; and,
  3. Asia and the Pacific.
"Interline travel"
travel involving multiple airlines listed on a single ticket that is purchased via a single transaction.
"Interline agreement"
an agreement between multiple airlines to coordinate the transportation of passengers and their baggage from the flight of one airline to the flight of another airline (through to the next point of stopover).
"Intra-line segment"
travel involving a connection from the service of one carrier to the services of the same carrier.
the passenger’s air travel from origin through to destination, including all the flights involved to complete the travel.
There are currently two definitions:
  1. United States Department of Transportation definition: all flights reflected on a single ticket.
  2. IATA definition: the point where "baggage check-in" occurs until the next stopover where the passenger collects their baggage. There can be many journeys on a single ticket.
"Marketing Carrier"
the carrier that sells flights under its code. It is the first carrier represented on a single ticket as part of a code-sharing or interline arrangement with other carriers.
"Most Significant Carrier (MSC)"
is determined by a methodology, established by IATA, which assesses, for each portion of a passenger's itinerary where baggage is checked through to a new stopover point, which carrier will be performing the most significant part of the service.  Criteria considered to establish an MSC includes which carrier crosses international borders.  For more complex itineraries involving multiple carriers and multiple checked baggage points, there can be more than one MSC.
"Single ticket"
a document that permits travel from origin to destination. It may include interline/code- share and intra-line segments. It may also include end-to-end combinations (i.e. stand alone fares that can be bought separately but combined together to form one price).
A tariff is the contract between an air carrier and its passengers. It indicates the passengers’ rights and obligations, as well as the air carrier’s rights and responsibilities towards the passenger. It must include the applicable baggage rules of the air carrier.


For several decades, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has defined basic worldwide baggage standards and how carriers apply baggage rules to a passenger’s itinerary. Carriers’ baggage allowances, depending on the point of origin, were either assessed on a piece or weight basis. Travel to/from or within North America was based on the piece system (i.e., two pieces of luggage free of charge per passenger).

This simplified standard approach became out of date due to new industry practices, including à la carte pricing, carrier desire to maximize revenue from baggage, and regulatory change. With the end of the weight and piece system, passengers were facing multiple and sometimes conflicting rules, and extra fees during a travel itinerary.

As a result of these environmental changes, airlines began to apply their own rules to trips for which multiple airlines were used and where formal ticketing and baggage transfer relationships (interline agreements) were in place. This resulted in passengers being subjected to differing baggage allowances and charges as well as confusion on itineraries as to which carrier’s rules apply when multiple air carriers are involved in a travel arrangement.

In reaction, different methodologies for the application of baggage rules have emerged to address this situation. The following section describes the different approaches being used today.

IATA Baggage Rules

Recognizing the industry requirement for more flexible baggage allowance and fees, on April 1, 2011, a new IATA rule (IATA Resolution 302) came into force which sets out a new methodology to determine which carrier’s baggage rules would apply in the case of any given journey, whether via an interline or code-share arrangement. This new rule created the Most Significant Carrier (MSC) approach to baggage allowance and charge determination and defined which airline’s baggage rules would apply with respect to both allowance (i.e. number of free pieces, size, weight, etc.) and charges (baggage fees and excess baggage fees).

IATA’s approach uses a geographical-based process to select an MSC on each portion of an itinerary where baggage is through checked (from where a passenger checks a bag to the point the passenger collects the bag). Baggage rules of the MSC are applicable from the point of "baggage check-in" until the next stopover, or the next point of baggage collection. Each time baggage is re-checked by the passenger, an MSC is once again defined and that MSC’s baggage rules apply. These may be the same or different than the last carrier’s rules.

There is potential for several MSCs to be included in a passenger’s itinerary if it involves multiple flights and stops. As a result, passengers may encounter different baggage rules throughout their itinerary.

US Baggage Rules

In July 2012, the United States Department of Transportation (US DoT) Rule 399.87 came into effect. Under this rule, all carriers selling transportation to passengers, whose ultimate ticketed origin or destination is in the United States, must apply the same baggage policy and fees throughout a passenger’s journey, regardless of the number of baggage check-ins during the journey.

Accordingly, the US DoT requirements stipulate that it is only the first marketing carrier on the first flight segment of an itinerary that has the right to establish the baggage rules to apply for the entire journey. This is irrespective of stopovers or other carrier flights listed on the single ticket. More specifically, the first marketing carrier has the right to choose to apply its baggage rules, the rules of the MSC, or those of any other carrier on the single ticket. In case of itineraries where the first flight is operated on a code-share basis, the rules of the marketing carrier must apply.

All carriers must reflect their baggage rules in their tariffs filed with the US DoT.

Agency’s Current Practice

The Canada Transportation Act and the Air Transportation Regulations require that a carrier set out its policies with respect to baggage in its tariff. The Agency does not have an all-encompassing approach for dealing with baggage rules. Rather, its approach is based on the application of the carrier’s tariff to its traffic, and not on the basis of the journey. Airlines under Agency jurisdiction apply their own rules to their traffic when multiple airlines are used.

In the case of code sharing arrangements, the marketing carrier is expected to apply its tariff to its traffic whether the code-sharing arrangement is at the beginning of the itinerary or not. Upon complaint, the Agency enforces the airline’s baggage rules as detailed in its tariff.

Impact of Differing Baggage Rules

The following two examples present one simple and one complex itinerary as well as an explanation of how existing IATA, US DoT and Agency approaches would apply.

Itinerary Example #1

Winnipeg Airline #1 Toronto (Connection) Airline #1 Frankfurt (Connection) Airline #2 Hamburg (Stopover)

Airlines #1 and #2 have an interlining arrangement.

IATA Baggage Rules

Airline #1 is the first carrier to cross two different conference areas. Baggage is checked all the way through from Winnipeg to Hamburg as there is no stopover. As a result, Airline #1 is the most significant carrier and its baggage rules apply to this itinerary.

US DoT Baggage Rules

Airline #1 is the first marketing carrier on this journey and could choose whose baggage rules would apply.

Agency’s Current Approach

The Agency currently has no approach dealing with interlining arrangements. Accordingly, the baggage rules established in each carrier’s tariff would apply to its traffic.

Itinerary Example #2

Departure Toronto Airline #1 New York (Stopover) Operated by Airline #2
Return New York Airline #2 Toronto (Stopover) Operated by Airline #1

Airlines #1 and #2 are involved in two code-sharing arrangements. On the outbound portion, airline #1 is the marketing carrier and Airline #2 is the operating carrier (and vice versa on the return portion).

IATA Baggage Rules

  • Departure: Airline #2 is the most significant carrier and therefore, its baggage rules would apply from Toronto to New York.
  • Return: Airline # 1 is the most significant carrier and its baggage rules apply from New York to Toronto.

US DoT Baggage Rules

Airline #1 is the first marketing carrier and it is involved in a code-sharing arrangement at the beginning of the itinerary. Therefore, it must apply its baggage rules to the entire journey (including the return portion).

Agency’s Current Approach

The Agency currently has no approach dealing with interlining arrangements. Accordingly, the baggage rules established in each carrier’s tariff would apply to its traffic. However, given this is a code-sharing itinerary, the Agency’s code-sharing agreements stipulate that the marketing carrier must apply its rules to its traffic. Therefore, the marketing carrier’s tariff applies in each direction.

  • Airline #1’s tariff applies as it is the marketing carrier on the Toronto to New York flight.
  • Airline #2’s tariff applies as it is the marketing carrier on the New York to Toronto flight.


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