What happens to baggage during long transit layovers?

It depends on several aspects such as the type of ticket, the country of layover and the airlines you are traveling with. Assuming this matter is related to international travel, let me explain with few use cases.

  • If you have a through ticket from point-to-point destination then in most of the cases, you do not need to reclaim your baggage. The airport automatically transfers them to your connecting flight irrespective of the airline you are flying.
  • Let’s say you have separate tickets from Point A (origin) to Point B (layover) and Point B to Point C (final destination). In such case, you have to reclaim your baggage at Point B (layover destination). And check-in again for the connecting flight. In this case, you have to go through the immigration and customs as well
  • For inbound international passenger to the US, the baggage rules are standard irrespective of the type of ticket you hold.  As per the US law, international passengers have to clear the immigration & customs at the first port of entry. This applies even if you are in transit. Hence, you have to reclaim your baggage at your first point of entry, even if it is a stopover. You then need to and re-check in your baggage.
  • In the case of Schengen countries, passing through immigration at the first port of entry even if you are transiting is mandatory. You usually do not pass through customs and reclaim your baggage. It is tagged to the final destination (for through ticket holders) of the Schengen country.

Many airlines offer free VOA (visa on arrival) and hotel accommodation to transiting passengers with extra-long layovers. In such cases, they tag your bags to the final destination and you cannot reclaim them even if you wish.

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