It is common practice for airlines to do a baggage transfer of luggage when passengers fly on connecting flights through an international hub. Some airlines will do this for you even if the two connecting flights have been booked separately, if they are from the same or an associated airline. Etihad has announced that they will soon limit this service to passengers whose connecting flights have been booked in a single itinerary.
What this means is that, in Etihad’s case, if you manage to find a good deal on separate tickets, eg Perth/Abu Dhabi and then connecting to London, you’ll need to collect your luggage and pass through Customs and Immigration formalities before checking in your bags for the next leg. This applies whether your connecting flights are both on Etihad Airways, or Etihad and another member of a partner airline flight such Virgin Australia, Alitalia or Airberlin booked separately.
This change will take effect for flights booked on or after 1st February 2017. Passengers with bookings made before 1st February may continue to have their luggage checked through to their final destination even when connecting between separate bookings.
Customs and Immigration formalities take time and will reduce your time available during transit. You will need to allow a longer window to cover the time taken to do the baggage transfer yourself. This will be particularly difficult if you are travelling with children or a group.
You may need a transit visa to exit the security area and complete the check-in process. Holders of Australian passports don’t need a pre-arranged UAE visa if they’re passing through Abu Dhabi, but citizens of other countries may and if you don’t have this you will be denied entry. Regardless of the location of the hub airport, it is a good idea to check if you need a transfer visa, you will not be allowed to proceed without it. ** Some countries do have a grace period of a specified number of hours, but others give no allowance.
We contacted Etihad Airways for a statement, which clarifies the issues.
….. The changes announced for February 2017 bring Etihad Airways in line with other global airline carriers in the market. The changes will affect only a small number of passengers who travel with the airline. Guests who have separate tickets, either on connecting Etihad Airways flights or across multiple airlines, will be unaffected as long as they are under the same reference number. The policy ensures guests have enough time to connect without the risk of missing flights, delaying flights so they can connect, or losing their bags. The changes are designed to ensure that we continue to offer a first class service through our hub in Abu Dhabi. Etihad Airways spokesperson
To make your all-the-way-through booking, you could check out the Etihad Airways website and ask to be added to their mailing list so you can look for sale offers. The website also provides more baggage information, although not specifically related to this situation.