What happens to your luggage during layovers
Luggage on conveyor belt – do you have to take them during layover? – credit: audy_indy (canva)

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Adding a layover to your flight can save you a lot of money. But if you’re checking your luggage, this can be an extra thing to worry about during your travels. Explore what will happen to your luggage on a layover with this handy guide.

Key Takeway
If your flights are under one airline or booking, your bag is often tagged all the way to its final destination. On the layover, baggage handlers take it off the plane and transfer it to the next leg of your journey. Confirm your layover isn’t self-transfer, as this comes with separate requirements.

Worried about where your luggage will go between flights? Keep reading and you’ll be prepared for every situation.

How to check where your luggage is going during a layover

During the booking process or after you’ve confirmed your booking, the tour operator or airline will often inform you what you’ll need to do with your checked luggage during a layover. If they don’t and you’re worried, you can also contact the airline directly. It’s always worth double-checking at the gate when you check in for your flight.

If your luggage is going straight to your final destination

If the airline is tagging your luggage to your last destination, this is great news. You don’t need to think about your bags until you land at your last stop so put it to the back of your mind. At each layover, the baggage handlers will unload it from the plane and organize it to go on the next leg of your journey. Even if you miss your connecting flight, your bag will still go to your destination.

Of course, increasing the number of layovers also increases the chance of your bag getting lost. Investing in an AirTag or other tracking device and having adequate travel insurance are both good ways to put your mind at ease.

If your luggage doesn’t come out on the conveyer, don’t panic. It might be just delayed, but if it does declared as lost, here are steps you need to do if you lost your luggage. The faster you act, the better your chance of getting it back.

If your layover is self-transfer

When booking, the tour operator or airline sometimes flags that the layover is a self-transfer. This can mean that you have various responsibilities during your flight, such as going through immigration and customs and checking in for a new flight, collecting and rechecking your luggage, or traveling to a different terminal or airport in the city.

If your layover is flagged as a self-transfer, it’s important to consider if you’ll have enough time to do everything without missing your connecting flight. Delayed flights or long lines at immigration could add extra pressure, especially if you’re flying with multiple airlines.

Find out what to do if this happens to you in our article: delayed flight cause you to miss your connecting flights.

During this type of layover, your bag is treated as if it’s going to each individual destination on your itinerary. This means that during your layover, handlers will unload it from the plane and send it to baggage reclaim where you’ll need to collect it and re-check it. It’s still worth confirming this at the desk when you check in for your flight as sometimes it may not be necessary.

If you have a long layover

If your layover is several hours or overnight, your baggage is usually in a baggage make up area. These are areas where baggage is stored and sorted to go onto their connecting flights.

Are you staying overnight and want to access your luggage? Contact the airline or inquire when checking in for your flight if your luggage can be sent to baggage reclaim. It depends on individual airline policies. In the morning, you’ll have to recheck your bag and go through security again, so consider if you want the extra hassle.

Accessing your luggage on stopovers can be controversial. It may cost the airline more money or they could be worried about hidden city ticketing. Check out this article on getting your luggage during a layover for in-depth information and advice.

If you miss your connecting flight

If you didn’t make your connecting flight and your layover wasn’t a self-transfer, your luggage will often still be transferred to your final destination. It’s better to confirm this with a representative when you arrive.

If your bags aren’t transferred, you’ll need to go through customs and recheck your bags for the new flight. If you’re unable to do this, you’ll need to report your bag as missing so the airline can deliver it to the correct destination.

If your layover is in the US

If you have a layover in the USA from overseas, you must collect your bags and take them through Customs and Border Protection. This is regardless of whether your final destination is in the US or not. You’ll then need to recheck your bags and go back through security.

If you have a layover in the Schengen

If you’re coming from a country outside of Schengen, you usually have to go through immigration in the first Schengen country you stop in. It’s rare that you need to do this if your destination is also outside of the Schengen and you don’t plan on leaving the airport. If your departure airport, layover airport, and destination airport are all in the Schengen, you shouldn’t need to go through immigration and customs unless you need to recheck your luggage.

European airports often have very efficient operations and huge teams of staff handling your bags. Unless you’ve booked a self-transfer flight, layovers in the Schengen will have no effect on your luggage as it will be tagged to your final destination.

To find out more about layover, from ideal duration to things you can do, check our our dedicated article about booking a flight with layover.

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