Q. My wife and I need to attend a wedding later this year in San Jose. I was able to book a round trip ticket from Chicago to San Jose. On the trip out, we'll have a layover in Reno and need to change carriers, flying the final leg on Alaska Airways. According to my itinerary, after checking in online with American, I'll also need to check in online with Alaska. My question concerns the baggage. In Reno, do I need to retrieve and recheck my bags with Alaska or can they be checked through to San Jose directly from Chicago even though there are two different carriers are involved?
A. It looks like you've booked two separate fares, and although American would normally "interline" your bag with Alaska had you bought a single fare with a connection from one airline to the other, in this scenario you'll probably have to collect your bag, recheck it, and go through security again. Might I suggest that you consider sending the contents of your bag ahead by FedEx Ground? In many cases it's cheaper than paying two separate checked bag fees round-trip ($25 each way, each flight for a bag weighing under 50 pounds). Just put whatever you need in a sturdy box (there's no need to ship your suitcase itself) 5 or 6 days ahead of your arrival (have it sent to a friend's or relative's home or office, or to your hotel with instructions to store for your arrival). Check out this comparison chart, as well as this chart showing airline checked bag fees.