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Interlining agreements differ from codesharing agreements in that codesharing agreements usually refers to numbering a flight with the airline's code (abbreviation) even though the flight is operated by another airline. However, codeshare relationships can affect whether an interline ticket (or e-ticket) can be issued. Both the codeshare marketing carrier and codeshare operating carrier must have interline agreements with all other carriers in the itinerary to allow a single ticket to be issued.
Interline agreements are directional. For example it may be possible for American Airlines to issue the ticket on an American-United itinerary but United might not be able to be issuer on the same itinerary.
Airlines that have been established for many years are sometimes called "legacy", "network", or "full-service airlines." Previously, only large network carriers such as United Airlines and Lufthansa would have electronic ticket interline agreements but the IATA mandate to eliminate paper tickets at the end of 2007 has changed this by forcing smaller carriers to implement electronic ticketing. For example, United Airlines has an interline ticketing agreement with competitors American Airlines and British Airways. Smaller legacy carriers commonly have interline agreements with large network carriers that fly into their markets. Most newer low-cost carrier airlines that only sell directly to consumers (and not through agencies or GDS systems) do not support interlining at all. For example, United Airlines does not have an interline agreement with Southwest Airlines or Easyjet.
If no interline ticketing agreement exists (such as with Southwest and United Airlines), then two separate tickets will need to be issued and passengers will have to retrieve their bags and carry it to the connecting airline for check-in. Itineraries with interline connections such as this (whether issued on a single ticket or two tickets) are risky for travelers since the second carrier may be unaware of delays or issues with the incoming flight and it is more likely for luggage to be lost.
Most online travel agencies will only display itineraries that can be ticketed on one of their booking systems. However Orbitz will sometimes display un-ticketable interline itineraries. Examples could be found previously on routes to Mexico involving the now defunct Aero California or may be currently found on routes to Indonesia involving Lion Air. These display on Orbitz as "contact airline to buy".
Carriers that participate in airline alliances such as Star Alliance or SkyTeam almost always have interline agreements with each other. However even direct competitors can benefit from interline agreements. When a ticket is issued for an interline itinerary, one of the carriers marketing flights in that itinerary will be selected by the ticketing agent as the issuing airline, commonly referred to as the "plating carrier". The plating carrier collects the entire fare from the customer and is responsible for distributing the proceeds to other carriers in that itinerary, usually through an intermediary known as BSP (Billing and Settlement Plan). Taxes will also be distributed to the various government and local agencies.
Only the plating carrier is responsible for paying commission to the issuing agency. The amount of commission is based on the entire air fare, although the percentage amount varies from the amount paid if only a single airline was involved.
Normal fare construction rules state that an international ticket should be issued on plated on the first international carrier. There are some exceptions; for example, if the first international is a codeshare flight, the first non-codeshare would be used, or if an airline does not have an office in the country of origin.
When changes need to be made to a nonrefundable interline ticket, only the plating carrier must be included in the new itinerary. Other carriers may be added or dropped as needed to build the new itinerary.