Delta’s checked bag guarantee: 20 minutes or 2,500 points

Delta is stepping up its game for passengers who check bags, promising delivery within 20 minutes on domestic flights or 2,500 bonus SkyMiles. The Delta checked bag guarantee applies only to domestic flights and only through 31 March 2015 and only for passengers who have a SkyMiles number in the reservation at the time of travel. And, if the program sounds familiar, there’s a pretty good reason for that: Alaska Airlines offers a similar guarantee for its customers and has for a while now.

Baggage Claim (44)
Delta Baggage Claim via dougww/flickr CC-SA


So, is this for real from Delta or just another tit-for-tat play against Alaska Airlines? Most likely a bit of both. If the company believes it can deliver then it is smart marketing. And in the battle for Seattle Delta is copying a lot of Alaska’s play book. This is a benefit which appeals to the leisure traveler, a part of the Seattle market which appears to be remaining more loyal to Alaska Airlines than not. That said, the guarantee applies system-wide so delivering on it will be rather more challenging for Delta than Alaska; there are a lot more places it has to be done.

Some fun at ATL, including exploring the baggage handling facilities

In the end this is competition by way of improved customer service. And it is hard to complain about that. Hopefully we start to see more of that rather than competition through reduced benefits. More is better than less.

And with the new revenue-based earning rules this might be the easiest way to earn 2,500 points.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Or maybe it’s a way to get customer data on how good or bad their delivery is

    It provides an automatic metric that will apply to each station and is hard to manipulate

    1. The reporting data for making a claim must be validated against Delta’s internal systems data, “Time to baggage claim will be as measured by Delta’s baggage tracking system, where available.”

      So Delta already has the data on how often this is an issue.

      1. It depends on how automated the data is and how much is done manually. If bags are scanned as they are unloaded from the plane but not scanned again when they are unloaded on the belt, then an automated system can capture time of the scan, but not time at the belt. It’s conceivable that number is manually entered.

        When Alaska was first trying to improve its baggage delivery, I noticed that the first bags would come quickly and then there would be a long wait for the rest of the bags. I actually wrote the CEO about it, and I predicted that they were measuring first bag delivery but not last bag. It turns that is exactly what they were doing, and their baggage people were loading up one cart and driving that to the terminal to put on the belt, and then going back and getting all the rest of the bags. Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel, was famous for saying that you get what you measure.

        If any of the data is manually typed in by agents, even just an entry like “last bag delivered”, it is subject to manipulation. Much harder to lie to a pax that is at your counter at 25 minutes past arrival and doesn’t have his bag.

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