Delta And Alaska: Earning Miles From Delayed Baggage

Nobody likes to check their bags when flying. It guarantees waiting at the carousel for an undetermined period of time when all you want to do is get out of the airport. But if you wait long enough and fly the right airline, it could be a profitable venture.

Miles Or Money For Delayed Baggage

delta, alaska

Delta tells you when you landed and when you should expect your bag

Checking bags is a mixed blessing for the airlines, as well. Airlines incur more costs when you check a bag than when you carry one on, mainly because of labor but, with planes flying 90% full, carry-ons are becoming more of an issue. It takes longer to board someone with a bag and they are constantly running out of room in the overhead bins. In other words, the delays are costing them almost as much as the labor does, and now that they charge passengers to check bags, it has become a profit center. So how do you get passengers to check bags when they really don’t want to?

Solution: Address the choke point. In the case of checking bags, the biggest issue was that passengers never knew how long it would take for them to show up. It might be minutes, it might be an hour. So several years ago, Alaska Air threw in a sweetener: If your bags aren’t delivered within 20 minutes of the plane’s arrival at the gate, they’ll give you 2,500 miles or a $25 discount code. And when Delta made a move in Seattle to establish it as a western hub*, it matched the 2,500 miles offer (No voucher is available.). In fact, at some locations, they’ve introduced screens at the carousel that tell you when your bags, or your 2,500 miles, are due. It almost makes you wish for a delay so you can pick up the extra bonus. Both offers, of course, are available anywhere, not just in Seattle. I’ve taken advantage of it once with Delta, and the miles were in my account in a few days. I’ve heard mixed reviews from others, though.

I would love for other airlines to add the guarantee, although I doubt that they will do so if competition doesn’t force them to. Not only would it force “good behavior” on the airlines but it would also incentivize passenger actions. Guarantee me that I’m getting my bags shortly after I get off the plane and I’m more likely to check them.


*Delta matching Alaska’s offer also hints at some of the themes that I’ve discussed before, including the importance of competition in the industry as well as why it’s good when an airline makes a ton of money. Competition and making money are not contradictory, although that could turn into a post for another time.


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