Delta Testing 20-Minute Guarantee On Checked Bags For Frequent Fliers. What’s The Catch?

If you’ve been stuck waiting for your bags at an airport luggage carousel in recent years, you’ve probably overheard someone grouse — or maybe done a bit of grousing yourself — that “I paid these guys extra to check my bags; the least they could do is not make me stand around like a fool for an hour.” In an effort to cut down on said grousing, Delta has quietly launched a limited-time test of a 20-minute guarantee for baggage delivery for its SkyMiles members, though there are so many conditions that it may be an empty promise.

The airline didn’t do a wide press release about the test and isn’t openly touting it on the Delta website, but there is this page on Delta.com that provides the necessary details on the guarantee, along with several of the catches that will prevent passengers from

The core of the guarantee is that SkyMiles members whose bags aren’t delivered to the airport carousel within 20 minutes can get 2,500 bonus miles if they file a claim online at the above-linked page within three days.

Here are the biggest issues we see with the offer:

• It’s currently only good for travel through March 31, which doesn’t seem to indicate that Delta believes it can maintain this guarantee in the long run, though reps for the airline say the program might eventually be more permanent, depending on the outcome of the test.

• Even if you’re sure you were standing at the carousel for 30 or 40 minutes, that might not matter as, according to the website, “Time to baggage claim will be as measured by Delta’s baggage tracking system.” That doesn’t specify when the clock starts ticking, and we’ve seen other companies (we’re looking at you Sears) whose employees have manipulated internal timing systems to prevent customers from claiming time-related guarantees.

• Even though Delta is using its own tracking system to determine when bags arrive at the carousel and the airline most certainly knows which passengers are SkyMiles members, it’s up to the traveler to make the claim. Delta could easily be proactive and reward affected fliers automatically, but it is compelling its customers to do the legwork. Additionally, the requirement to do so within three days puts a particular onus on travelers to take time away from their travels — whether it’s business or pleasure — to fill out a form online.

• The guarantee does not change based on how many bags you’ve checked. So someone who’s paid for a single checked bag will get the same SkyMiles reward as someone who paid to check multiple bags.

• If your bags vanish or are mangled, Delta won’t give you the miles, saying that “lost, mishandled, and damaged bags are excluded” from the guarantee, as are “Oversize and overweight baggage and special items.”

[via Bloomberg]