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TravelIs Delta about to eliminate the 20-minute bag guarantee?

Is Delta about to eliminate the 20-minute bag guarantee?

The rumor mill is swirling with speculation about the end of one of Delta Air Lines’ checked bag policies.

For years, the Atlanta-based carrier has offered what it calls a “Bags on Time” guarantee. This policy awards 2,500 bonus SkyMiles — worth $30 according to TPG’s latest valuations — for any checked bag that doesn’t show up at the carousel within 20 minutes of arrival.

This policy only applies to domestic flights, but it has been a great incentive for Delta employees to deliver bags to the carousel within a reasonable amount of time.

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But could Delta be about to ax this long-standing policy?

According to reports on social media, including on various Delta-specific Facebook groups and forums, the answer is “yes” — and it’s expected to happen as early as next week.

For its part, Delta says that it has no changes to announce.

“There’s nothing we’ve announced nor have to announce with regards to a change in the program,” said a company spokesperson in response to TPG’s inquiry.


Still, Delta’s vague wording gives the carrier just enough wiggle room to make some changes in the days and weeks ahead.

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Of course, we’ll keep monitoring for potential updates to the program, but Delta’s statement also left me wondering what might be next for the Bags on Time policy.

Regardless of what’s in store, here’s what I’d like to see Delta do to make its guarantee more useful — and give itself more flexibility in keeping it intact.

Applied automatically after travel

Right now, claiming compensation for a delayed checked bag requires filling out a (simple) online form within three days of your flight.

Many travelers likely forget (or don’t even know how) to complete this process, which means they don’t receive compensation.

But if Delta automatically granted this compensation — after all, the airline already has the data on flight arrival times and baggage delivery scans — more travelers would become aware of this offering, especially if the airline proactively emailed (or sent a push notification to) each affected traveler about the compensation it granted.

Sure, it would cost Delta more miles, but it could also position this compensation as a key competitive advantage for traveling with the airline. After all, I’d much prefer checking my bag with an airline that guarantees delivery within 20 minutes. (The only other one in the U.S. that currently does this is Alaska Airlines.)

Limit to 1 compensation claim per reservation


Along the same lines, Delta might be looking for ways to limit the amount of compensation that it doles out for delayed bags.

Even at Delta’s sky-high redemption rates, SkyMiles tickets (usually) come at the expense of paying passengers.

So, instead of offering 2,500 miles to each passenger with a delayed bag, the airline could instead limit the compensation to one 2,500-mile bonus per reservation.

Fewer miles or longer arrival window

Similarly, Delta could adjust its Bags on Time guarantee policy to offer customers a tiered number of miles depending on the arrival window.

The compensation for bags that are only 90 seconds delayed beyond the 20-minute window could be very different from those that take an hour to be delivered to the baggage claim.

To limit the amount of compensation it offers, the carrier could tier different levels of bonus miles based on the delay time. This might allow Delta to maintain the program while also keeping control of the program’s costs.

Enhanced baggage tracking


Finally, Delta could also use this opportunity to debut even better baggage tracking.

Right now, checked bags are scanned during check-in, loading and unloading from the plane, and when they are placed on the carousel.

But perhaps the airline could debut new technology that would offer travelers a more detailed look at where exactly their bags were during the travel journey.

The airline could also provide ETAs and other delivery estimate information based on the arrival gate, ground equipment and other factors that could leave travelers feeling reassured that their bags would make it on time.

Bottom line

Delta’s Bags on Time guarantee may not be around for much longer — at least in its current form.

Speculation has run rampant online that Delta might be about to ax this long-standing program, though the airline itself confirmed that it has no changes to announce.

What’s next is anyone’s guess, but for now, Delta should consider a few adjustments to the program before it decides to eliminate the guarantee completely.

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