The Loopholes Delta & Alaska Use To Not Pay You For Late Bags

by SharonKurheg

Both Delta and Alaska have policies where, if you’ve flown on their respective airlines and your luggage isn’t at baggage claim within 20 minutes, they’ll give you something for the luggage being late. One woman even devised a hack to take advantage of Delta’s policy as much as she can.

Alaska’s policy has been around since 2010 and is pretty straightforward. Delta’s policy has been in effect since 2015 and they do require that, “…you must be a SkyMiles member at the time of travel to be eligible.” They’re the only two U.S. airlines that offer such policies.

But if you look at the teeny tiny print of their respective terms and conditions (T&C), there are several ways that they don’t have to reward you for your luggage being delayed.

Alaska’s policy:

We know that instead of waiting at baggage claim you’d rather be out enjoying your destination, or settling in back at home. That’s why we are committed to getting you on your way faster, and we’ve been making that commitment for years.

Since 2010 we have put a guarantee behind our baggage delivery. If your bags are not at baggage claim within 20 minutes of your plane’s arrival at the gate, we’ll offer you a $25 discount code for use on a future Alaska Airlines flight, or 2,500 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan™ bonus miles.

In the rare instance that we don’t meet our 20 minute guarantee, just get ahold of us at the baggage office within 2 hours of your flight’s arrival for your discount code or miles. You can simply speak with one of our customer service agents at the airport.

Sure, some of the things Alaska lists make sense. For example, their T&C state that the policy is only valid, “…on flights operated by Alaska Airlines (flights 0001- 1999), Horizon Air (flights 2000 – 2999), and SkyWest (flights 3300 – 3499), with the exception of international flights requiring customs clearance, and flights between Anchorage and Dutch Harbor.” That way you can’t fly a codeshare on American and demand points from Alaska. I get that.

But then we get into the nitty gritty. Here are the rest of Alaska’s T&C:

  • Baggage service guarantee must be claimed in-person from a customer service agent at the arrival airport within 2 hours of arrival. (so you have to tell them while you’re still at the airport, or it doesn’t count. Who cares if you have to catch a shuttle bus, or you just wanna get home…)
  • Offer is not valid for checked items delivered to the oddsize/oversize baggage claim area (e.g. checked pets, golf clubs, skis, surfboards, assistive devices, firearms). (Rover, your golf clubs and your electric wheelchair don’t count)
  • Offer is not valid for non-revenue space available travelers, including Alaska Airlines employees and dependents, guest pass travelers and employees of other airlines traveling on industry discounted tickets. (If your dad works for Alaska and you’re flying for free, if your bag is late, too bad, so sad)
  • Alaska Airlines reserves the right to suspend the baggage service guarantee in the event of airport baggage system malfunction, severe weather, or other conditions out of the airlines’ control that prohibit timely baggage delivery. (you arrive at TPA, the daily afternoon monsoon is going on and whoops, there was a power outage. Sorry, your bags will be late and nope, you can’t claim anything)
  • One baggage service guarantee voucher per qualified passenger, per flight, for one or more checked bags (you checked one bag and gate checked another? You’re still only going to get paid for 1 late bag).
  • Baggage service guarantee voucher must be redeemed at by the date provided on the voucher. (OK, they’re not good for forever. I can deal with that. Get the miles instead LOL!)
  • Baggage service guarantee vouchers are not transferable and may not be redeemed for cash, bartered, or sold. (I’ll bet you $5 and this Alaska Airlines voucher…)
  • $25 discount code must be applied at toward purchase of a ticket on Alaska Airlines by the date provided within the terms and conditions printed on the voucher. Not redeemable at ticket counters or through travel agent. (I don’t know how many people make reservations at the ticket counter, unless they’re on an ultra-low-cost carrier and it will save them some money that way. But you can’t use a travel agent to get your $25 discount? That blows. Again, get the miles instead!)
  • Additional terms & conditions apply if you elect to redeem your baggage service guarantee voucher for a discount code. Please visit our about discount codes page at for additional information.

Delta’s policy:

We’re committed to providing you with reliable and on-time baggage service every time you fly. That’s why we’re backing your bags with a guarantee: if your checked bag doesn’t arrive at the carousel in 20 minutes or less after any domestic flight, you are eligible to receive 2,500 bonus miles. Just complete the below form no later than three days after your flight’s arrival. Requests should only be submitted after your flight.

Delta has similar verbiage to Alaska’s, in that you must be on Delta Air Lines and Delta Connection® carriers. Delta also points out that their codeshare flights are eligible as long as the final leg is marketed and operated by Delta Air Lines or a Delta Connection carrier (so if you’re on SkyWest, which codeshares with Delta, land at DEN and pick up your bags there, it wouldn’t count. But if you’re on SkyWest to DEN and you and your bags continue on to MCO on Delta, it would count when you get your bags at MCO). Again, fair enough.

Delta also explains how they calculate the 20 minutes:

The time a bag takes to arrive at the baggage claim is measured by Delta’s baggage tracking system, where available. If the time elapsed between aircraft door open and delivery of the bag to the baggage claim carousel is longer than 20 minutes, the customer is eligible to earn 2,500 miles. This offer is valid on domestic flights within the U.S. 50 and Puerto Rico, marketed and operated by Delta Air Lines and Delta Connection® carriers.

These are Delta’s T&C (they’re written here in paragraph form but I’ve changed them to bullets, for ease of reading):

  • Customers must be a SkyMiles member in good standing at the time of travel and award of bonus miles to be eligible. SkyMiles number must be included on the reservation to be eligible.
  • A request must be submitted via within three days of completion of the flight on which the baggage delay was experienced. (So with them, you can do it online and within 3 days. I like that better than having to flag down the appropriate Alaska rep)
  • Limit one request per passenger per outbound or return travel regardless of number of checked bags; requests for multiple trips must be submitted separately.
  • Time to baggage claim will be as measured by Delta’s baggage tracking system, where available. The time to baggage claim will be defined as time elapsed between aircraft door open and delivery of the bag to the baggage claim belt.
  • Oversize and overweight baggage and special items are not eligible. (Another reason to make sure your bag is under 50 pounds, huh?)
  • Offer only valid on paid tickets for published fares; not valid for those traveling on employee pass privileges or employees of other airlines traveling on industry discounted tickets.
  • Delta Air Lines reserves the right to suspend this baggage service guarantee at any time and without prior notice in the event of an airport baggage system malfunction, severe weather, or other conditions out of Delta’s control that would prevent timely baggage delivery. (The truck that brings your bags from the plane to the carousel broke down. So sorry, not our fault)
  • Delta reserves the right to deny fraudulent, suspicious or ineligible claims.
  • All SkyMiles program rules apply to SkyMiles program membership, miles, offers, mile accrual, mile redemption, and travel benefits. To review the rules, please visit Membership Guide & Program Rules.
  • Other restrictions may apply.
  • Delta Air Lines reserves the right to terminate or modify this baggage service guarantee at any time without prior notice.

So, yeah. I know plenty of people who have claimed to have racked up plenty of miles for their luggage being more than 20 minutes late. But there sure are a lot of ways that they DON’T have to pay you, huh?

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Jason May 26, 2022 - 5:08 pm

These all seem very reasonable. Which ones don’t you agree with

A20003 May 26, 2022 - 6:08 pm

@Jason, they are reasonable (at least for AS). The catch is when they actually follow the T&Cs. For example, AS employees at AS now demand that you actually have your bags in hand to get your miles. Before, if it had been more than 20 minutes since gate arrival (and no bags) you simply went to the baggage desk and they would give you a voucher. This is super helpful, because you can have another party member wait for the delayed bags. Apparently AS now views this practice as a “violation” of the T&Cs (FYI, it isn’t).

They also routinely have a 30+ minute wait to get the miles after your already delayed bags. Their agents go out of their way to triple check everything to make sure you aren’t scamming them out of 2,500 miles, which adds to the wait….

I’m a 100k flyer on AS, I have seen time and time again AS trying their best to deny people their miles, after they have patiently waited for their late bags and in line – and unless you push back, you won’t get the miles.

I can go on more about AS has watered down the program, including requiring the agent to start a ticket, which is then tripled checked before your miles may or may not be issued. Before they simply teared off a voucher for you with a code…..

derek May 26, 2022 - 7:19 pm

Before the pandemic, I used to check a bag just to get the $25. I was elite, which meant bag checking was free.

Jimmy August 8, 2023 - 10:49 pm

Try finding an Alaska baggage agent just about anywhere other than Seattle. There really are no such people.

Randy August 9, 2023 - 2:25 pm

I’ve never had an issue getting the mileage with Delta the few times that I have expected them. They usually post within minutes of filling out the form.

Beachmouse August 10, 2023 - 2:59 pm

A Delta ‘bags on time’ claim goes through at 21 minutes after the door opening time if your bag hasn’t hit he carousel entrance point scan yet. So once the stopwatch hits that, you can file your claim while you’re continuing to wait for your bags to arrive. My home airport has issues with both an inadequate number of baggage carousels and a difficulty in hiring enough ramp workers so I’ve filed enough Bags on Time claims in the past few years that I have my SkyMiles number memorized. (Which turned out to also be helpful logging in to their free on flight wifi service)


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