Delta and Alaska Airlines commit to delivering checked bags within 20 minutes of each flight arriving. If they fail to meet that, you’re entitled to miles or a credit towards a future trip as compensation. Neither United nor American offer this.
Alaska was first to do this, way back in 2009. Delta, which competed aggressively with Alaska in Seattle, adopted a guarantee as well.
American Airlines can’t offer it because they’re just not good at actually meeting the delivery times. While not the same metric, public data shows how they’re an outlier with respect to checked bag performance. According to the most recent Department of Transportation report which covers mishandled bags in September 2021,
- American Airlines mishandled more bags, and a higher percentage of bags, than any other U.S. airline
- This was true, by an even wider margin, a year earlier
- For mainline flights it was more than 6 mishandled bags for every 1000 that were checked
The airline tracks whether they deliver bags in 20 minutes the way that Delta and Alaska promise to (and gives themselves more time on certain flights) but they don’t make their performance against the metric public. And that performance is bad enough that it would simply be too expensive to call out how frequently they miss delivering bags within 20 minutes for them.
NBC’s Today Show got an interview with American’s Vice President for Miami where they asked about bag delivery performance – and got a specific answer. In “the most perfect scenario” American will deliver bags within 20 minutes but at the Miami hub they hit that only 63% of the time.
Here’s an important tip this holiday season: if you’re forced to standby for a flight at the gate, your bags will not make it. That’s not just playing the odds, it is literally how American’s systems are designed.
American’s “Deviate” (DV8) system reroutes bags. If your itinerary changes, and you have bags checked, a new tag for your bag gets printed when the bag is scanned. However this only gets triggered if you have to be checked in for your new flight with a seat assignment for the bag to get rerouted. If you stand by at the gate, or you’re rebooked without a seat assignment, your bag isn’t going with you because there’s not going to be enough time for American to locate the bag and get it onto your plane after you’ve been given your boarding pass.
Ultimately Alaska Airlines and Delta aren’t top of the pack for bag mishandling, but they do pretty well delivering bags quickly when bags are handled correctly. They do often miss it and customers in the know can get compensated. I wouldn’t expect this management at American to look at the potential cost, given their problems with baggage, and sign off on similar incentives.