American Airlines Manager Caught Telling The Truth About Poor Checked Bag Delivery Times

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Not surprising. MIA is my home airport and, being in a wheelchair, I am last off the plane. I usually stop at the AC to freshen up and grab a banana before heading to baggage and home. All told, it’s usually 30-45 minutes after gate arrival by the time I get to baggage.

    While my bags are sometimes in the holding pen, there are just as many times when bags haven’t yet arrived.

  2. Since American Airlines is currently not as good as Alaska Airlines or Delta Airlines regarding the delivery of passenger baggage, to enhance customer satisfaction, maybe American Airlines should consider offering a 40-minute or a 60-minute baggage guarantee.

  3. Was told by baggage service agents at MIA – not sure if they were actual AA employees or contractor employees – they have an hour to deliver bags , so maybe things are improving. 🙂

  4. 20 minutes?!? I usually stop at the Admirals Club to grab a snack, have a drink, use the rest room, and then take a leisurely stroll to baggage claim (at DFW and FLL that is usually right outside the gate) and still have to wait a half hour or so for the bags. How do Delta and Alaska do it and American can’t come close? The gates are within yards of the baggage claims.

  5. So what is with all the 15-45 minute between-flight connections on AA? Does anyone actually think that their luggage will be arriving at their destination with them when they land at their final destination?

  6. Does this mean no, or few anyway, AA standby employees will travel with their bags? If so, that sucks.

  7. I waited 1 hour for my bag in DTW.Thank You AA
    If American offered compensation for every time they failed they likely wouldn’t exist

  8. I had a standby flight on AA earlier this month. We were way down the priority list and didn’t get a seat. But our bags got the earlier flight. We caught up to them in DC a few hours later.

  9. One month of data doesn’t paint a complete picture although it is worth looking at.
    The latest DOT Air Travel Consumer Report has year to date baggage handling statistics and it is worth noting that American mishandled (ie failed to deliver bags to the same flight as the passenger) more than any other airline both in terms of ratio of total bags handled and total number of mishandled bags .
    It is also worth noting that JetBlue is right above American and Alaska is right above Alaska in terms of ratio of mishandled bags. Given that JBLU operates a largely point to point network and a lower percentage of connections than American, it is all the more puzzling why Alaska and JetBlue’s rates are worse than Delta which is fractionally higher than Southwest, which also operates a higher percentage of point to point passengers.

    Just as with JBLU’s perpetually bad on-time performance, American’s baggage handling is as bad as it is because customers keep coming back.

    Given that Delta has managed to set up hubs in both Alaska’s and JetBlue’s hubs and hometowns that get revenue premiums on the same routes, it seems clear that there are enough passengers that are willing to pay for quantifiably better service.

  10. @JohnOfCharleston, bags aren’t supposed to travel without the passenger unless specifically “Expedited” by the carrier in question for security reasons. The carrier “Expediting” a bag must generate a new baggage tag for the bag in question with the original tag number and PNR info attached.
    At least it used to be that way. Maybe since TSA has started examining bags that has ended.
    Maxie Dean, when I worked at ORD long ago, a company named “Allied” ran most of the baggage, especially Interline. It wouldn’t surprise me if companies like that have taken over running most/slip of the bags for the majors.

  11. AA is notorious for bad service on flight arrival ties, canceled flights, rescheduled flights, and lost and delayed baggage.

    AA — finally got CEO Parker to leave——–burnt toast smell is still left!

  12. This is why AA passengers try to haul all their stuff onboard as carry-on, filling up the o.h. lockers beyond capacity. Understandable, if annoying.

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