These Airlines Will Give You Miles if Your Bag Isn’t on the Carousel Quickly

Start your timer—some carriers offer miles if your checked luggage is delayed more than 20 minutes.

Suitcases on the baggage claim carousel

Getting miles or money toward a future flight may take the sting out of waiting a long time for a checked bag.

Photo by Shutterstock

If the final leg of your flight is on an Alaska Airlines or Delta Air Lines flight, it’s worth starting a stopwatch on your phone the moment you start disembarking the plane—it could net you miles or money toward a future flight.

Both Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines offer what they call a 20-minute baggage guarantee. If your checked luggage isn’t on the baggage carousel within 20 minutes of your aircraft’s door opening, you’re entitled to 2,500 miles on Delta flights and the option to choose either 2,500 miles or a $25 travel voucher on Alaska flights. Though both airlines have the programs, they typically don’t automatically give travelers the miles or money when luggage is delayed—you have to ask for them. Here’s how to claim the miles or flight credit when your bags show up late on Delta and Alaska flights.

How to get miles or money for delayed bags on Alaska Airlines

Generally, Alaska Airlines does a pretty good job of getting luggage to the baggage claim area within 20 minutes. But in larger airports or when multiple flights land simultaneously, it’s not uncommon for suitcases to experience a slowdown in getting to their owners.

If, after 20 minutes, your bag hasn’t hit the conveyor belt, find an Alaska customer service agent. They’ll ask to see your checked baggage receipt and will typically provide a paper voucher with a code that can be used to claim miles or money for future flights. It’s the responsibility of the traveler to visit Alaska’s online baggage service guarantee to input their information (name, date of travel, arrival city, and the authorization code on the voucher) and select whether they’d prefer to shop now with the $25 credit, have a $25 discount code added to their Alaska Airlines account for future use, or deposit 2,500 miles into their Mileage Plan Account. The miles or money appears automatically after hitting the “claim” button. However, some airports, like Denver International Airport, are moving away from paper vouchers. Instead, the agent will manually add the chosen award to a traveler’s account for later use.

Regardless of how many bags are checked, customers are only allotted one voucher per passenger, and the offer isn’t valid for items delivered to the oversize baggage claim area (like checked pets or sporting gear such as golf clubs or surfboards).

How to get miles for delayed bags on Delta Air Lines

Delta’s policy differs from Alaska’s in a few ways, the largest being that the entire claim can be submitted online. Travelers whose bags lagged in getting to them need to go to within three days of the completion of the flight to file a mileage request. The form asks for the traveler’s name, SkyMiles number, departure and arrival cities, departure date, and trip confirmation number. If approved, the miles should hit the traveler’s account within two weeks.

To be eligible for the miles, you need to have a SkyMiles membership (also worth having as the airline now offers free inflight Wi-Fi to members), and the membership number needs to be on the reservation prior to flying. The guarantee is only valid on domestic flights within the United States and Puerto Rico and is only good for one bag per person. Oversize items and overweight bags aren’t included in the guarantee.

While 2,500 miles or $25 off a future flight won’t get you far on its own, every little bit helps. It may even be an incentive to join Team Checked Bag (especially if you have the Alaska- or Delta-branded credit cards, which come with waived luggage fees).

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at AFAR. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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