One of my least favorite parts of flying is waiting for my bag in baggage claim. First you wait to see which carousel your bags will come out on. Then you wait for them to change the carousel number. Then you get excited when the lights flash and the conveyor belt starts moving, but normally you are waiting a bit more until bags come out. Sometimes you are lucky and your bags come off the conveyor belt early, but other times, it can take upwards of an hour to get all your luggage (if they show up at all).
Alaska Airlines currently has a promotion that is changing the game. If you do not get your checked bags with-in 25 minutes of your flight reaching the gate, you will get a $25 discount code for a future flight on Alaska Airlines or Horizon Airlines or you can choose to get 2,500 Mileage Plan bonus miles.
I wanted to check-in on how the promo was going and talked to Greg Latimer, who is the Managing Director of Brand and Product Marketing for Alaska Airlines. He explained that the airline checks about 20,000 bags per day and since the start of this promo on July 7th only a few hundred certificates have been claimed. He admitted that not that long ago, Alaska Airlines wouldn’t have been able to complete the task of getting all checked bags to customers in 25 minutes, but they have been working hard and are proud of their accomplishment.
The promotion and stats looked great on paper, but I wanted to put this to the test. It was good timing. I was heading from Seattle, WA to Phoenix, AZ this weekend and flying on Alaska. It was only for a few days and normally would have just carried on my bag, but it was worth the $15 to check a bag and find out if Alaska could deliver on this guarantee. I had no problems checking my bag at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. I decided to go with an orange bag (actually a friend’s bag who was traveling with me, but mine was a boring black one) to track its journey.
The flight went great (except there was no Skymall magazine in the seatback…so I couldn’t see the new gadgets) and landed almost on time. Once we pulled up to the gate at Phoenix International Airport, I started the timer. I was flying back in row 26, so it took me a while to get off the plane, but the terminal is small and I went quickly to make sure I got there before the 25 minute mark. By the time I got to baggage claim, there was the orange bag, already out, making the rounds. It was only 15:18 when I saw the bag. I am not going to lie, I was very impressed. So few times have I flown and had my bag waiting for me on the carousel.
This policy just makes sense. With airlines charging to check bags (Alaska Airlines charges $15 for 1st bag and $25 for second), it seems silly passengers should have to wait so long to get their bags. Instead passengers will bring carry-ons causing issues with space and slowing down the security process (took me 35minutes to get through security and I had no carry-ons, but 99% of everyone else did). Ladimer told me they aren’t sure what Alaska is going to do after this promotion expires on December 31st. I know it might not be sustainable to offer $25 of 2,500 miles for the long term, but I really hope they can keep up the guarantee in some fashion. I am optimistic that other airlines might follow suit and make a better effort in the speed at which they have bags ready for pick-up. I personally know I am much more likely to pay for a checked bag if I know my bag will be there quick.
UPDATE 01/01/10: Alaska tells me they have extended this deal until at least July 31, 2010.