The test bag, at Alaska Airlines baggage check counter at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, ready to start its journey to Phoenix

The test bag, at Alaska Airlines baggage check counter at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, ready to start its journey to Phoenix

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.

It took less than 15:18 for the bag to be ready for pick-up, but it took me that long to get the baggage claim.

It took less than 15:18 for the bag to be ready for pick-up in Phoenix, but it took me that long to get the baggage claim.

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.

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: [email protected]

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9 Comments

I hope Alaska/Horizon will leave this program in place beyond the end of this year. It establishes a service benchmark and value for what you’re paying (the fee for the checked bag). The reward of $25 or miles is substantial and differentiates Alaska from the crowd.

Do you know how it works when the airline fails to deliver the bag on time? Does the passenger have to seek out a baggage service agent to file a claim? That process would also need to be quick and simple for Alaska to deliver on its promise.

Hey Greg!

Great question. It is really easy. All you need to do is go to the customer service rep there in baggage claim and they give you a certificate to redeem your $25 or 2,500 miles. From what I have seen and heard, Alaska is not being strict (ie “sorry sir, we have it showing 24min”) with handing out the compensation.

David

The baggage clerks in Denver didn’t get the memo and didn’t honor the guarantee, despite my bag being 10 min past the deadline. I walked all the way from the gate to the carousel at DIA, which is about a 15 minute walk, and still waited 20 min for bags to come out. Some airports have got it down, obviously others haven’t.

i traveled on the 6th to seattle my baggage was late so i was given a coupon for $20.00 or 2000 miles, i’ve been trying to claim this on line and have had not luck. i called alaska airlines and was told that i have to do it myself, how hard would it be to have someone do it for me since i’m havig such a hard time with the internet? and i also explained to the person that i talked to that i just moved and am having a time finding a computer to use.
my number here is 757-394-6655, thats my cell number, someone plese call me soon. thank you Alberta Saleem

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