The tags found on bags coming into Seattle on Delta flights

The tags found on bags coming into Seattle on Delta flights

Over the last few days I have heard some rumblings about luggage tags that have been showing up on luggage of passengers who have flown on Delta Air Lines (DL) to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). They will be waiting for their bags at baggage claim, and when they show up, find a Delta / American Express advertising tag on them.

Some frequent fliers, on sites like, have not been so happy about the tags. Others on sites like, title their story Delta Pisses Off Seattle Customers. The complaint was their bags were already taking long enough, why does Delta need to delay them more by putting unwanted advertising on them?

My first thought, honestly, was to be a bit annoyed as well. That would anger me if I had to wait longer for my bag just to find ads on them. I decided to give Delta a call and find out some more information on these tags and what the purpose was (I figured surely it wasn’t to anger passengers).

Delta and Alaska in Seattle - Photo: Daniel T Jones

Delta and Alaska in Seattle – Photo: Daniel T Jones

First off, this directed Seattle marketing campaign has been going on for over a month now. This is the first time that they have heard any negative feedback about the tags (yes, they do read these opinions on sites like Flyertalk).

Also, it turns out that these tags are not delaying bags. Delta has hired out other people, where their job is to add the tags to the bags, which doesn’t cause any sort of additional delay.

This experience has also started another conversation on how Alaska Airlines (AS) can get their bags to passengers in 20 minutes (Alaska has a really sweet 20 min guarantee), compared to the 30-40 minute time it sometimes takes with Delta.

What Alaska is able to do is pretty darn amazing. Most airlines around the world are not able to do accomplish plane-to-passenger in less than 20 minutes (I have personally put it to the test about a dozen times; never has it been over 20). One reason is Alaska runs a fleet of Boeing 737s, Bombardier Q400s and CRJs, which are much quicker to unload than the Boeing 737s, CRJs, Boeing 757s, Boeing 767s, Airbus A320s/A319s, and Airbus A330s that Delta needs to unload.

Alaska has also determined that bag speed is an important aspect to passengers and invested quite a bit of time and money into their program.

So, Delta is not trying to be some evil airline and make a few bucks off of delaying your bag. They are trying to make some money off a targeted marketing campaign that might be a little annoying in taking time to remove the tag, but it seems not really to be that big of a deal in the whole scheme of things – at least in my opinion.

The question remains. After the marketing campaign is over, can’t Delta keeps on some of those extra workers to see if they might be able to improve bag speed?

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:
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That explanation brings up quite a number of questions to me:

Who are these people that were hired specifically for this job?

Where are they located – on the tarmac, just before the conveyor leading to the carousel, where?

Are the bags moving as they attach the tags? Are they on the tarmac adding the tags as the bags are tossed into the carts? Unless it is while they are being loaded on the carts, I don’t see how this cannot slow things up.

Most concerning to me though – if they have general access to the bags, who is watching over them? The TSA seems to get blamed for all things missing from luggage and that is frequently unjustified – this just adds to the mix.

Not so sure I trust Delta’s Seattle marketing team.

No Fly Zone

Sorry, David, but this post seems to be a whole lot of unsupported krapola. I too love AL, in their place, but please… Boosting the local airline is great, but please, let’s keep it somewhat objective – when possible.
About those added baggage tags, I think AL just sucked you in! ANY additional handling of in-bound luggage takes time. (Duh?) If Alaska or the growing player at SEATAC wants to send a message – inbound luggage is NOT the place to put it. No matter how wonderful – or how awful – the just completed flight, all arriving PAX want to be OUT of the space ASAP. Delayed by only seconds, to remove seemingly important tag – yet a worthless one, would annoy me – and most likely contribute to litter. IMO, a very poor advertising option.

I am disappointed by this article. Most articles are objective and do a bit of fact checking on their own but lets look at this objectively. You called Delta to ask about this and they said, “Oh, no, this doesnt delay bag delivery!” and you said oh great see its fine. Did you not step back and think to yourself why would Delta ever admit this delayed bags? “Yes we want to advertise so we delay the bags, but only 30 seconds to put on the tags” would not be an answer delivered by any airline today or really any company. A bit of common sense I think should be used. I think this site too often gives the airline way too much benefit of the doubt while dismissing passengers. (the “How to write a complaint letter” comes to mind).

Maybe next they will delay letting passengers off the plane so the airline can deliver some PSA. I mean, if it is only a few seconds, whats the big deal right?

Also your diatribe about Alaska just seems like a shameless plug. The article is about Delta and tags and whether their bags are held up because of this. Why is Alaska (which does not provide these tags) 20 min bag guarantee relevant here??


Your concerns are valid, but I have built some pretty strong relationships with Delta. I honestly feel if they knew the bags were delayed from this, they would be honest about it.

Even if they were delayed, if they have a team of dedicated people putting these tags on the bags, the delay would be second, not minutes or more.

I brought up Alaska, because other sites were saying, “how come Alaska can get the bags in 20 minutes and Delta takes longer — must be the tags,” (not a direct quote there).

We are fans of airlines and we do try to give them more of a benefit of a doubt. There are many other media outlets who look at any opportunity to bash airlines, we try to see the other side.



Here is an important question you should ask Delta:

What makes Delta think that it is ok to add advertisement tags to their customer’s property without their consent?

And like another poster asked, who are the people that have been hired? Who is watching over them ?

I know I would be a bit annoyed too, but I guess I am not seeing the big deal. Delta already adds tags to your bag. The destination tag, if it is heavy. The TSA, are the ones looking in your bag. I am sure the people putting on the tags do not have the time to go through anyone’s bag any more of less than any other employee having that chance.


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Hi David,

I was linked to your article from an article on, and admittedly I was hoping they didn’t give full breadth to your statements, but unfortunately it seems they did. There seems to be a total lack of any bit of investigative journalism here. Your source is the Delta spokesperson, who apparently didn’t even give you any proof there were no delays. I don’t see how hiring additional employees, no matter how numerous they may be, with the express purpose of completing a *new* procedural step, would prevent *any* delay. It may minimize it, but that’s not what the article says; it says “Also, it turns out that these tags are not delaying bags. Delta has hired out other people, where their job is to add the tags to the bags, which doesn”t cause any sort of additional delay.” If I had 100 bags and 100 taggers, they’d still all need to apply a tag, which is something they weren’t doing before, so how is that avoiding “any sort of additional delay?” And somehow, I’m skeptical that Delta has a 1:1 ratio of taggers:bags, but then again there’s no info on that provided, though apparently there is some precedence for complaints of additional delays (it’s what prompted this very article apparently). All the benefit of the doubt seems to be given immediately to Delta with zero supporting information.

Furthermore, this statement “So, Delta is not trying to be some evil airline and make a few bucks off of delaying your bag. They are trying to make some money off a targeted marketing campaign that might be a little annoying in taking time to remove the tag, but it seems not really to be that big of a deal in the whole scheme of things — at least in my opinion.” is troubling. I don’t think anyone reasonable is accusing Delta of being “evil” or wanting to delay bags, but you’re basically giving them a pass because there’s no ill will in what they’re doing? It seems exactly like they ARE trying to make a few bucks off of a process that delays but because they aren’t “evil” it’s okay?

It’s articles like this that I think do the greatest disservice to the industry on both sides. People are clearly upset (and to be honest, I’m not even really one of them) but then a website about the industry posts an article largely disputing the complaints based solely on Delta’s word? What evidence did they supply that times aren’t being affected? If it’s none then shame on you for not asking and in essence writing this article as a mouthpiece for the company. If they did supply you with evidence, then shame on you for not actually reporting it. All an article like this does is detract from actual consumer complaints and allow the airlines to think the status quo is okay, when that is not necessarily the case. It’s a lot more difficult to convince former customers to come back once you’ve lost them than it is to keep existing ones satisfied.



There are multiple times in a process where bags are sitting still. Them sitting still or having a tag put on does not change the time it takes for you to get your bag. Even worst case scenario of a bag being held up waiting for its tag we are talking mere seconds here.

And yes, I didn’t put much more time into this article. Unlike many other sites, I took the time to at least talk to Delta to give their side of the story. I have built a strong relationship with them and when they mess up, they fess to it. They aren’t in the game to lie, but to spin positive and we had a positive spin to our story as well.

Even after that, I wasn’t sure I would even run the story because it is minor. I didn’t feel the breath of the story deserved checking and finding out how long it really delays bags down to the second.

People were really pissed the bags were delaying bags, heard from the airline it is not delaying, answered why Alaska is quicker, moved on.


I like how we can get our bags immediately after landing here in Hong Kong.

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