The Guide to Delta’s ‘Bags on Time’ Guarantee

Delta will give you 2,500 SkyMiles if your checked bags don't arrive on the carousel within 20 minutes of arrival.
Ramsey QubeinSep 16, 2021

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Delta’s Bags on Time guarantee is a customer-friendly effort to get bags from the plane to baggage claim within 20 minutes of your arrival for any domestic flight. While some airlines may leave you waiting a while in the arrivals area, Delta’s efforts are guaranteed to have you on your way quickly or with some bonus miles in your account if you have to wait. It’s a free perk for SkyMiles members, but there are a few details to understand if you want to take advantage of it.

Delta's checked baggage fees

Of course, it is a lot easier to justify checking a bag if you don’t have to pay the $30 fee for the first one (or $40 for the second). SkyMiles Medallion flyers, premium cabin passengers and those with active military status don’t have to pay for checked bags.

Like most other domestic airlines, Delta charges to check a bag, but the fee is waived when using a credit card that offers a free checked bag.

These cards include:

Terms apply.

Does Delta reimburse for delayed baggage?

If your baggage takes more than 12 hours to be returned to you, you can file a claim with the airline. There is also the option to get any paid baggage fee refunded, and you can also file for the 2,500-mile Bags on Time guarantee.

What is the Bags on Time guarantee?

Delta guarantees that your checked bag will arrive at the carousel within 20 minutes of the boarding door being opened or you’re eligible for 2,500 bonus miles. Delta’s baggage tracking systems begin the count from the second the door opens until they are scanned onto the carousel. It helps to keep an eye on your watch because if you suspect that your bag took more than 20 minutes, you can complete an online form to request the bonus miles.

Delta.com will automatically approve your claim if the computer (not your stopwatch) shows that it took more than 20 minutes for your bag to arrive with the miles posting to your SkyMiles account shortly afterward. Delta says it can take up to two weeks for the miles to appear, but many travelers report that they post right away.

Nerdy tip: You can receive 2,500 miles per direction of travel. This means that the bonus isn't multiplied based on the number of bags you check, but it could help to check one bag under each person’s name in your party. Then, if the bags take more than 20 minutes, each would receive the bonus after completing the form.

The guarantee doesn't apply for oversized or overweight bags or special items; these items can understandably take longer to offload and transport to the baggage carousel.

Which flights and passengers qualify?

The bag guarantee is available for all passengers with a checked bag traveling within the 50 U.S. states and Puerto Rico. It works on published fares whether paid in cash or in SkyMiles. You must be a registered SkyMiles member before taking your flight — you can’t sign up after your bag arrives late to ask for the miles. Your SkyMiles number must already be in the reservation. Those crediting miles to another program aren't eligible.

This baggage promise doesn't work on other airline flights, even if they are partners with Delta or SkyTeam members. The flight must be Delta-operated and Delta-marketed. This means that the flight must have a DL prefix in front of the flight number and be operated by Delta or Delta Connection.

If your trip has multiple airlines on a domestic itinerary, the guarantee still applies, so long as the final flight you take is DL-coded and DL-operated (since that is the carrier that is delivering the bags to the carousel).

The guarantee must be requested online within three days of your flight’s arrival.

Small, but a nice gesture

While 2,500 miles won’t get you to Bora Bora in business class, every little bit helps to pad your account balance. Delta does offer occasional flash sales with one-way flights sometimes costing less than 5,000 miles. For those who check bags, this can be a nice perk.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

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