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Delta Offers Free First Bag to SkyMiles Cardholders

Delta SkyMiles members who hold a SkyMiles-affiliated American Express card no longer have to pay the first-bag fee on any Delta flight. The airline announced that, effective immediately, it will waive the first-bag fee for up to nine people traveling on a qualified program members’ reservation. As Delta notes, that’s a savings of up to $50 per bag.

Travelers must supply their SkyMiles number when booking, though it does not appear that cardmembers have to book with their SkyMiles card. That said, there are a few catches in the fine print, which I’ll just print here verbatim:

  • “The first checked bag fee waiver will only be applied on flight segments which originate on a Delta or Delta Connection Carrier-operated flight.”
  • “Codeshare flights are not eligible.”
  • “Waiver is only of normal first checked bag fee for a bag that is not overweight and not oversized under Delta’s applicable rules.”
  • “The first checked bag fee waiver will be applied to all passengers traveling in the reservation containing the Basic Cardmember’s SkyMiles number (up to nine waivers). If more than nine passengers are within the same reservation, the waiver will only be applied to eligible passengers.”
  • “New Cardmembers and Cardmembers upgrading from another Delta SkyMiles Credit Card product will be eligible for the checked baggage fee waiver benefit after receiving their card from American Express.”

Fine print aside, this seems like a pretty straightforward benefit for SkyMiles members. The annual fee for Delta’s three cards range between $95 for the Gold card, $150 for the Platinum card, and $450 for the Reserve card, meaning frequent flyers can reasonably expect to recoup their card fees through savings on bag fees, especially those with the Gold or Platinum cards. Of course, Medallion-level members already enjoy two free bags in economy, and first- and business-class passengers are allowed three, so this benefit does precisely nothing for Delta’s top-tier customers.

But for Delta fans who don’t fly enough to earn Medallion status, the new perk provides a welcome reprieve from the airline’s fees, and even a whiff of elite status. For Delta, the obvious result is stronger loyalty at the non-elite level, while American Express perhaps picks up some new cardmembers. The question now is whether or not more airlines will add similar loopholes to their baggage policy.

Readers, what do you think? Does Delta’s move have you thinking about a SkyMiles card? What would you do if your preferred airline added a loophole such as this (assuming your preferred airline charges a first-bag fee)?

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