Delta Hits Soldiers With $2,800 in Bag Fees, Changes Policy

NEW YORK (MainStreet) —  Delta Airlines increased it its free checked baggage allotment for U.S. Military personnel today after U.S. soldiers returning from Afghanistan took to YouTube to complain about being charged $2,800 to check bags onto a flight.

Now, soldiers on active duty can check up to four bags free of charge when flying coach and up to five bags free of charge when flying in first and business class. The change also applies to dependents traveling with active military on orders.

Delta made the change to its baggage policy after several soldiers returning from active duty in Afghanistan took to YouTube to express their dissatisfaction with having to pay out of pocket for additional baggage their military orders authorized them to carry. 

According Staff Sgts. Robert O'Hair and Fred Hilliker, who filmed the video on board their Delta flight, soldiers traveling with a fourth bag were required by the airline to pay a $200 baggage fee out-of-pocket, despite what the soldiers said is an agreement between the government and Delta to allow soldiers to carry four bags. 

In the video, O’Hair says that the fourth bag he was charged for contained the weapon that he used to “protect myself and Afghan citizens while I was deployed in the country."

Previously, Delta's policy allotted three free checked bags in coach and four in first and business class for military members traveling on orders. 
American Airlines, U.S. Airways and the recently merged United and Continental all have similar baggage policies to Delta in regards to military personnel.

Prior to its formal change in policy, Delta apologized for the incident.

“We would like to publicly apologize to those service men and women for any miscommunication regarding our current policies as well as any inconvenience we may have caused,” a spokesperson from Delta wrote on the company’s blog after the video was posted. “We are currently looking further into the situation, and will be reaching out to each of them personally to address their concerns and work to correct any issues they have faced.”

The apology did little to quell public outrage as U.S. residents posted comments of support on the video’s YouTube page.
“These men risk their lives to protect out country and they get treated like this?” one viewer wrote. “Delta should be ashamed.”

Delta did not say whether or not they would reimburse the soldiers in the video for the baggage fees they were charged.

Joe Davis, spokesperson for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Association, told MainStreet that the soldiers would most likely be reimbursed for the fees by the U.S. government as long as the extra baggage was authorized in the soldiers’ written orders.

“A $200 bill for extra baggage by a government-contracted airline is the worst welcome home any soldier could receive,” Davis said. “We know this is a business issue and that the troops will be reimbursed if they are authorized additional baggage in their orders, but the shock of even being charged is enough to make most servicemen and women simply shake their heads and wonder who or what it is they are protecting.”

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