In reaction to a firestorm of criticism, Delta Airlines has changed its baggage policy for U.S. servicemen after charging a group of soldiers $2,800 for extra bags.
14 soldiers returning home from Afghanistan recently had a connecting flight from Baltimore to Atlanta. They each had four bags, but the airline has a policy of allowing just three bags per soldier if they are sitting in coach (four in first and business class). They charged each soldier $200 for their extra bag.
Two of them shot a video (see below) on the plane explaining what happened and posted it to YouTube.
"Not happy, not happy at all," Staff Sergeant Fred Hilliker said in the video. "We had a little issue with the bags this morning."
"Anything over three bags you have to pay," said Staff Sergeant Robert O’Hair in video. "Even though there’s a contract between the U.S. government and Delta Air Lines. "When returning from Afghanistan on military orders, you're authorized up to four bags."
O’Hair said his fourth bag was a weapons case, containing his M4 rifle, a grenade launcher and a 9mm pistol, which he said were "the tools that I use to protect myself and Afghan citizens while I was deployed."
Following the ensuing controversy, on Wednesday, Delta announced a change in policy.
The airline said in a news release:
"Delta Air Lines today increased its free checked baggage allotment for US military traveling on orders in economy class to four checked bags... (The new policy) also allows US military personnel traveling on orders in first and business class to check up to five bags at no charge. Each bag may weigh up to 70 pounds and measure up to 80 linear inches. Because of weight, balance, and space constraints, Delta Connection carriers accept up to four bags at no charge."
In a blog posting on Delta’s website, the airline’s social media manager, identified only as "Rachel R.," apologized:
“In the case of today’s incident, we would like to publicly apologize to those service men and women for any miscommunications regarding our current policies as well as any inconvenience we may have caused. 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."
A Delta spokeswoman would not say if the airline would reimburse the soldiers.
“We do not disclose individual passenger information as it relates to a specific issue, but I can tell you that we are going to be working very closely with them to ensure we make them whole in this,’’ Susan Elliott told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “At the end of the day we’re going to make things right with them."
The Daily Mail reports that the Army will reimburse the soldiers, depending on the troops' travel orders.