A U.S. soldier was forced to pay $200 to get his military-issued duffel bag on a United Airlines flight (video below).
First Lieutenant John Rader was boarding his flight to go back home from El Paso on May 15 when he was told his bag exceeded the weight limit, KTBC reported.
Rader's bag had included some of the gear he needed during his deployment in Afghanistan, including a Kevlar vest, two helmets and his boots. United Airlines' policy allows for active military personnel to travel with up to five bags for free, but each bag must weigh less than 70 pounds.
"I was told point blank that I'd have to pay $200 for the overage or find another bag to siphon stuff off with," Rader told KTBC. "Well, I didn't have another bag so I was caught in a bind."
Rader reluctantly paid the $200 fee. He said another service member was also forced to pay up.
The soldier said he's never experience a flight quite like this one in all of his years of traveling.
"There was no empathy to the situation. I'm not looking for sympathy, but some form of empathy in the situation," Rader said. "There was none of that. It was just cold. I had to either pay or leave the bag.
"It became upsetting when all you want to do is get home and you have a $200 charge thrown on top."
United has since issued a statement on the matter, apologizing for the incident.
"We are disappointed anytime a customer has an experience that doesn't meet their expectations, and our customer care team is reaching out to this customer to issue a refund for his oversized bag as a gesture of goodwill," the statement read.
Rader was happy with the accommodation, but added that what he really wanted was a change in policy.
"I just want to make sure soldiers are cared for going forward," he said.
The National Guardsman had just finished serving 21 months in Afghanistan. His deployment was supposed to last 9 months, but he volunteered to stay longer.
"I just absolutely enjoy the fact that I can serve my country and live my life at the same time," Rader said.
The incident is just the latest in a string of public relations nightmares involving United Airlines.
The airline came under fire in March after a gate agent barred two teenage girls from boarding a flight because they were wearing leggings, The New York Times reported. Social media erupted after the story broke, calling the airline sexist.
United spokesman Jonathan Guerin later confirmed the girls were barred from the flight because they violated the company's dress code policy for "pass travelers," a company benefit that allows United employees to bring guests on a plane for free on a standby basis.
In April, United Airlines sent shockwaves all throughout social media again after a video of Dr. David Dao being physically dragged from his seat and off a plane went viral, NBC News reported.
The flight was reportedly overbooked, and the doctor refused to leave his seat after he was one of the four passengers randomly selected to be removed from the flight.
Dao has since reached a settlement with the airline.