It’s not uncommon for air travel passengers to complain about airlines’ baggage policies and treatment of customers, but when it’s members of the U.S. military coming home from Afghanistan raising complaints about unfair rules, the grievances tend to be amplified.
Staff Sgts. Fred Hilliker and Robert O’Hair made a video while on a Delta flight from BWI, where they had a connection on their way home from Afghanistan to Arizona. In the video, they say that despite a contract between airline carriers and the military that says military personnel coming home will not be charged for baggage, the two and their colleagues were each subjected to a $200 extra bag fee. The soldiers in the unit paid out of pocket a total of $2,800 in extra baggage fees for their fourth bag of equipment.
“What was that fourth bag for you?” O’Hair asks.
“For me, it was a weapons case,” Hilliker responds, “holding my M-4, a grenade launcher and a 9mm, the tools I used to protect myself and the Afghan citizens while I was deployed in the country.”
Delta released a statement on their blog, which explained that they are “continuing to work with the soldiers individually to make this situation right for each of them,” and apologized for the situation.
The statement also outlined Delta’s current rules for military baggage: Three bags allowed per coach passenger, and four per first class, with flexibility for overweight baggage. It appears that the soldiers in the video had been traveling coach, hence the fee. An update to the statement reflects a change in policy, upping the allowed military bags to four per coach passenger, and five for a first class passenger.
“We regret that this experience caused these soldiers to feel anything but welcome on their return home,” the statement reads. “We honor their service and are grateful for the sacrifices of our military service members and their families.”
Update: After this story’s publication, Delta apologized to the soldiers and increased their bag limit by one. In return, the soldiers removed their video from the Internet.
Kase Wickman is a reporter for Raw Story. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and grew up in Eugene, OR. Her work has been featured in The Boston Globe, Village Voice Media, The Christian Science Monitor, The Houston Chronicle and on NPR, among others. She lives in New York City and tweets from @kasewickman.
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