The Airlines Shouldn’t Have Caved

2011
06.09

By now I’m sure you’ve all seen the video of two soldiers on a Delta flight whining about being forced to pay excess baggage fees.  This a joke for several reasons.  As of last week, Delta had the most generous policy in the airlines.

  • *Delta allowed every soldier traveling “on orders” (read: official business) to check at least three bags for free.  This isn’t just limited to deployment to war.  If a soldier goes to a military conference in Lake Tahoe and wants to take his ski gear, he’s got plenty of space.  If he’s going The Pentagon for meetings, he can carry all manner of personal gear at no charge.
  • *Those bags could way up to 70 pounds, exceeding the 50 pound limit imposed on civilians.
  • *They could check three bags for each of their family members traveling with them, or traveling without them while relocating.
  • *Active duty military traveling for personal reasons (not military business) were allowed to check two bags for free, while everyone else pays for the first bag.
  • *Military members are welcome to board the plane ahead of the masses, in order to ensure they get space in the highly coveted overhead bins.

Right, Delta hates the military.  *pish*  I don’t begrudge our military men and women these benefits, but I do think it’s terrible to make such a big fuss because:

  1. The government pays for the soldiers travel home, and will pay any excess bag fees the soldiers have to pay for “out of their own pocket”.   That translates into “the taxpayers pay for”, not “the soldier pays for”.
  2. Soldiers are not required to carry that much stuff back with them on the plane.  They may choose to, but their unit will gladly return their belongings for them.  They may not want the unit to bring some things back, for various reasons, but that’s a choice they make.
  3. Just because some Army clerk types on your orders that you’re authorized to carry four bags doesn’t mean the airline has to let you do that for free.  Those same orders authorized you to fly…but that doesn’t mean your seat is free.  Those orders just mean that the government will pay for a seat and carriage of four bags.
  4. The guys in the video pulled on your heart strings by saying that “my fourth bag was my M-4 that I used to protect myself and others”.  Cry me a river.  Your other bags certainly contained items that weren’t so essential and could have taken a slower trip home, but you chose to haul it back yourself.

I have friends and family who serve (or have have served) in the military, and I have the utmost respect for the sacrifices that they make in their service.  But these two soldiers have really stuck it to the airlines, who didn’t have the backbone to stand up and say “excuse me, sir, but I think we go to great lengths for you already.”

PS  Thanks to a couple of friends for making me think through this a bit further.  The failure here is really with the paper pusher who wrote the orders with disregard for airline policies.  These soldiers were only doing what they were told they could do.  I would never expect them to go read an airline’s baggage policy.  They did what soldiers are trained to do; follow orders.   They were just trying to get home to their families; I get that.  I don’t blame them for being frustrated about having to pay the fee (till they are reimbursed), but I wish they had turned their frustration on those responsible, instead of the airlines.

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