I imagine that if I was a U.S. soldier coming home from Afghanistan, the last thing I'd want to think about is my baggage allowance.
Still, Staff Sergeants Fred Hilliker and Robert O'Hair--on their way home with
Delta Airlines--were reportedly offered some delightful extra financial baggage when they checked in at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in order to fly to Atlanta.
According to the Associated Press, the group of 34 soldiers had already enjoyed an 18-hour layover when they were told to find a total of $2,800 for extra baggage.
You see, the folks at Delta believed these men coming home from war were only allowed three checked bags, while the soldiers were sure the U.S. Army's agreement with Delta was that they could have four. Delta insisted that each fourth bag would cost---go on, guess--$200.
The soldiers, understandably frustrated, made a little video on the plane and posted it on YouTube. (It has since been taken down.)
The video reportedly attracted more than 200,000 views and, naturally, one or two comments that weren't exactly flattering to Delta.
Which is, perhaps, why Stars and Stripes reported that Delta has agreed to straighten out any kinks in its customer service with regard to this issue.
Indeed, the Delta blog says: "We're continuing to work with the soldiers individually to make this situation right for each of them. We regret that this experience caused these soldiers to feel anything but welcome on their return home."
However, Stars and Stripes quoted Joe Davis of the Veterans of Foreign Wars office in Washington as saying: "A $200 bill for extra baggage by a government-contracted airline is the worst welcome home any soldier could receive."
In O'Hair's case, the fourth bag was actually a weapons case that included an M4 rifle and a grenade launcher. These are "the tools that I use to protect myself and Afghan citizens while I was deployed," O'Hair said in the video.
However, yesterday, Delta's blog still insisted that the three bags policy was correct because the soldiers were flying in coach. Today, though, a little online pressure seems to have altered the company's view.
"After careful consideration, effective immediately, U.S. military personnel traveling on orders in First Class and BusinessElite can check up to five bags at no charge and four bags in economy class," today's post--written by Rachel R., who says she is an Army wife--reads.
Some might wonder whether the time for careful consideration might have been at check-in in Baltimore.
Please whisper this quietly, but sometimes check-in staff members do actually use judgment. Sometimes, they do allow all sorts of people to skirt the supposed rules. Who has never been able to check an overweight bag without charge? Often, it seems merely to depend on the mood of the staff member in question.
Did the folks who checked these soldiers' bags in Baltimore not pause for a moment's, um, contemplation? Or does it really take a YouTube video to get anything done these days?