Delta Airlines was caught this week charging troops returning from Afghanistan an extra $200 each to bring a fourth bag home, forcing one unit to pay more than $2,800 in baggage fees. Evidently, Delta’s policy is to allow troops only three free checked bags, while the soldiers said that their military orders allow them to carry up to four bags free of charge. In a video, Staff Sergeant Robert O’Hair explained what occurred:
We had four bags, and Delta Air Lines only allows three bags. Anything over three bags you have to pay for, even though there’s a contract between the United States government and Delta Air Lines when returning from Afghanistan on military orders, you’re authorized up to four bags. [...] We actually had to end up paying, out of pocket, our own money, to allow that fourth bag to be taken on the plane. [...] For me [the fourth bag] was a weapons case…the tools that I use to protect myself and Afghan citizens while I was deployed in the country.
The airline has apologized for “any inconvenience we may have caused,” but it has not indicated whether it will reimburse the troops for the fees. “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,” the company said in a blog post.
Delta is not only willing to charge troops to bring their equipment back from a war zone, but is notoriously anti-union. The National Mediation Board, which oversees union elections under the Railway Labor Act, has launched a series of investigations into whether Delta interfered with unsuccessful union drives at the company last year.
In the past, Delta has engaged in all sorts of shenanigans when it came to union campaigns, including putting the names of dead workers on their employee lists, to up the bar for the number of votes required to approve a union. As a Delta flight attendant wrote regarding a failed 2008 unionization drive, “The company has harassed, videotaped, and threatened arrest of union activists…Management also puts out confusing and deceptive materials claiming favorable pay, benefits, and conditions.”
Delta has also been accused of taking away seats from paying customers so that its employees can come to Washington, DC to lobby. So for Delta, it seems doing right by employees, customers, and even troops returning overseas is a bridge too far.
Delta has changed its policy to allow members of the U.S. military to check up to four bags free of charge.