Airlines Revise Policies for Troops’ Checked Baggage

WASHINGTON — Mil­i­tary mem­bers trav­el­ing on orders on sev­er­al major U.S. air car­ri­ers can check four, and in some cas­es, five bags with­out charge based on new poli­cies the air­lines insti­tut­ed in recent days.

Delta Air Lines, Amer­i­can Air­lines, Unit­ed Air­lines and Con­ti­nen­tal Air­lines announced the new poli­cies after Army reservists return­ing from Afghanistan had to pay more than $2,800 to cov­er the costs of their fourth checked bags on a Delta flight. Two mem­bers of the unit en route to Fort Polk, La., com­plained of their plight on a YouTube video that went viral. 

Delta apol­o­gized for the sit­u­a­tion and is work­ing with the sol­diers indi­vid­u­al­ly “to make this sit­u­a­tion right for each of them,” a Delta spokes­woman said. “We regret that this expe­ri­ence caused these sol­diers to feel any­thing but wel­come on their return home,” she said. “We hon­or their ser­vice and are grate­ful for the sac­ri­fices of our mil­i­tary ser­vice mem­bers and their families.” 

Delta’s new pol­i­cy allows U.S. ser­vice­mem­bers trav­el­ing on orders to check up to four bags in econ­o­my class and five bags in first and busi­ness class at no charge, she said. Each bag can weigh up to 70 pounds and mea­sure up to 80 lin­ear inches. 

Due to weight and space con­straints, trav­el­ers on Delta Con­nec­tion car­ri­ers, regard­less of their seat­ing class, can check up to four bags with­out charge. 

“We hope these changes to our poli­cies reflect the true respect we hold for our ser­vice­men and women and again demon­strate our appre­ci­a­tion as both a com­pa­ny and as indi­vid­u­als who ben­e­fit from the free­dom our troops defend,” the spokes­woman said. 

Oth­er air­lines are fol­low­ing Delta’s lead. 

Amer­i­can Air­lines is in the process of increas­ing its bag­gage pol­i­cy for mil­i­tary mem­bers to check five bags with­out cost, spokesman Tim Smith report­ed. “Full imple­men­ta­tion of that pol­i­cy, and fur­ther details, should be com­plet­ed in the next few days,” he said. 

One of the checked bags can weigh up to 100 pounds and mea­sure up to 26 lin­ear inch­es, but oth­ers are sub­ject to the reg­u­lar 50-pound, 62-lin­ear-inch restrictions. 

The pre­vi­ous Amer­i­can pol­i­cy allowed ser­vice­mem­bers to check three bags with­out cost. “But giv­en the poten­tial con­fu­sion, with dif­fer­ent mil­i­tary units car­ry­ing dif­fer­ent amounts of bags depend­ing on their mis­sion, we have elect­ed to pro­ceed with our five-free-bag lim­it,” Smith said. “We think it just makes good sense and elim­i­nates pos­si­ble confusion.” 

The new pol­i­cy will apply whether the mil­i­tary mem­bers are trav­el­ing on offi­cial orders or on per­son­al trav­el, Smith said. 

Unit­ed Air­lines and Con­ti­nen­tal Air­lines, which merged last fall, also announced that they will now waive the fee for mil­i­tary per­son­nel trav­el­ing on orders to check a fourth bag.

The deci­sion was made, accord­ing to spokes­woman Chris­ten David, “in recog­ni­tion of their sac­ri­fice and ser­vice to our country.” 

Ser­vice­mem­bers trav­el­ing for offi­cial busi­ness, includ­ing deploy­ments, are enti­tled to receive full reim­burse­ment for rea­son­able, autho­rized excess bag­gage fees, defense offi­cials said. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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