Airlines Revise Policies for Troops’ Checked Baggage
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 9, 2011 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.”
Southwest Airlines has no limit on the number of checked bags it will accept at no cost for military members on permanent-change-of-station orders, spokesman Chris Mainz reported. The only condition is that none of the bags exceeds 100 pounds or 80 inches.
However, beyond its two-free-bag policy for all Southwest Airlines passengers, Southwest has no specific policies for other servicemembers traveling on official orders, including for deployments, he said.
Servicemembers traveling for official business, including deployments, are entitled to receive full reimbursement for reasonable, authorized excess baggage fees, defense officials said.