Does Delta Air Lines discriminate against Republicans? That’s what one SkyMiles Diamond member is wondering after a recent flight from Detroit to Chicago O’Hare, where he was forced to gate check bags while other passengers carrying just as much on board weren’t hassled at all. He was wearing a Republican Party pin on his lapel.
The gate agent for his flight told him he was “being denied boarding” unless he consolidated his bags. He had:
- A briefcase (personal item)
- Standard-size carry-on
- Plus a plastic bag that included the meal he’d picked up in the airport, and a garment bag with a piece of clothing he’d purchased from a shop in the airport. The clothing bag was strapped onto his carry on.
Technically, the carry on and personal item are all that you can have. I’ve never been hassled over airport purchase extras myself, although I’ve seen gate agents tell passengers they had to put newspapers in their carry on in order to be permitted to board.
He stood his ground, and the gate agent called over a Red Coat (supervisor). He tried to stuff his food into his briefcase, and the garment bag in as well but it wasn’t working.
He didn’t want to leave the food behind, and he couldn’t check his briefcase. So the Red Coat finally said he could gate check his carry on bag, and bring on his briefcase, clothes purchase, and food – ‘three items’. That worked for the passenger.
However there were plenty of passengers and nonrevs carrying on just as much as he was. But he was the only one wearing a Republican elephant pin on his sport jacket. He writes to me,
Delta, like other airlines at major airports, earns a slice of revenue from retail sales. Airlines don’t usually stop passengers with airport purchases clipped onto their carry on bags, and don’t usually object to a bag of food on top of allowable carry ons. But the agent wasn’t exactly wrong that the quantity of items technically exceeded the passenger’s allowance. Here the issue was singling out just one passenger for this, and what the passenger viewed as an aggressive and unhelpful tone.
And what was different about this passenger than all of the others? His Republican pin. In our hyper-politicized environment, it certainly felt like Atlanta 1988.
Once he was finally on board with his briefcase, food, and clothes purchase, he placed his bags in an overhead bin above his seat in first class. A nonrev flight attendant behind him began moving his items. He asked her not to move them back behind him. He relays that she said, “I am flying with the company and can do whatever I want.”
After another Delta employee chose him for selective enforcement of carry on rules, you can imagine that went over well.