This morning’s outrage getting play online and on television appears to be about a soldier on his way home to the U.S. with “military issued duffel filled with combat gear” in his checked bags. United charged him an overweight baggage fee. And they were right.
“United permits active military personnel to check up to five bags free as long as each item is under 70 pounds” but here a soldier whose bag was heavier was asked to pay a $200 overweight bag fee.
Here’s United’s checked bag policy for military:
National Guard First Lieutenant John Rader is furious and he’s letting the world know it. United refunded his overweight bag fee, but he still says he’d never fly United again and other people shouldn’t either.
“In the past airlines have been very flexible to soldiers whether it’s upgrading us in our seating arrangements helping us with numerous bags we travel with often,” said Rader.
“This is the first time and an isolated case in my history where it’s actually occurred. It became upsetting when all you want to do is get home and you have a $200 charge thrown on top.”
His belongings, including a kevlar vest, are heavy. A single bag over 70 pounds is overweight, this is fairly standard even for premium cabin long haul passengers on the most generous world airlines.
If you think that a returning member of the military shouldn’t be on the hook for checked bag fees, then isn’t your beef really with the government who leaves them on their own for these expenses?
- United gives 3 checked bags to international three cabin first class passengers, they give 5 free checked bags to soldiers.
- United gives 50 pounds per bag as an allowance to economy passengers, premium cabin passengers, elites, and soldiers are allowed to check 70 pounds per bag without an overweight fee.
It often surprises me that airlines accept overweight bags at all because baggage handlers have to pick them up and move them.
How is 350 pounds of free baggage allowance not above and beyond not generous on United’s part?
The issue here was that United says any single bag shouldn’t be more than 70 pounds and there are fees that discourage passengers to use just a single bag. In this case everything was in one bag.
The solder could have split things up into two bags. If that’s not reasonable, then the burden ought to be on the military not United which is already going above and beyond here.
There’s plenty to criticize United for, and I do, regularly. This story just isn’t one of those things.