Of Airlines and Airheads

 

I honestly believe that, deep within some businesses, there exists a bureaucracy whose sole purpose is to perpetuate policies to ensure public-relations disasters.

One such example would be Delta Airlines, whose baggage policy has run afoul of the U.S. military.

According to published reports, two soldiers on a Baltimore-to-Atlanta flight — they’d both just returned from Afghanistan and were on their way to Ft. Polk, La. – claim that Delta charged them and their unit some $2,800 for extra baggage.

One of the soldiers captured the incident for posterity’s sake . . .

The troops say their travel orders permitted them to bring up to four bags. According to a Delta statement re. military baggage fees, coach passengers can bring only three for free, although those in first or business class may have four. Each bag can also weigh an additional 20 pounds over the standard allowance.

No word yet on how or if the soldiers will be compensated for ther trouble. But one would think the this good folks at Delta would act first, before the government pays the freight.

The story does beg the question: what more should the private sector be doing, in the way of generosity and courtesy (not to mention a helluva lot of gratitude) to help our troops readjust to life after their tours of duty?

One thing I do: when I’m flying and happen to be in possession of free drink coupons, I give them to the servicemen on board. Seems like the least I can do . . .

There are 16 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive
    @KCRob

    I’m no fan of the airlines but why should an industry that operates on razor thin margins be expected to give up substantial fees because the military, with it’s enormous budgets, can’t get the arrangements right?

    The government should reimburse the soldiers for the out-of-pocket expenses just as any employer would reimburse a business traveler stuck with the same nickel-and-dime fees that airlines tack on (praise be to Southwest).

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Thatcher
    @BryanGStephens

    KC:

    1. Because it is the right thing to do.

    2. Because it looks bad to mistreat people fighting for our freedom.

    3. See #1

    • #2
  3. Profile Photo Member
    @DavidKnights

    Because Delta is an American corporation that relies on the freedom and rule of law that the servicemembers provide. My loving spouse is employed in the airline industry, Southwest Airlines, and one of the main reasons for their success is that the local employees are given enough authority that something like this would never happen. The gate agent would have waived those fees in a heartbeat and management would have backed the employee up in making that decision. BTW, Southwest doesn’t charge baggage fees.

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Member
    @ChrisBogdan

    I’d be curious to find out what the contract between the Feds and Delta says about bag limits. Based on some of the dubious conversations that I’ve overheard at ticket counters (vis-a-vis baggage surcharges) it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Delta is taking advantage.

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Inactive
    @DanielSattelberger
    Bryan G. Stephens: KC:

    1. Because it is the right thing to do.

    2. Because it looks bad to mistreat people fighting for our freedom.

    3. See #1 · Jun 8 at 10:33am

    It does look bad, and it’s probably a bad business decision to do it because of the nasty PR. And it is the right thing to do. However, even with that, they’re under no obligation to “do the right thing”

    • #5
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    @CrowsNest

    The government should have arranged the travel of these soldiers better. There are methods of reimbursing military members for these baggage costs, and here is the GSA website on baggage allowances so that we’re all speaking the same language: http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/103882

    Delta could probably have made an exception here, but the government could have chosen an AMC flight or various other modes to get these soldiers home. There are proper channels to handle this situation. Recording the incident for the nightly news is itself unseemly, especially when devoid of context (full disclosure, I had a similar $600 fee from Lufthansa while traveling on orders).

    • #6
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    @CrowsNest

    “But in my experience, those folks downrange setting up your travel aren’t motivated by such customer service factors. They just take your data and cut your orders. And they definitely never hear about your travel problems on the way home, because you aren’t going to walk back into their office to tell them about it. Thus they never know of, and or learn from, their mistakes.”

    Very true, Charles, and very frustrating when you try to work through the bureaucracy to solve the problem.

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Member
    @CharlesAllen

    Having done this trip myself several times, here are some thoughts…

    1) Should have Delta made an exception? Probably, even though they technically didn’t have to. But we can see what the results of the decision of a random employee have been on the whole company.

    2) Could the military have chosen a military flight to get these guys all the way home? Probably not. AMC flights would be Space-Available, destinations limited, and are not terrible plentiful inside the CONUS. It is easier to send them commercial to wherever they need to go.

    3) Ultimately this should be a non-issue. The soldiers’ orders do not guarantee them 4 FREE bags. The order authorize them to carry up to 4 bags, which means even if Delta charged them fees for all 4 bags, they would get reimbursed when they file their travel voucher. If the soldiers had to pay out of pocket, they will only be out the money for a short period of time.

    4) Given the while story, I assume these guys weren’t carrying Government Travel Cards?

    Ultimately Delta chose bad publicity, but at the same time the soldiers will not be out the money.

    • #8
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    @NickStuart

    The bad pub cost Delta much more than $2800. As soon as the first manager with the authority to waive the charges heard about it he or she should have waived them, and given the soldiers a spif big enough to take away the bad taste.

    Then Delta and the Army reps should have gotten together behind closed doors to make sure it didn’t happen again.

    • #9
  10. Profile Photo Inactive
    @UmbraFractus

    Obviously we should all be grateful for what our military, but allowing them to demand free stuff is a bit much. Delta did nothing wrong, and should not be punished because some bureaucrat screwed up.

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Member
    @CharlesAllen

    One more thought….Crow’s Nest is absolutely correct in saying the military could have prepared these guys better. Primarily by having the support personnel actually know the travel rules that CN cites.

    But in my experience, those folks downrange setting up your travel aren’t motivated by such customer service factors. They just take your data and cut your orders. And they definitely never hear about your travel problems on the way home, because you aren’t going to walk back into their office to tell them about it. Thus they never know of, and or learn from, their mistakes.

    On one trip back from the Middle East to Texas, after several months away from home, I got to my last flight leg only to find out the flight was oversold and I did not have an assigned seat. Luckily I was able to catch the next flight shortly thereafter, but the support staff down range was blissfully unaware that their lack of attention to detail had made my trip home frustrating. All they knew was that I was out of theater, and no longer their problem.

    • #11
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    @WICon
    David Knights: Because Delta is an American corporation that relies on the freedom and rule of law that the servicemembers provide. My loving spouse is employed in the airline industry, Southwest Airlines, and one of the main reasons for their success is that the local employees are given enough authority that something like this would never happen. The gate agent would have waived those fees in a heartbeat and management would have backed the employee up in making that decision. BTW, Southwest doesn’t charge baggage fees. · Jun 8 at 10:33am

    Glad you mentioned the story of your wife and granting the authority of line staff to waive fees like this – that was the first thing I thought of when reading this story. One always reads of “flat organizations” and “empowering employees” but my experience is that too many organizations implement slogans rather than actual authority, hence trainwrecks like this.

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Coolidge
    @Spin

    In every grocery store there should be a line, reserved for combat veterans. At every drive through there should be a special window reserved for combat veterans. At every Starbucks there should be a special barista reserved for combat veterans. etc. etc. etc. There should be, but there won’t because it’s just not feasible. However, Delta airlines should pack everything those servicemen have for free, period.

    • #13
  14. Profile Photo Thatcher
    @BryanGStephens
    Dan IV

    Bryan G. Stephens: KC:

    1. Because it is the right thing to do.

    2. Because it looks bad to mistreat people fighting for our freedom.

    3. See #1 · Jun 8 at 10:33am

    It does look bad, and it’s probably a bad business decision to do it because of the nasty PR. And it is the right thing to do. However, even with that, they’re under no obligation to “do the right thing” · Jun 8 at 10:43am

    There is usually no obligation to “do the right thing”

    • #14
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    @CaseyTaylor

    This is fairly common. It’s happened to me several times, so I know the frustration, and it’s not exclusive to Delta.

    That said, this isn’t Delta’s problem. The travel orders cut for these guys stated that they were authorized four bags, so they packed accordingly; no blame to them. That’s an authorization by the Army, not by the carrier, which is a very important point. These aren’t contracted flights, they’re just normal tickets like any of us can buy over the counter. So there’s obviously a mix-up that the Army needs to work out when it buys these things, or they need to quit cutting orders authorizing Soldiers to fly with more than the free amount.

    • #15
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    @FrozenChosen

    The business I own offers active military personnel and their families a 50% discount. I figure it’s the least I can do for those who serve to protect my freedom…

    • #16

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