Delta Airlines finds itself in the middle of a firestorm after soldiers returning from Afghanistan were charged approximately $2,800 in fees to check a fourth bag. I'm not one to automatically take the military side on every single issue. Rules are rules, and fees are fees. Nor do I begrudge businesses the right to charge absurd fees if they so choose. As we recently learned, that policy is paying huge dividends for the "struggling" airline industry. We choose to do business with them, or we go elsewhere.
However, Soldiers aren't at the mercy of a free market economy when flying on official business. They fly government-approved airlines. In this case, I think it was rather obvious who was traveling, and why. It seems to me that someone should have waived the extra fees without even a fuss. They could have let the Soldiers go and raise the issue with someone in Delta's Government Relations office later. Common sense would dictate that this was an issue to be worked out between the Government and Delta, not the ticket agent and troops who just wanted to get home to their families, and who may or may not have been able to pay the extra fees. But that didn't happen. This did:
Delta responded to the outrage on their blog. Their response was posted by an Army wife employed by Delta.
As an Army wife and 12 year Delta employee I also want to take this opportunity to shed some light on the additional ways we work to support U.S. Military personnel and their families throughout the travel process as well as in the community. We are a longstanding supporter military support organizations such as the Fisher House Foundation and United Service Organization.Delta announced immediate changes:
After careful consideration, effective immediately, U.S. military personnel traveling on orders in First Class and BusinessElite can check up to five bags at no charge and 4 bags in economy class.I realize Delta was simply stating policy, but how many troops do you know who travel Business or First Class? It may happen, but my guess is that it's extremely rare. Recently, my husband was on another airline and the pilot announced that active-duty personnel could move to First Class. My husband didn't accept the offer. I asked him why (I'd have jumped on it) and he said that American taxpayers don't want to see uniformed Soldiers flying first-class. I am not in agreement with my husband. I think the overwhelming majority of Americans would be happy that a Soldier was given an upgrade. It's a tangible way to say thanks. Everyone on the plane heard the announcement. It wasn't as if anyone thought their tax dollars were being spent on expensive travel.
I don't think Delta hates the military. I'm sure they do great work with Fisher House and the USO. I just think someone made a bad call here. And Delta will take a big hit for it. In life and in business, you have to weigh your options. Sometimes you choose wisely and other times, not so much. That $2,800 didn't serve Delta very well in the end.
I'm guessing they'd like a do-over....