In the wake of having a doctor dragged off its plane to make room on an overbooked flight, United Airlines has reportedly fined two United States Army soldiers $200 each for their bags transporting their battle gear – because they went over the airlines’ 70-pound limit for luggage.
First Lieutenant John Radar was anxious to return home after a deployment of nearly two years as he prepared to board a United flight for the last leg of his trip from El Paso, Texas to Austin on Monday. As he checked in, an attendant insisted that his military-issued duffel bag packed with combat gear exceeded the maximum weight and demanded that he pay hundreds of dollars for fine if he wanted it to be loaded onto the plane.
“I was told point blank that I’d have to pay $200 for the overage or find another bag to siphon stuff off with,” Rader explained to FOX 7. “Well, I didn’t have another bag, so I was caught in a bind – do I go home without my stuff or [with] it?”
No ifs, ands or buts …
Making no concessions, United pressed forward with its policy, refusing to accommodate the cash-strapped soldier.
“United permits active military personnel to check up to five bags free, as long as each item is under 70 pounds,” Fox News reported. “Rader says he tried to reason with the ticket agent, but was told his bag, in which he had packed a Kevlar vest, two helmets and boots – all items worn overseas – was too heavy to qualify for the airline perk.”
Not given any slack for his extenuating circumstances or for sacrificing his life for his country, Rader noted that a fellow soldier was given the same abysmal treatment and had to pay the $200 fine, as well.
“There was no empathy to the situation – I’m not looking for sympathy – but some form of empathy in the situation,” the frustrated Army soldier explained. “There was none of that – it was just cold. I had to either pay or leave the bag.”
Rader noted that the airlines used to be more accommodating and appreciative to soldiers having to transport their life-saving military gear.
“In the past, airlines have been very flexible to soldiers – whether it’s upgrading us in our seating arrangements [or] helping us with numerous bags we travel with often,” he continued. “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.”
Too little, too late
Seeking to mitigate all the bad press on the issue – especially since a video of its former customer, Dr. David Dow, went viral in April showing him being dragged off one of its flights – United Airlines issued a statement to the local television station reporting on the incident.
“We are disappointed anytime a customer has an experience that doesn’t meet their expectations, and our customer care team is reaching out to this customer to issue a refund for his oversized bag as a gesture of goodwill,” the airlines’ statement released to FOX 7 read.
Rader feels his eagerness to serve extra time – thus requiring more equipment – was, in essence, punished by United, while its competitors strive to be more accommodating to those serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
“The First Lieutenant was originally set to serve just nine months, but decided to double his time overseas because he says he enjoys serving his country,” Fox News informed. “Other airlines – like Southwest and American – permit active duty personnel to check multiple bags under 100 pounds free of charge.”
The exemptions United gives to U.S. military are not as accommodating.
“Active U.S. military personnel and their accompanying dependents, not traveling on official business, receive waived service charges for up to three checked bags at 70 pounds each,” United’s policy reads, according to WND. “Active U.S. military personnel and their dependents traveling on official business receive waive service charges for up to five checked bags at 70 pounds each.”
The lieutenant indicated that he will make it a point not to travel with United beyond his military deployment flights in the future because of his bad experience.
“As [a] civilian traveling, I would not fly United after this situation,” he told FOX 7.
He is worried about his siblings – also serving in the U.S. Armed Forces – experiencing similar treatment.
“But Rader is still concerned about his brothers and sister in arms – and whether they’ll be treated the same way when they return,” WND’s Chelsea Schilling noted.
The frugal Army lieutenant on a tight budget pointed out that having to unexpectedly fork out hundreds of dollars can be a major setback between deployments at home.
“Two-hundred dollars can go a long way when you come back,” Rader expressed, according to WND. “Not a lot of people are compensated, so $200 comes out-of-pocket. You weren’t expecting it [and that] can change things. So, I just want to make sure soldiers are cared for going forward.”
Copyright American Family News. Reprinted with permission.