Delta changes bag policy for returning soldiers

WASHINGTON - U.S. soldiers returning from Afghanistan posted a YouTube video complaining that they had to pay Delta Air Lines $2,800 out of pocket to check extra bags, prompting an onslaught of online comments critical of Delta and at least one boycott effort.

The video went online late Tuesday. By Wednesday afternoon -- nearly 200,000 views later -- Delta had posted a blog message saying it had revised its bag fee policy for troops. The airline had been allowing troops traveling coach class three free bags, but was imposing a $200 fee on a fourth bag. Now Delta -- in a statement attributed to a company social media director -- says fourth bags will be free.

In the video, entitled "Delta airlines welcomes Soldiers home," two soldiers who identified themselves as staff sergeants said their Army orders authorized them to bring up to four bags with them. After an 18-hour layover, they said they learned of the bag fees when they checked in at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport Tuesday for a 7:15 a.m. flight to Atlanta.

"Good business model, Delta. We're actually happy to be back in America," one soldier says.

One sergeant said his fourth bag was a weapons case containing an M4 carbine rifle, a grenade launcher and a 9 millimeter pistol that he had used in Afghanistan. The grenade launcher attaches to the rifle.

It's not unusual for returning soldiers to check weapons when flying on a commercial airline if the weapons have been certified as unloaded, said Joe Davis, a spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars' Washington office.

"A $200 bill for extra baggage by a government-contracted airline is the worst welcome home any soldier could receive," Davis said. "We know this is a business issue and that the troops will be reimbursed if they are authorized additional baggage in their orders, but the shock of even being charged is enough to make most servicemen and women simply shake their heads and wonder who or what it is they are protecting."

A military spokeswoman told CBS affiliate WGCL any extra baggage fees assessed by an airline will be reimbursed by the government, depending on the troops' orders.

Army officials said Wednesday they were trying to identify the soldiers in the video and their unit. One sergeant in the video said the unit was returning from Afghanistan to Fort Polk in Louisiana.

But some troops told WGCL that the soldiers will be in hot water when their superiors find out about the YouTube clip.

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