June 8, 2011 -- Members of U.S. Army Detachment 62 returned on Tuesday from an almost yearlong deployment in Afghanistan -- and, to their surprise, were forced to pay $200 apiece out of their own pockets for additional baggage fees while traveling from Atlanta back to their base in Louisiana.
According to a video posted on YouTube of two soldiers aboard the Delta flight, their military orders made clear that they were authorized to carry four bags. Altogether the unit, made up of 34 soldiers, paid over $2,800 in baggage fees, all out of their own pockets.
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Delta said that it was common policy to charge for that extra bag, although this afternoon the company did change its guidelines. At the time the complaint was posted by the two soliders, service members were allowed to check three bags, and unless they flew first or business class, they were charged $200 for each additional piece of luggage.
For many, including one of the soldiers who posted the video, the fourth bag they carried was their weapons arsenal.
"For me it was a weapons case, holding my M4, 203 grenade launcher and a 9-mm, the tools that I used to protect myself and Afghan citizens while in the country," said one of the soldiers featured in the YouTube video.
The military has said they will reimburse the soldiers for the fees, and Delta changed its luggage policy for servicemen and women on Wednesday afternoon in response to the incident.
"After careful consideration, effective immediately, U.S. military personnel traveling on orders in First and Business Class can check up to five bags at no charge," Rachael Rensink, Delta's manager of Delta Social Media, wrote in a statement posted on its website. Delta Connection carriers will now accept up to four bags at no extra cost for those soldiers who are flying coach.
Regardless of the soldiers' encounter with Delta, they are happy to be home.
"Good business model, Delta," said the second solider in the video. "Thank you, we're actually happy to be back to America. God bless America."
He then added, seemingly directed towards Delta.
"Not happy, not happy at all."