Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Soldiers Complain About Extra Baggage Fee

This article about Soldiers' $2,800 in bag fees spark outrage is bugging me; not the part about Delta Air Lines charging an extra fee, but, rather, why the soldiers ended up in this situation.

Since these soldiers are traveling under orders, they'll be reimbursed for their expenses. I experienced the exact same thing the last time I deployed overseas. It's the cost of doing business.

Perhaps Delta could have handled things better at check in, but these soldiers are ticked off and playing their military service card to receive some benefits. But, their frustration is misdirected because they may have been misinformed by the military regarding how many bags they could check, the Stars and Stripes reported. Keep in mind that Delta has to pay the extra fuel expenses to haul the extra baggage and it's a lot of heavy, dense, sea bags, duffel bags, and weapons cases. When I last deployed with my military unit on a civilian carrier, I was concerned that the airline would bump some baggage to a later flight, when we checked in, because we had so much.

Problems and Solutions
After watching this video, I see two problems. First, is the minor issue that these soldiers are protesting while wearing their uniform which is a no-no.

But, more importantly, these military members have to pay these fees out of their own pocket until they are reimbursed after filing their travel claims. Realistically, it's probably not a big deal for the author of this video since he's a staff non-commissioned officer. But, for junior military members, $200 is a very noticeable chunk of change.

The real problem is that the military doesn't routinely provide service members with advance pay to cover these expenses. The military expects its service members to pay out of their own pocket for things that "come with the uniform", sometimes without reimbursement even if it was a reasonably necessary expense. The most common case is that the military rarely reimburses service members for personal fuel expenses when they use their own vehicle to attend meetings, conferences, etc.

If you're upset, then direct it toward the Department of Defense. The DoD should take better care of our sacrificing service members during routine overseas travel.

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