Craig Hlavaty, Houston Chronicle19 hrs ago
© Fox 7 AustinNational Guard First Lieutenant John Rader told reporters this week that United Airlines charged him $200 to fly with a 70-pound military duffel bag filled with standard battlefield gear.
Rader had been deployed to Afghanistan for nearly two years and was on his way home from El Paso to Austin on Monday when this occurred.
His bag, he told the Fox 7 outlet in Austin, was too heavy to fly for free and he would have to pay a $200 fee. Rader's bag was filled with a Kevlar vest, two helmets, and boots which he wore while in Afghanistan.
United does permit active military personnel to check up to five bags free as long as each item is under 70 pounds. A United rep told him he could buy second bag to lighten the load in the overweight bag if he wished but Rader declined to do so. A fellow soldier traveling with ended up in the same boat.
"There was no empathy to the situation. I'm not looking for sympathy, but some form of empathy in the situation. There was none of that. It was just cold. I had to either pay or leave the bag." Rader told Fox 7.
American Airlines has a policy that allows military members to travel with up to five complimentary bags weighing up to 100 pounds. Southwest Airlines says that active military are exempt from its two-piece baggage limit as long as all pieces are under 100 pounds.
For his part Rader says that he will no longer use United Airlines when he travels as a civilian.
United released a statement Tuesday night, stating they wanted to make things right.
"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 airline said.
Rader told Fox 7 that while that is a kind gesture, he wants to make sure things are changed for fellow traveling military personnel in the future, not just him.
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