After nearly two years in Afghanistan, soldier says gate agent wouldn’t budge on luggage fee.
A National Guard officer is speaking out against United Airlines after he says a gate agent would not waive his fee to help him get his service gear home. Austin, Texas Fox affiliate KTBC-TV reports that First Lieutenant John Rader was forced to pay $200 to return home with his luggage or face the prospect of leaving his gear behind.
Rader was coming home from his 21-month Afghanistan deployment, flying on United from El Paso. When checking in, he says that a gate agent would not allow him to continue unless he paid a $200 fee for overweight luggage.
The offending bag contained many of the first lieutenant’s service items from his deployment, including two helmets, a Kevlar vest and boots. According to the United website: “Active duty military personnel traveling on official orders or for pleasure are invited to check extra baggage free of charge,” with a weight limit of 70 pounds. However, when it came to Rader’s bag, he claims the gate agent would not allow him to check his bag or manage a work-around unless he paid the fine.
Rader says that he paid the fee, but wasn’t the only one. According to his story, another soldier traveling on the same flight had to pay a similar fine for having an overweight bag.
“There was no empathy to the situation. I’m not looking for sympathy, but some form of empathy in the situation,” Rader told KTBC. “There was none of that […] I had to either pay or leave the bag.”
In a statement to the television station, a spokesperson for United lamented the soldier’s story and said that they would refund his fee “as a gesture of goodwill.” Rader noted while he appreciated the notion, he wanted to see a long-term change for all military members returning home.