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United Airlines

Soldier Claims United Charged $200 to Check Luggage Home

Soldier Claims United Charged $200 to Check Luggage Home
Joe Cortez

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.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (9)

9 Comments

  1. Bouncer

    Bouncer

    May 18, 2017 at 10:57 pm

    Per United, military personnel travelling on orders are allowed up to 5 bags EACH weighing 70lbs. That’s 350lbs of free luggage. You’re telling me there was no way for him to redistribute the items across multiple bags? I feel like there’s part of the story we’re not getting, because unless the agent was literally on their first day on the job, they’d know this and they’d know you can unpack your bags and redistribute weight as needed. It’s done every day.

    United Policy:
    https://www.united.com/CMS/en-US/travel/Pages/CheckedBaggage.aspx

    Regards,
    -Bouncer-

  2. Global321

    May 19, 2017 at 3:21 am

    1. 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.
    2. When checking in, he says that a gate agent would not allow him to continue unless he paid a $200 fee for overweight luggage.

    And?

    I don’t care for United and support our troops 100%, but free bags for the military over 70 pounds is not a law (maybe it should be), nor is it UA policy. Unless there is more to the story, United did nothing wrong.

  3. ioto1902

    May 19, 2017 at 4:25 am

    empathy, sympathy, good will …
    Are there rules ? Yes or No.
    Were they respected ? Yes or No.

  4. Boggie Dog

    May 19, 2017 at 5:42 am

    If United policy is to not charge a fee in this case then why is refunding the fee “a gesture of goodwill”?

    https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/products/milgov/military-benefits.aspx

    “Baggage acceptance allowance

    Active duty military personnel traveling on official orders or for pleasure are invited to check extra baggage free of charge. In some cases, military dependents will also be included. Please visit our Checked baggage and Changed bag rules and optional services pages for more information.”

    Apparently United has lost all concept of customer service, integrity, and honoring contracts.

  5. 52pickup

    May 19, 2017 at 10:53 am

    What an entitled idiot. He knew the policy. It’s there to reduce OTJ injury claims by baggage handlers. Overweight bags cost the airlines a lot of money in injury costs, hence the hefty fees to discourage them. He could have run to a vendor and bought a bag or asked for a plastic one to redistribute the weight. His unpreparedness is not United’s fault. Good for the gate agent for standing by the policy.

  6. Flying Lawyer

    Flying Lawyer

    May 19, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Why does the government not pay for the luggage. It is somehow strange that a private corporation is expected to take care of this. Government pays for Trump’s golf outings, so it can pay for the soldiers too.

  7. FliesWay2Much

    May 20, 2017 at 2:38 am

    All he had to do was to claim the fee on his travel voucher. If the claim was denied, then that would have been the appropriate time to “lawyer up.”

  8. reamworks

    May 21, 2017 at 3:17 am

    The Government (we the people) should pay for this man’s needs. To demand that a company should bear the cost because of a soldier’s demands is un-American. That’s why we have a constitutional amendment against ‘quartering’. Anyone who thinks a soldier should be able to march up to a business or individual and demand accommodations hates America.

  9. itsallgood

    May 22, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    1) The soldier violated the rules by having luggage that weighed >70 lbs and was subject to additional charges.
    2) The soldier’s PROPER course of action was to file a claim with his unit for the fee; he would have been reimbursed.
    3) The soldier is in big trouble with his unit for taking this story public.

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