A Delta Airlines jet in the air.
Delta Airlines' excess baggage fees are now a thing of the past for military members and their dependents. (Photo Credit: CC BY/Andrei Dimofte/Flickr)

Nobody likes high airline baggage fees. Most people simply curse under their breath, then pay through the nose. But not U.S. Army Staff Sgts. Fred Hilliker and Robert O’Hair. They made a YouTube video expressing their outrage, the video went viral and now Delta Airlines is not only refunding their Army unit $2,800 in excess baggage fees, the company has changed baggage policy as it pertains to military personnel and their dependents.

Setting the scene for a viral meltdown

Hilliker and O’Hair’s Army unit was catching a connecting flight to Atlanta out of BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area on Tuesday, reports the Baltimore Sun. They’d already experienced a frustrating 18-hour layover coming out of Afghanistan. Once the unit hit BWI Airport, however, the cash registers began to ring. It seems that many people in the 30-person group had more than the general allotment of three bags for coach travel. Each person with an extra bag was charged $200 out of pocket apiece, an indignity they hadn’t faced in their travels up to that point.

Making the video

While seated on the runway, awaiting their departure for Atlanta, Hilliker and O’Hair pulled out a video camera and began to rant about their mistreatment by Delta Airlines. The video – since removed – was posted to YouTube, and by early afternoon of that day, it had received over 200,000 views.

“Good business model, Delta,” said O’Hair in the video.

Hilliker stated that the additional bag he was carrying contained military equipment “used to protect myself and Afghan citizens,” including a grenade launcher.

After a sizable public outcry, Delta announced today that it will allow the military and dependents to check more bags for free.

Damage control

BWI Airport spokesman Jonathan Dean told the Sun that all airport staff are committed to making the travel of military members run smoothly.

“BWI is very proud of the small role the airport plays in supporting our military service members,” Dean said. “We are committed to working with the U.S. military and the USO to help ensure a comfortable and efficient environment for our traveling military.”

Counting the cost

While members of the military already fly at reduced rates, Delta has decided that the PR value of not charging them for a fourth bag is worth the loss. According to Mike Gallagher, the senior writing manager for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the soldiers have paid enough.

“The government will reimburse them, but they shouldn’t have to go through that process to begin with,” he said.

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Baltimore Sun: http://bsun.md/lHK4p5

BWI Airport: http://www.bwiairport.com/en

Delta Airlines baggage policies: http://www.delta.com/traveling_checkin/baggage/index.jsp

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