Bad Optics, Social Media, and the pain of traveling under orders

Have you seen the video going viral about a couple of reserve soldiers being charged a baggage fee by Delta airlines while travelling under orders?

Two U.S. soldiers returning from a deployment in Afghanistan got fired up after being charged a $200 extra baggage fee by Delta Air Lines for their connecting flight from Baltimore to Atlanta — and their outrage led the airline to change its policy.

While on board Delta Air Lines Flight 1625 on Tuesday morning, Staff Sgts. Fred Hilliker and Robert O’Hair shot a video laying out their case for why they were upset at having to pay to check a fourth bag. In the video they posted on YouTube, the soldiers say they are authorized to check as many as four bags on their return trip from Afghanistan.

The video went viral, and soon the public was echoing their disgruntled sentiment. Veterans groups chided Delta.

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via Delta changes bag policy after public outcry over charging soldiers – Afghanistan – Stripes.

Delta isn’t evil. It’s a big company, that’s all. And some gate agent make a bad call. Or more likely, wasn’t given the authority to make any other call.

If the soldier’s orders clearly stated they were authorized to check four bags, they should have been able to do so. That smacks of a lack of communication between Delta and the government.

Because this video quickly went viral, Delta came out of this looking terrible.

Some folks will note that since the orders did authorize the four bags, the soldiers would be able to be reimbursed for their out of pocket expense. But anyone who has ever traveled on orders knows just what a flaming pain it is to get reimbursed. And it isn’t exactly speedy, either.


2 thoughts on “Bad Optics, Social Media, and the pain of traveling under orders”

  1. Having coordinated a “few” personnel movements in my day, and having done more than my share of transits on commercial air, I had a different take. I was thinking, “Sergeants, why do you have four bags?” I gather their orders allowed them to have four bags. I’m guessing the rational was rucksack, A-bag, B-bag, and gun case. Back in my day, it would have been rucksack, A-bag, and gun case. B-bag would have been sent by snail mail (did that three times from Iraq, cost me $30 or less each time). The transportation folks usually limit such due to the very reasons Delta would take steps to limit the number of bags. Further – two hands, one back = three bags.

    Oh, and were those bags really a bunch of duffels? Or were they the ubiquitous black plastic containers? Yes, one of the technical advances introduced for the GWOT….

  2. On orders, travel isn’t voluntary, which makes this even more odious. Delta, alas, has one of the worst reps among travelers. I haven’t had any trouble with them, but it would seem that I’ve been fortunate. I’ll be on them coming back from San Diego next month, so we’ll see what happens.

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