American Airlines Charges Serviceman for Extra Baggage

American just can’t catch a break. An alert FBvian points us to news about a soldier flying out of El Paso. He was headed for training, then deployment to Iraq. American charged him $100 for his extra bag. AA has a policy that allows military to fly with more bags than civilians (to accommodate all their fighting gear), but still. If you’re AA brass, you don’t want to see this quote from Staff Sgt. Ashley Serrano:

“I have flown Southwest, Continental, and when they saw me in uniform, they didn’t even ask. I flew American a couple of times before, but I never had this problem.”

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17 comments on “American Airlines Charges Serviceman for Extra Baggage

  1. We thought it would be good to show our a$$ in public again. Free press is better than no press at all!

  2. we keep asking, why not just raise the cost of a ticket? Is it better for the books to make it a charge? Are airlines just, once again, throwing something out and seeing if it will stick? To bad Southwest dosnt fly our troops overseas. The equipment that I need to travel with dosnt even warrant a second look with that airline. Last time I traveled with my gear, they said “if you can carry it, its okay!” ahh travel.

  3. Notice, I asked the reporter if the soldier thought we had violated our own policy and that I would be glad to look into a refund, if so.. And, notice that our policy has not changed for at least the last five years. And, notice that soldiers get 190 lbs. of free luggage – compared to a civilians free 40 lb. carry-on. And, this is the first time any soldier has expressed an issue with this policy in the seven years I’ve been with AA. And, since we’ve been doing stuff like this http://www.aa.com/content/amrcorp/pressReleases/2008_07/23_military.jhtml for five years, our record of helping the military is nigh unimpeachable. And, I’m out of ands.

  4. American is an emabarassment to DFW similar to when Ross Perot, Jr. ran the Mavericks.

  5. Uhh……Tim W., I think the problem IS the policy.

    Notice “You couldn’t fit it all into two (checked) bags if you tried,” Serrano said.

    “We have had over 15,000 deployments in the past five years,” (Col. Bill) Meehan said, “and this is the first time I’ve heard about it (the 5 year ‘policy’.”

    Maybe since we are actually AT WAR, this 5 year old ‘policy’ needs to be revised cause I’m sure that extra 150 lbs. of stuff a uniformed soldier is carring to Iraq vs. a civilian going to Orlando is just frilly sentemetal crap that he/she probably doesn’t need in combat fighting for the country that provides business for American Airlines. IJS.

  6. @ KR: Whoah, friend. AA is dealing with some of the toughest challenges faced by a modern-day business. They’ve made some missteps recently. But “embarrassment”? Tap the brakes.

    @ Tim W: To be clear, my point with this post was that AA can’t catch a break. Your policy sounds reasonable (though I’ve never tried to fly with all my military gear). Bottom line, though: seems your gate agents need to have the flexibility to ask a passenger, “Geeze, soldier, whatchew got in these bags?” Then, after learning the bags contain body armor and several pairs of boots, etc., agents should have the authority to override the policy. Remember the slogan: “We know why you fly.” Sometimes that means because I’m about to go get shot at and so I need to bring a bunch of extra stuff.

    Let em do it for free.

  7. It figures that American would be the only airline fining our troops on their way to battle. Shame on you AA….Shame, shame, shame!

  8. Perhaps the better answer would be: “We certainly sympathize with this soldier’s situation and regret this became an issue for one of our nation’s brave men and women. We at American Airlines certainly want to make the journey to and from the states as comfortable and stress-free as we may for all passengers and will consider ways to be more accommodating as situations like these arise. We certainly will be glad to look into a reimbursement for Sgt. Serrano and his companions.”

    Adding to a blog with an attitude with a series of trite “ands” surely isn’t a way to win any new customers. And that’s about all I have to say about that.

  9. I should have been more clear about what I meant in my post. We have a very expansive program for military personnel. More expansive than Continental’s, which is referenced – http://www.continental.com/web/en-US/content/travel/baggage/check.aspx ; Delta’s http://www.delta.com/traveling_checkin/baggage/baggage_allowance/index.jsp ; and United’s http://www.united.com/page/article/0,6722,52482,00.html. I suspect others are similar. I can’t find a military policy on Southwest’s site, so I don’t know what they do.

    My point is that tens of thousands of soldiers travel on AA every year, and we have not yet had this complaint that our policy is inadequate. If those thousands of soldiers had needed more than 190 pounds of gear on their way from home to the bases (where their body armor, weapons, and military gear await them), I am sure that we would have heard from the military and modified our policy before this single soldier called the El Paso Times.

  10. Yeah, man, that’s all great, but get on offense and quit being so defensive. The facts are facts, but this is an emotional issue here and a volatile one. Show some super human care. Show you’re one of the gang who’d climb back there with them in coach. Quit citing the rules and instead show some compassion. These guys and gals are headed off to fight a war where there will be guns, wounds and dying. It’s not worth harping about a third bag of luggage when they’re going off to do that and we’re not. It’s just not.

  11. Tim W.- I think this is just an “insult to injury” complaint. The reality is that our soldiers, airmen, and marines going to Iraq are having to BUY their own gear in the first place. Most of it is NOT issued or even paid for by the DOD.

    I understand that AA needs policies and definitions for everything, but if I have one observation about AA, it’s that they don’t seem to know how to treat their passengers (military or not) with respect, courtesy, and dignity. It’s a huge contrast from the other airlines.

  12. USO volunteers have routinely been collecting funds (or dipping into their own pocket in my wife’s case) to cover these overage charges by AA. This is nothing new, nor is this anything like an isolated instance. Soldiers actually do have some options available to them through their own internal military channels when this happens. What is sad and unforgivable though is how little is done by AA to help out when one of the soldiers is out of internal options, stuck and does not have the funds to cover the difference themselves. Not getting to their destination on schedule can result in serious consequences to the soldier and to their unit. Many times the USO folks and understanding passengers, AA flight crews and DFW personnel have been the ones to cover the difference.

    If this is the first time that AA Corporate has heard about this issue it is just one of the growing number of examples of how disconnected they have become from their own business.

    All I can say is wise up. If nothing else, blogs like this should be proof enough that your current and former customers already have.

  13. Tim W., you and AA deserve the heat you’re getting from the other commenters. Daddy Claxton nailed it with respect to your lawyerly and defensive tone. Your offer “to look into the case if the soldier thought the policy wasn’t properly applied” was dismissive and tacky. You know perfectly well that a soldier leaving on deployment is extremely unlikely to track you down to discuss the situation (assuming you even gave the reporter your contact information to pass along to the guy). I would guess that, in general, young military personnel are less likely to raise a stink as one of your frequent flyers might do for at least two reasons: (1) 19 and 20 year-olds tend not to have the same familiarity with your “system” as business travelers would, and (2) military personnel are trained to not become screaming douchebags when they don’t get what they want from a customer service agent (compared to the average Platinum-level passenger, who based on my own ticket counter observations has no such training).

    Also, I was surprised to see your comment in the article that “I am not aware of any ability by our agents to waive an excess baggage fee, even for military personnel – since they already have the common checked bag fees waived in our policy”. In fact, the fee was waived for me just the other day as I checked in at DFW for a flight to Miami. My single checked bag was 56 pounds, six pounds over the limit. The agent told me if I could get it down to 53, he would waive the $50 excess weight fee. I transferred some items to my carry-on and was on my way. As other commenters have said, the agents need to have the discretion to waive the fee for military personnel.

  14. I do wish that while some are so down on American and the bag policy, it could be pointed out that “Solider’s are always upgraded to First Class when there is a seat available, with no extra charge and in addition the pilots or F/A always point out that we have Service men on and thank them for their service to our country…

    most of the other airlines are charging for extra baggage and it’s a very tough economy…

    I do wonder, do Resturants, cleaners,car repair, department stores, etc.. give discounts to all service personnel..

    The airlines are in the spotlight for everything they do these days…

    Can we pick on Delta for awhile with the Wheel Chair situation..? American is a big target as it is the Biggest and in my opinion the best….yikes, do I hear screams.

  15. I just heard about this on Lou Dobbs, and cant beleive anyone would try to nickel and dime our troops. My son is leaving for boot camp at the end of august and has already been told he will be deployed to Iraq/Afgan
    I know he wont have that extra $100. I bet none of the brass at AA would ever put their lives on the line for this counrty.
    So I wont EVER be spending my money on them.