United Airlines under fire again, charges soldier fee to get home from deployment

An Army National Guardsman is speaking out after he says United Airlines showed little empathy for the pro-gear he’s required to carry on deployment.

First Lieutenant John Rader was returning from a 21-month deployment in Afghanistan was forced by United Airlines to pay $200 to board his plane home.

According to FOX 7 News, while preparing to board a United flight from El Paso Monday night, Rader was told his bag was too heavy to qualify under the airline’s free military-baggage policy.

“I was told point blank that I’d have to pay $200 for the overage or find another bag to siphon stuff off with,” Rader tells FOX 7. “Well, I didn’t have another bag so I was caught in a bind, do I go home without my stuff or without it?”

According to United’s baggage policy, active military are allowed to check five bags free as long as they are less than 70 pounds.

Rader says he understands there is a policy in place, but states airlines in the past have shown sympathy toward servicemembers going to or flying home from deployments.

“In the past airlines have been very flexible to soldiers whether its upgrading us in our seating arrangements helping us with numerous bags we travel with often. This is the first time and an isolated case in my history where it’s actually occurred. It became upsetting when all you want to do is get home and you have a $200 charge thrown on top,” said Rader.

Rader continued, “There was no empathy to the situation. I’m not looking for sympathy, but some form of empathy in the situation. There was none of that. It was just cold. I had to either pay or leave the bag,” he tells FOX 7.

He also tells FOX 7 another soldier traveling with him had to pay as well.

After the charge, Rader tells FOX 7 United has lost his business for good.

“As I civilian traveling, I would not fly United after this situation,” said Rader.

United Airlines released a statement FOX 7:

“We are disappointed anytime a customer has an experience that doesn’t meet their expectations, and our customer care team is reaching out to this customer to issue a refund for his oversized bag as a gesture of goodwill.”

Although Rader his pleased with United’s attempt at goodwill, he wants a long-term solution.

“Two hundred dollars can go a long way when you come back,” Rader tells FOX 7. “Not a lot of people are compensated, so $200 comes out of pocket, you weren’t expecting that, and it can change things … so I just want to make sure soldiers are cared for going forward.”

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  • Jim Verchio is a staff writer for Popular Military. As a retired Air Force Public Affairs craftsman, Jim has served at all levels. From staff writer to Editor-In-Chief, he has more than 30 years experience covering military topics in print and broadcast from the CONUS to Afghanistan. He is also a two time recipient of the DoD’s prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award for journalism excellence.

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