U.S. military personnel and Defense Department employees won’t have to pay new fees for checked baggage as long as they’re traveling on official government orders in most instances, according to military officials.

The fee exemption applies to permanent-change-of-station and temporary-duty travel, according to Staff Sgt. Erica Hix, Transportation Management Office passenger travel specialist at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

"As long as you have a set of orders and present it at the counter, they’ll waive the baggage charges," she said.

Several U.S. carriers charge or will soon charge a fee for checked bags.

This month, American and United airlines began charging domestic travelers $15 for the first piece of checked luggage and $25 for the second, each way. US Airways will begin collecting $15 for the first checked bag starting July 9. The airline, according to its Web site, already charges $25 for a second checked bag and $100 for a third. The new fees apply to all flights to and from Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as flights within the United States.

The airlines will waive the baggage fee for flights that are booked using government contract fares, Hix said, noting that applies to nearly all official travel.

People traveling on emergency leave orders also should be able to get the checked baggage fees waived, said Staff Sgt. Hon Mac, TMO passenger travel supervisor at Misawa Air Base, Japan.

Family members also don’t have to pay the fee, whether they travel with the servicemember or separately, as long as their names are listed on the PCS orders, Hix said.

A few airlines don’t offer any baggage fee waivers. JetBlue and Midwest do not exempt any government travelers from their $20 fee for the second checked bag, according to information from the General Services Administration.

Mac advised passengers to check airline Web sites for information about baggage fees. Airlines also are charging for excess luggage weight. The government will reimburse those fees only if reimbursement is specified on one’s official orders.

Active-duty servicemembers and government employees must pay the checked baggage fee for commercial air travel while on leave.

Some airlines cite rising fuel costs for implementing the new baggage fees.

American, for example, expects to increase revenue by more than $350 million annually with the fee, according to the Wall Street Journal, but also expects to pay $2.6 billion more for fuel this year than in 2007.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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