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WASHINGTON — Commercial airlines that charge “excessive” bag fees for troops could lose lucrative government contracts and thousands of ticket sales to military travelers, under a pair of amendments approved by the House on Thursday.

The actions came in response to a YouTube video posted by a pair of Army reservists last month complaining that their unit was charged $200 each -- $2,800 total – for excess baggage on a Delta Air Lines flight from Baltimore to Atlanta, the final leg of their trip home from Afghanistan.

Officials from Delta, which holds a transportation contract with the Defense Department, said the terms of the deal allowed them to charge troops for a fourth checked bag, with the understanding that the military would later reimburse servicemembers those costs.

However, after the public outcry from the video, Delta amended its policies to allow four checked bags for traveling military at no extra cost.

The new House amendments, attached to the annual defense appropriations bill, would strip government contracts and loans from airlines “for excess baggage fees for any member of the armed services traveling on official military business,” and bar military officials from buying tickets on commercial flights if those companies don’t allow four free checked bags.

“Our folks, when they’re traveling and protecting our nation, shouldn’t have to worry about this,” amendment sponsor Rep. Larry Kissell, D-N.C. said in a floor speech Thursday. “And we as a nation shouldn’t have to pay extra fees beyond the millions upon millions of dollars that we already pay to these airlines.”

Kissell’s amendment and the limits on purchasing commercial tickets for military travel, sponsored by New Jersey Republican Rep. Jon Runyan, were approved without objection by voice vote. The Senate would have to approve both measures as part of their defense appropriations debate for them to become law.

Runyan called the extra bag fees for troops “an unacceptable slap in the face, whether it was intentional or not.” His amendment would allow fees on bags that weigh more than 80 pounds, or if troops need to carry more than four bags.

“(Servicemembers) take great personal sacrifices to defend our country,” he said during the floor debate. “They should not have to endure personal financial hardship as a result of traveling to and from overseas contingency operations. $200 is a large amount of money to pay out of pocket, especially for those who are enlisted.”

shanel@stripes.osd.mil

Twitter: @LeoShane


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