By Military1 Staff
A National Guard soldier was shocked at the United Airlines ticket counter when he was asked to pay $200 for an overweight bag on his way home from a 21-month-long deployment in Afghanistan.
John Rader, a 1st lieutenant in the Army National Guard, was traveling home to Kyle, California, when he was told he would have to pay $200 for a bag of military gear that was over the allowed weight limit.
“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 told Fox KTVU. “Well, I didn’t have another bag, so I was caught in a bind. Do I go home without my stuff?”
The overweight bag was holding a Kevlar vest, two helmets and boots—important gear he wore during his time in the Middle East.
“There was no empathy to the situation,” Rader said. “I’m not looking for sympathy, but some form of empathy. There was none of that, it was just cold. It was either pay, or leave the bag.”
Rader had initially deployed for a nine-month deployment, but volunteered to double his time overseas.
“I just absolutely enjoy that I can serve my country and live my life at the same time,” he said.
The United Airlines policy states that service members can check five bags free when flying on military orders, as long as the bags weigh less than 70 pounds.
Rader paid the fee, rather than leave his gear behind.
“In the past, airlines have been very flexible to soldiers, whether it’s upgrading our seating arrangements, helping us with the numerous bags we travel with,” he said. “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.”
Both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have policies limiting bag weight to 100 pounds, with American Airlines offering up to five bags checked for free and Southwest allowing military service members an unlimited number of checked bags.
United Airlines issues a statement to FOX 7, stating, “We are disappointed anytime a customer has an experience that doesn’t meet their expectations, and our customer care team is reaching out to issue a refund for his oversized bag as a gesture of goodwill.”
Regardless, Rader said he doesn’t plan to fly the airline again, if he can help it.
“As a civilian traveling, I would not fly United after this situation,” he said.