American Airlines waives third-bag fee for active members of US military

Monday, August 25, 2008, 7:02 by Aviation Correspondent

American Airlines, based in Fort Worth, Texas, the United States, has decided to waive the longstanding fee to check a third bag for active members of the United States military. The airline has always waived fees for first and second checked bags for active service members of the US military, a statement from American Airlines said.

The new policy of waiver takes effect immediately.

American Airlines’ decision comes after a series of media reports about a soldier who was charged $100 for his extra bag by American Airlines and a call by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) for airlines to waive such fees.

The VFW had argued that though the fees were an industry norm and could be reimbursed, the process of reimbursement was an additional burden for deployed troops. A spokesman for the VFW had remarked: “$100 is a large out-of-pocket burden for a young person who doesn’t make much money.”

American Airlines, a founding member of the Oneworld airline alliance, is a subsidiary of AMR Corporation along with American Eagle Airlines and AmericanConnection airlines.

Earlier, US military personnel had to pay the $100 fee for the third checked bag, and then fill out a form to be reimbursed.

Airlines around the world have been increasing fares and fees for checking luggage in an effort to cope with prohibitive prices of aviation turbine fuel.

Tom Del Valle, senior vice-president (airport services) of American Airlines, said in the statement: “As a part of the many efforts American Airlines makes to support our active and veteran US military personnel, fees for a third checked bag will now be waived for active service members. Fees for first and second checked bags have always been waived. We always understood that soldiers travelling on duty were reimbursed by the military for the fees on required excess baggage. However, after recently hearing of the burden the military reimbursement process put on soldiers traveling to war zones, the choice for us to forgo payment for a third checked bag from the Department of Defence was clear.”

American Airlines has so far allowed active military personnel, who are travelling on duty, to travel with up to 190 pounds of luggage at no charge, including a 100-pound checked bag, a 50-pound checked bag, and a 40-pound carry-on bag.

According to the company statement, American Airlines supports about 30 separate veterans or active military initiatives, including Snowball Express, IBOT wheelchairs, Medal of Honor Society, free charter flights for Adaptive Sports, and Seats for Soldiers.

The airline also has in place, for the past 5 years, special reduced fares with added flexibility and special boarding privileges for active-duty military members and their families travelling on leave or furlough. Besides, US military women and men are welcomed at Admirals Club facilities when traveling on emergency or R&R leave from their overseas duties, the company said.

Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines Company, the low-cost airline based in Dallas, Texas, the United States, has issued a statement stressing that it “had long made exceptions for members of the military and formalised its policy doing so in January 2008.”

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