In an August 13 press release, American announced it will waive its third-checked-bag fee for active U.S. soldiers, meaning those individuals can now check up to three bags for free. This represents an addition to the airline’s standing policy of allowing two free checked bags for service members. The move follows a wave of criticism directed at American, which was accused of hitting soldiers with excessive fees.
For quite some time, American allowed soldiers to check two bags for free, and either obtain a waiver beforehand or request a reimbursement from the military for the $100 third-checked-bag charge. According to the Seattle Times, however, a serviceman recently complained to the El Paso Times that paying the $100 and seeking a reimbursement was a burden, because he still needed to put up $100 in cash.
This story set off a wave of harsh words directed the airline’s way, including MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann calling American CEO Gerald Arpey “the worst person in the world” for forcing soldiers to pay the fee. Commentary quickly spun out of control, with pundits suggesting American was nickel-and-diming soldiers as they were flying off to war. Whether or not any of these critics actually understood American’s policy is unclear.
Well, deserved or not, American didn’t want to put up with this portrayal for long, and so will now automatically waive that third-checked-bag fee for soldiers. Reading its press release, however, it’s clear American’s management is a bit frustrated with the whole ordeal:
“As part of the many efforts American Airlines makes to support our active and veteran U.S. 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.”
Note the little nudge at the end of that excerpt. American may have lost this PR battle, but it’s not going down without a fight.