After a year in Afghanistan, 25 Fort Bliss Soldiers struggled with an airline to get back home.
The group had flown into Baltimore, Md., Friday evening, but on Saturday when they went to check in their luggage and weapons at the Baltimore Washington International Airport, a Delta Airlines weight policy threatened to keep them on the ground.
"They were told [by airline officials] that because of the weight of the weapons, they could not be checked in," said Capt. Aaron Poe. "The Soldiers were then told they could check them in separately on another flight. But the Soldiers didn't feel comfortable doing that."
Each box weighed about 100 pounds, which was considered to be above the weight standards allowed by the airlines.
According to Delta Airlines policy, active-duty U.S. military personnel on orders to or from duty stations may check the following without charge:
-- Up to four bags in the economy class in all cabins on Delta connection flights
-- Up to five bags in business elite, first and business class on Delta aircraft only.
Each bag may weight up to 70 pounds. In addition, active military personnel traveling on personal business may check up to two 50-pound bags at no charge.
Passengers with bags that weigh more than 70 pounds are charged $175 a bag.
"Our weight policy was recently changed to accommodate members of the military personnel," said Joe Perone, spokesman for the airlines. "And after checking with the Baltimore Washington International Airport, all military baggage was checked in."
But Capt. Poe and Capt. Waldo Galan said it took officials several hours to work with the Delta Airlines Military Liaison to get the group home.
"They basically told us it is what it is and weren't giving us many options," Poe said. "In the end, the majority of our Soldiers were allowed to check in and board onto their plane while a lieutenant stayed behind and got on the next flight with the weapons. He ended up having to go to a Home Depot to buy another box so that he could distribute the weight evenly. And then he was charged a nominal fee of $500 to check in the boxes."
Officials with Delta Airlines said that there were no issues, that no baggage was left behind in Baltimore and that everything was transported.
All 25 Soldiers -- and the weapons -- were scheduled to arrive at 8:30 p.m. on different flights Saturday at the El Paso International Airport.
October 24, 2011
El Paso Times|by Alex Hinojosa