ST. GEORGE – A public outcry led to Delta policy changes after a YouTube video went viral that showed American soldiers returning from deployment talking about how they had to pay a $200 baggage fee for a fourth bag which mostly carried their military-issued gear.
While some citizens say they intend to boycott Delta, Mayor Dan McArthur warned that could hurt local business, as Delta is a SkyWest connection.
Marissa Snow, Manager of Corporate Communications for SkyWest, which is located in St. George, said SkyWest has “five daily flights aboard the modern regional jet to Salt Lake City as Delta Connection.”
“As air service is a key component of our economic engine, avoiding use of service would undoubtedly have an adverse impact on the local economy as a whole,” Snow said.
Delta quickly came through and reimbursed the soldiers, as well as make changes to their policy for the U.S. Armed Forces, after the incident was made public.
Managing Partner of Airline Weekly Seth Kaplan said Delta mostly likely will not experience a meaningful boycott.
“Airlines have overcome bad publicity resulting from far more dire situations – accidents, operational meltdowns affecting tens of thousands of people and so forth,” Kaplan said. “People choose airlines primarily based on schedules and fares, plus other factors like frequent flier program membership. Nothing that has happened this week will change any of that, other than perhaps in the very short-term among a very small number of people, especially considering that Delta quickly resolved the issue.”
Jeffrey Breen, President of Cambridge Aviation Research agreed, saying it’s hard to envision a widespread boycott.
“The public outrage is understandable as it involved two emotionally charged topics: support for our military and airline baggage fees,” Breen said. “Delta realizes and admits their mistake and are reaching out to each soldier to make things right. The key to avoiding such incidents is through a top-to-bottom commitment to customer service and, more importantly, the employee empowerment required to attain it.”
But others are standing firm in their decision to boycott the airline.
“I will definitely boycott Delta as of now,” said Erika Walker. “It is unheard of to charge soldiers extra for their bags returning home – they are giving their lives to protect the country, they sacrifice their life and their families and friends to ensure that all of us back home are safe and sound. How would somebody even consider charging them for the extra bag. Even the postponed refund won’t solve the issue. I don’t think the economy would suffer that much. Delta, as a company, will as the customers will be gone, but people will be just flying with other companies.”
Jim Dailakis said the extra baggage fiasco was the final straw for him.
“At the advice of my friend, I decided to become a Delta Sky Miles member in the hope of getting upgrades,” he said. “So far, it’s been nothing but misery. One flight after the next … in fact 95 percent of them have been delayed, canceled or have had mechanical or technical problems. In fact, I actually e-mailed them to let them know how disgusted and appalled I was by their behavior.”
Others say fees and convenience, not one incident, will determine their airline of choice.
“I have a flight to China with Delta booked,” said Peter Tiso. “I wouldn’t boycott them for this. It seems more like a single manager who made a call to charge a standard fee based on the current rules, rather than an attempt by Delta to knowingly fleece soldiers for additional money based on the number of bags they expect each to carry, especially since the practice was so instantly changed when challenged.”
In the end, it seems Delta’s choice to change their policy was a good move. But one still wonders, why wasn’t the U.S. military picking up the bill if the soldiers were carrying military-issued gear on return from a military deployment?
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