- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 13, 2008

American Airlines announced Thursday that it will eliminate fees for a third piece of checked luggage for active military personnel on their way to the war in Iraq or anywhere the U.S.

American and other airlines already had waived fees for first and second pieces of checked luggage for military members. Veterans for Foreign Wars, one of the country’s largest veterans groups, has asked the aviation industry to eliminate all baggage fees for military personnel heading to Iraq.

“We always understood that soldiers traveling on duty were reimbursed by the military for the fees on required excess baggage,” said Tom Del Valle, senior vice president of American Airlines airport services.

“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 Defense was clear,” Mr. Del Valle said.

The Washington Times reported on Tuesday that American was charging troops for extra baggage and recently had charged two soldiers from Texas $100 and $300 for their extra duffel bags.

American said it gives the military a break on the cost for excess luggage and that the soldiers who incur the fees are reimbursed.

“Because the soldiers don’t pay a dime, our waiver of the fees amounts to a discount to the military, not a discount to soldiers,” American spokesman Tim Wagner told The Times on Monday. “Soldiers should not have to pay a penny of it.”

Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) spokesman Joseph Davis said service members destined for Iraq should not have to spend the money out of pocket and should not have to worry about filing expense forms in a war zone.

“That’s a lot to ask when the service member has much more important things on their minds, such as staying alive and keeping those around them alive,” he said Monday.

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