ATLANTA (

TheStreet

) --

Delta

(DAL) - Get Report

flew into a black hole of negative publicity this week when an employee asked uniformed servicemen to pay bag fees.

Talk about stepping in it. Delta inaccurately appeared to be unpatriotic.

Delta also saw a negative YouTube post

that became national news.

Also, before Delta had a chance Wednesday to change its policy to allow U.S. military traveling on orders in economy class to check four bags free, competitors rushed to point out that their policies are far more liberal than Delta's. Earlier in the day,

American Airlines

(AMR)

said it would go to five free bags for military, traveling on orders or for pleasure.

This incident began when a group of U.S. soldiers returning home from Afghanistan was charged $200 each for extra bags on a connecting flight from Baltimore to Atlanta. On YouTube, the soldiers said they were authorized to check as many as four bags free of charge. But they were nevertheless charged for their fourth bags, resulting in a $2,800 charge for the group. This video went "viral."

In situations such as this, it seems senseless to attempt to consider reality. First of all, eventually, the $200 bag fees are going to come from the bloated Pentagon budget, because the Pentagon contracted with Delta to fly troops home. It is not the responsibility of individual soldiers to pay bag fees when they fly home from combat. We all know that.

Many people cannot wait for an opportunity to bust an airline or to post a comment somewhere -- anywhere -- to say how patriotic they are. Of course, this is totally disingenuous.

Additionally, it can be particularly painful for airlines, which tend to employ a lot of veterans, particularly among their pilots. Airlines cooperate in myriad ways with the military, including supplying airplanes when needed and allowing soldiers to board first, after which it is not unusual for cabin crews to announce the soldiers' presence and applaud their service.

Secondly, and we shudder to mention this, but these soldiers were checking quite a large number of bags -- especially with 14 soldiers involved.

People are always

quick to criticize airlines.

People don't like bag fees -- or fees for anything. While no company or government or powerful interest group should be immune from criticism, we must strive to evaluate it.

We are not talking about our soldiers here. But for all of us of us who feel compelled to react, no matter what happens to be posted online, we should never check our brains along with our baggage.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here:

Ted Reed

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