American gives in, waives 3rd-bag fee for military

Facing a public relations nightmare, American Airlines said it would waive fees on excess baggage checked by soldiers traveling on duty, after being excoriated online and in the national media as unpatriotic and hostile to U.S. troops.

Fort Worth-based American had been criticized for weeks in often-incorrect reports on blogs and Internet forums that it had begun slapping fees on Iraq-bound soldiers for checking extra bags of military gear. This week, the story hit the mainstream, with reports in national media outlets like CNN.

On Tuesday night, Keith Olbermann, a host on cable news channel MSNBC, declared the airline and its chief executive, Gerard Arpey, the "worst persons in the world" for "nickel and diming the soldiers."

The New York Post reported that soldiers are "getting bombarded by charges that can run up hundreds of dollars." The newspaper added that "American Airlines routinely pounds American soldiers with heavy hits."

"American was in a no-win situation on this, from a PR standpoint," said travel consultant Terry Trippler of "No matter what they did, they were going to look bad."

He said he's not surprised the story snowballed. When travelers are frustrated by higher fares, new charges and poor service, he said, "people love to hear this stuff about the big bad airlines and how they're picking on everybody."

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