Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

Airlines are judged these days on their incidents.

It may not be entirely fair. However, the incidents are becoming ever more galling, especially when there's video evidence.

The latest story involves, please don't shout, United Airlines.

First Lieutenant John Rader of the National Guard was on his way back from a 21-month tour in Afghanistan.

As Fox 7 reports, he was flying on Monday night from El Paso, Texas. He tried to check his military-issue bag, which was full of, well, military equipment.

United's rules for military personnel say that you can check up to five bags for free, but none should be more than 70 lbs.

Rader had one bag. It weighed more than 70 lbs.

"I was told point blank that I'd have to pay $200 for the overage or find another bag to siphon stuff off with," Rader told Fox. "Well, I didn't have another bag so I was caught in a bind, do I go home with my stuff or without it?"

So he paid. $200 is a lot of money to a soldier.

Still, how many times have travelers got to airports, only to be told they need to take 2 lbs. out of their checked luggage and put it somewhere else? How many annoyed customers have airlines created by being draconian with such policies?

Rader insisted he wasn't treated well.

"There was no empathy to the situation," he said. "I'm not looking for sympathy, but some form of empathy in the situation. There was none of that. It was just cold. I had to either pay or leave the bag."

And, if this is how it happened, what startling chilliness from the very same airline that dragged a bloodied Dr. David Dao off a flight, just because he didn't want to be bumped.

So many of the recent airline incidents have revolved around the mindless enforcement of rules.

How many times have you checked in with a traveling companion and one bag is over the limit and one bag under? More often than not, the check-in staff will let it go.

Here, though, it appears that though Rader's total baggage was far under the limit, he was told to pay up or else.

I contacted United to ask for its view.

The airline's spokeswoman told me: "We offer members of our U.S. military a variety of benefits to thank them for their service. One of these benefits is allowing them to check five bags and increasing the weight limitations for these to 70 lbs. We are disappointed anytime a customer has an experience that doesn't meet their expectations, and our customer care team is reaching out to this customer to issue a refund for his oversized bag as a gesture of goodwill."

Goodwill? The goodwill should have been extended when he was checking in. Some might describe this goodwill as mere common sense and might even be extended to all passengers who behave with decency.

Was Rader's bag going to weigh the aircraft down? I suspect not.

Other airlines have even greater baggage allowances for military personnel than does United. Was it really necessary for United to hold him to such a strict limit?

Of course, there might be more to this story. And it does appear at a time when airlines are prime targets for rebuke.

But isn't part of customer service the customer part? You know, the human, flexible, considerate part?

As Rader himself said: "In the past airlines have been very flexible to soldiers, whether its upgrading us in our seating arrangements helping us with numerous bags we travel with often."

This one time (again), it seems, the flexibility was gone.

What did United gain? More bad publicity. More bad publicity that surely could have been avoided.

Published on: May 18, 2017