Perhaps you may have not heard, but Delta Airlines recently charged a group of 34 soldiers coming back from Afganistan a total of $2,800 to bring their baggage back home from war. The fees were in “extra baggage,” which, in some cases, included military weaponry. I fly a lot and I am trying to imagine the conversation that occurred as the ticket agent checked these soldiers in to their flights.

“Yes, you have 4 extra bags and that will cost you $200.”

“I am sorry ma’am. My orders say that we will not be charged for bags and I am coming back home from Afghanistan after almost two years. The army paid for this ticket.”

“I understand, but it is our policy to collect for additional baggage and I am sorry that we can not make exceptions. If we start making exceptions for you, then we have to make them for everyone.”

“This is completely wrong, one of these bags has my field weapons in it. I do not even own those. But I want to see my wife and the little girl I have not seen in almost two years so here.”

“Enjoy your flight”

While I am sure my version of the conversation was both softened from the perspective of the returning soldier and a bit snark, clearly there is no thought placed in the value (or lack there of) in the Delta brand by its employees and executives. In most airports, the presence of members of our Armed Forces seem as common as Starbucks. I have no doubt that Delta has serviced members of the Armed Forces before and I hope and assume that this is simply an aberration. But what it shows is the lack of thought about the Delta brand in general.

I say this because the best brands train their employees to make decisions that are in the best interest of the brand first – even if those decisions cost the company money. It is the ability to make those decisions that help good brands become great. Nordstrom does it. Apple does it. Disney does it too along with a host of other brands I am not naming. Empowering employees to make decisions autonomously shows that management believes in and promotes the value of their brand.

Delta obviously does not value it brand in the same way as the likes of Apple and Nordstrom. But does that surprise anyone who travels for a living?