Delta waives fee for team traveling to Haiti

Associated Press
After telling a mission team from West Acres Baptist Church in Evans that transporting its medical supplies to Haiti would cost $3,200, Delta waived all baggage fees for the 14 travelers. "It got out in the media, and Delta backed off," Pam Hutton said.

West Acres Baptist Church scored a small victory as aid workers struggle to get help where it's needed in Haiti.

Delta, the airline the medical mission team used to fly to the earthquake-stricken country Wednesday, decided not to charge them to transport needed supplies.

The airline originally said it would cost $3,200 to transport the medical supplies, in addition to the cost of the tickets purchased by the 14-member team from Evans, according to the Rev. Larry Harmon.

The team reached out to media, and when they arrived Wednesday morning at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Delta had waived the fee, said Pam Hutton, the church secretary.

"I got an e-mail early this morning," she said Wednesday. "They're on their way."

The team landed in the Dominican Republic on Wednesday afternoon before making its way to the Haitian border. The volunteers will work in an orphanage devastated by the quake.

The church has financially supported the orphanage for about two years, Harmon said.

"We think about 65 children of the 200 there have died," he said. "We are so thankful for the opportunity to serve them."

Team members had planned to leave items behind after Delta imposed a two-bag limit. The supplies include medical equipment, food for children and baby formula.

It appeared, at first, as though the missionaries couldn't have brought extra trunks of supplies even if they wanted to pay the fee.

On Delta, the first bag can be checked free on flights to the Caribbean. The second comes with a $25 to $30 fee. On flights where additional bags are allowed, a third brings $200 in fees. The price increases from there, with the sixth bag costing an additional $600.

With 14 people traveling, Harmon said, that adds up.

Fortunately, Hutton said, Delta not only allowed each West Acres passenger to bring additional cases, but it also waived all baggage fees.

"We were prepared to pay," Hutton said. "It got out in the media, and Delta backed off. Just that is a little bit of a miracle."

The team is scheduled to return to Augusta on Wednesday.

In the meantime, Harmon asks the community for prayers and support. He said it is hard not to be concerned about the safety of the team -- which includes six members of West Acres -- as the situation in Haiti disintegrates.

"There's panic in Haiti. We're concerned, but we do have people in the area who will meet them at the border and provide an escort," Harmon said. "The main thing is we need prayers for the Haitian people and our team. They're not sure what they're going to find, but they'll need the grace of God to get through it."

Reach Kelly Jasper at (706) 823-3552 or kelly.jasper@augustachronicle.com.

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