Airline travel benefits for military families vary greatly depending on the time of year, the airline, and the benefits you need.
In general, it’s hard to pin down specific travel discounts for military members and their families since the travel industry is known for frequent changes, but the discounts you find online today for military travel can add more to your vacation budget if you know where and how to look.
The travel industry, including airlines, tends to break down these benefits based on your status as a military member, dependent, or families traveling together. You will also find that your status as an active duty military member, Reservist, veteran, or those coming back from an overseas location will play an important role in the discounts offered.
These statuses include but are not limited to:
- Active duty military
- Active duty military returning from overseas duty
- Active duty military traveling on PCS or TDY orders
- Active duty military traveling with leave paperwork
- Members of the Reserve
- Members recently retired or separated
- Military dependents traveling on orders
- Military dependents traveling unaccompanied
How To Request Military Family Travel Discounts
Because of the diverse nature of military travel discounts, you will need to ask specifically for the type of discount that may apply to your military travel.
For example, when you call to inquire about air fares, be sure to tell the representative the specific type of travel you are planning, your military status, and the number of people traveling with you who are either military, military dependents, etc.
For example, if you are planning a trip from an overseas military base, explain that you are stationed overseas, are traveling on official orders (TDY, PCS, or Leave), the kind of orders you are traveling on, and what your plans are for the travel.
If you are taking a family vacation, ask about military family air fare discounts for vacation travel to your destination and what other discounts might apply in that situation.
If you are traveling on official orders for a PCS or TDY, explain that you are performing official travel, give the destinations (overseas to U.S., overseas-to-overseas, CONUS to CONUS travel, etc.).
What Kinds Of Military Family Travel Benefits Are Available?
Discounts, free baggage, or other perks will vary greatly depending on the airline or service provider. In general, you may find that some discounts for military travel apply during peak travel season periods such as the holidays and summer vacation season.
That said, it never hurts to consider traveling at off-peak times to see what perks may exist for taking your travel days outside the most popular times.
Military travel perks may include:
- Airfare discounts
- Free or reduced baggage fees
- Discounts on vacation travel packages including hotels, rental cars, etc.
- Access to exclusive travel lounge perks such as the United Club airport lounge
- Reduced pet travel fees
- Free or reduced-fee charges for excess baggage or oversize bags
In general, no travel discount is automatic unless otherwise specified at purchase time. You will need to ask the travel agent, airline booking representative, or other authorized agent for applicable military discounts, military family travel, etc.
An Important Aspect Of Finding Military Travel Discounts
Beware signing up for military family travel using third party websites such as Expedia, Cheapflights.com, Orbitz, etc. without checking to see whether your military travel discounts are only available when booking directly with the airline.
It’s never safe to assume that a third party will bother checking to see what discounts you qualify for-call the airline directly to inquire about your options to claim military family travel perks. Booking directly with the airline may be the only way to get your discounts.
That said, be sure to mention your military status to a third-party booking agent should you choose to use one; ask if they will match or beat the airline’s discount and see what happens-you can’t lose anything just for asking!
TSA Pre-Check Benefits For Qualifying Military Members and Dependents
The TSA official site, TSA.gov, states that “All members of the U.S. Armed Forces” including Guard and Reserve members, can use their Department of Defense identification number when making flight reservations in order to be processed via the TSA Pre-Check security screening line at the airport.
The TSA site advises, “Accompanying family members ages 12 and under can be processed through expedited screening as well.”
Military members do not need to be in uniform to claim this benefit, and the use of your Common Access Card is not required at the time of this writing.
Specific Military Family Air Travel Perks
Air travel discounts, perks, and benefits change often. What follows is a list of military family air travel perks and incentives that have been offered by the airlines below. Always check with the airline before booking to make sure these benefits haven’t been changed, improved, or cancelled.
Active duty and active duty dependents may qualify for the following military air travel benefits, but be sure to call 1-800-252-7522 to make certain the route you travel qualifies for these travel incentives:
- Five percent discount on airfares for members of Veterans Advantage.
- First five bags (weighing up to 70 pounds) are booked free; dependents must be listed on the travel orders to qualify.
- 15 percent discount on food purchased in-flight. Military ID is required.
The following travel benefits apply to active duty military, veterans, National Guard, Reservists, and military dependents:
- Check up to three bags for free (no heavier than 100 pounds)
- No charge for oversize checked baggage
- A free carry-on bag (must conform to Allegiant size restrictions)
- Free boarding pass printing (a five dollar value)
- Free seat assignment (can cost up to $80 depending on seat choices)
- One free in-cabin pet
American offers the following travel perks to active duty military and dependent family members:
- Five free checked bags for those traveling on orders
- Three free checked bags when not traveling on orders (military members only)
- Reduced price airfare in certain markets
Delta Airlines provides the following discounts for active duty military members and their dependents:
- Discounted airfare for traveling on orders (discounts will vary)
- Discounted airfare for personal travel (discounts will vary)
- “Exclusive military discounts” up to $300 when purchased via Delta Vacations
- Five free checked bags (no heavier than 100 pounds each) when on travel orders
- Two free checked bags (no heavier than 50 pounds each) for personal travel
Frontier Air offers discounts for military members only. They include one free personal item, a free carry-on, and two free checked bags with military ID.
These travel perks are offered to active duty military, retired service members, and dependents depending on circumstances.
- Four free checked in bags (no heavier than 70 pounds) for those traveling on military orders
- Two free checked in bags per person (no heavier than 50 pounds) for military members only on leisure travel
- Veterans Advantage members may receive a five percent discount
These discounts apply to Veterans Advantage members, active duty military, and their dependents:
- Five percent off airfare
- Two free checked bags for Veterans Advantage members
- Active duty military (not traveling on orders) and their dependents can apply a special military class fare with zero advance-purchase requirements plus a five percent base airfare discount
- Up to five free bags per person for active duty military and dependents traveling on orders
- Two free bags per person for active-duty military traveling (personal/leisure travel) plus their dependents
Active duty military and dependents may qualify for discounts applied depending on destinations and purchase preferences. Claim these military travel benefits by calling 1-800-I-FLY-SWA or buy your tickets at an airport ticket counter.
Southwest does NOT offer these discounts through third parties such as travel sites (Orbitz, Travelocity, CheapFlights, etc.) or travel agents. You may be able to request military fares by telephone when calling the airline directly.
United Airlines military travel benefits are for Active duty military, their dependents, and veterans enrolled in Veterans Advantage:
- Get up to five percent off airfares with Veterans Advantage for travel in the U.S. or Canada to destinations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and Europe
- Five checked bags (no heavier than 100 pounds each) for those traveling on orders including dependents
- Three checked bags (no heavier than 70 pounds each) for those not traveling on orders (dependents included)
- Free access to the United Club airport lounge – This is open to military members traveling in uniform, carrying leave orders, or similar documentation – It is not offered to dependents
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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