Chances are good that military personnel will grow accustomed to navigating airports and downloading boarding passes during their stint in the armed forces. Whether it’s transferring bases, visiting family on leave or taking a much-deserved vacation, you don’t have to join the Air Force to spend plenty of time in the blue yonder.
The good news is that the cost of flying from one destination to another doesn’t have to be as steep as the climb to 30,000 feet, thanks to a bevy of discounts available to members of the armed forces. The bad news is that it will take some homework to figure out which airlines offer the best discounts.
Not all military airline discounts are created equal. While some carriers offer discounts on airfare and checked baggage for both servicemembers and their dependents, others offer special military rates. Some may provide only free checked bags.
Here’s some basic training on how to uncover the best deals before packing your bags.
Airlines With Military Discounts
A good place to start your search for the best fare is with the following list of airlines that offer military discounts: Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and United.
But don’t assume that you’ll find the discount you’re looking for simply by booking your seats online. Some military discounts are not advertised and may not be available online, so your best approach may be to do things the old-fashioned way: Call the airline directly to make certain that you are getting the best deal. Also use sites like FareCompare to make sure the military “discount” that you are offered is truly the best one available.
Alaska Airlines Military Discounts
Alaska Airlines offers special military fares to active-duty personnel and their dependents in some markets (the fares are valid on Alaska, Horizon, Sky West and PenAir). These fares apply to service members traveling on an official excused absence, military reserves on active duty, and those discharged from active-duty military service in any one of the U.S. military agencies. Military rate fares must be purchased by phone. Call 1-800-252-7522.
Bringing a pet along on your journey? Active-duty members pay $150 plus tax for pet travel vs. the normal prices of between $250 and $350, up to $700. Another perk: You get to board the plane early.
Active-duty personnel, as well as dependents with travel orders, can check five bags free of charge (bags can be up to 70 pounds).
The discounts apply to those who have a valid military ID or separation papers for travel within seven days of discharge from active military service. Dependents need to be a legal relation of the military members and have proper identification (those ages 10 and up will need to have a valid ID with “active” on it.)
Veterans can take advantage of Alaska’s Veterans Advantage program that offers 5% discounts on fares.
Allegiant Airlines Military Discounts
While Allegiant doesn’t offer a military discount on airfare, it does offer free checked baggage and other perks for the following passengers:
- Active duty
- National Guard
- Their spouses or dependents (if traveling on the same itinerary with the eligible military traveler).
- S. military veterans
Those meeting these eligibility requirements may take advantage of the following benefits:
- Up to two pieces of checked baggage (each weighing under 100 pounds)
- No charge for oversize checked baggage (maximum size is 115 linear inches in height + width + length)
- One carry-on bag within Allegiant size limits
- One personal item within Allegiant size limits
- Free boarding pass printing at the airport
- One pet in cabin
Passengers on active or reserve duty, as well as members of the National Guard, receive up to two pieces of checked baggage (under 100 pounds) for free. There is no charge for oversized checked baggage, and one carry-on is free.
Other perks include free printing of boarding passes at the airport, free seat assignments (pending availability) and one pet in the cabin at no charge. There is no charge to board at priority boarding, and no fee when making a change to the reservation or canceling because of a change in orders.
Veterans, as well as spouses or dependents of those mentioned above, receive up to two checked bags for free (under 40 pounds). They also benefit from the aforementioned perks: no charge for oversized checked baggage; one free carry-on; free boarding pass printing at the airport; free seat assignments, pending availability; and up to one pet in the cabin for free.
Servicemembers must show qualifying identification. Dependents can qualify for these benefits even if they are not traveling with the military member.
American Airlines Military Discounts
Military personnel can contact American Airlines reservations to learn about the military discounts that it offers in some markets. Call 1-800-433-7300. In addition, veterans and their families can save up to 10% on domestic and international flights by enrolling in VetRewards and booking through Veterans Advantage.
Depending on the passenger’s destination, bags are free of charge when a military ID is presented at the check-in counter. The following limits apply:
- Up to five bags (100 pounds each) for active U.S. military and/or dependents traveling on orders (travel orders should be presented at the check-in counter).
- Up to three bags (50 pounds each) for active U.S. military on personal/ leisure travel
Military dependents traveling on orders will have the same bag privileges as military personnel when they present their military dependent ID and a copy of active orders at the check-in counter.
Active-duty military personnel with a military ID are able to board the plane in the first group at the same time as customers in first class.
Delta Airlines Military Discounts
Delta Airlines offers a number of benefits for active-duty U.S. military personnel, including early boarding, free checked bags and special policies on pet travel, along with vacation packages through Delta Vacations. Members of the armed forces can book flights and learn more by calling Delta Reservations at 1-800-221-1212.
Baggage fee exceptions are available whether traveling on orders or for personal reasons. When traveling on orders, passengers receive up to five free bags weighing up to 100 pounds each. When traveling for personal reasons, military personnel receive two free checked bags weighing up to 50 pounds each on standard fares (or three bags with the same weight limits when traveling on a Delta Premium Select fare). Those traveling in first class or Delta One receive up to three bags weighing up to 70 pounds each.
When traveling on military orders, bags can be up to 80 linear inches (length + width + height). For personal travel, bags for active military members can be up to 62 linear inches.
For a fee, Delta accepts animals as checked baggage for active U.S. military or active U.S. State Department Foreign Service Officers and their spouses with active transfer orders, such as a Permanent Change of Station. The fee is $200, one way, on most routes. The military member or spouse must book pets as checked baggage at least 48 hours before arrival. Pets must comply with federal regulations, including proper documentation based on current policies and procedures. Learn more about rules and regulations for checking pets here.
Frontier Airlines Military Discounts
- One free personal item
- One free carry-on bag
- Two free checked bags
The baggage waivers do not apply to family members or traveling companions. Oversize and overweight baggage fees are waived for the first two free checked bags. To qualify for the benefits, passengers must present a Common Access Card (CAC) with a uniformed services affiliation.
Hawaiian Airlines Military Discounts
Hawaiian Airlines offers baggage fee exemptions for members of the U.S. military traveling on orders or for personal reasons.
Passengers with proof of official government travel orders and their qualifying dependents are eligible for up to five complimentary bags per person (up to 70 pounds and 80 linear inches each). Dependents do not need to be accompanied by an active-duty U.S. military family member provided that orders are presented at time of travel. A valid military ID is required at the time of check-in.
Active-duty military members traveling for personal reasons are allowed two complimentary checked bags per person (up to 50 pounds and 62 linear inches each). The fee waiver does not apply to military dependents on personal travel.
To benefit from the waivers, passengers must check in at Hawaiian Airlines airport counters. The airport kiosks and web check-in will permit up to only two complimentary bags for military passengers traveling on Military/Government fares.
JetBlue Airlines Military Discounts
JetBlue offers a 5% discount on its base fare to active-duty military, National Guard and Reserve personnel, retired military and veterans and their families, who are enrolled in the Veterans Advantage program. Veterans Advantage members also are allowed to check two bags at no additional cost.
JetBlue also offers a bag waiver for active-duty military traveling on duty and their families. These passengers can bring up to five free checked bags each (for both military members and dependents traveling on the same itinerary). Passengers must show travel orders and their Department of Defense Common Access Card.
To book a flight or learn more about these benefits, call JetBlue at 1-800-JETBLUE or enroll in Veterans Advantage here.
Southwest Airlines Military Discounts
Southwest Airlines offers special military fares that can be booked by calling 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (1-800-435-9792) or visiting a Southwest ticket counter (they are not available online). The fares are available to military personnel on active duty (including Reservists, National Guard members and Coast Guard members with active orders; cadets/midshipmen attending the U.S. Air Force Academy; U.S. Naval Academy; U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy) and their authorized dependents.
In addition, those traveling on active duty are exempt from the two-piece baggage limit and will not be subject to excess, oversize or overweight baggage charges, provided that none of the pieces of baggage exceeds 100 pounds in weight and 80 inches in size (L+W+H). A valid active-duty military ID must be presented at the time of check-in for military personnel. Dependents traveling without the active-duty military member are subject to normal excess, oversized, and overweight charges.
Early boarding benefits also are available for military members. Active-duty, uniformed members who did not receive an “A” boarding pass are invited to board between the A and B groups.
United Airlines Military Discounts
United Airlines offers a 5% base fare discount to passengers enrolled in the Veterans Advantage program. The discount is available to U.S. military veterans, active-duty military, National Guard and Reserve members and their families (itineraries must originate in the U.S. or Canada). The discount applies to all adult-fare classes except Basic Economy.
Upon enrolling, members will immediately receive a 10-digit travel discount code that can be used to book their travel on United. They can enter their unique 10-digit code in the Offer Code section whenever they book at United.com.
Active-duty members traveling on official orders or for pleasure are also eligible to check extra baggage free of charge (excluding military pet shipments). In some cases, military dependents will also be included.
Those on personal travel can check up to three bags free of service charges (maximum of 70 pounds and inches each). Those traveling on official business can check up to five bags (maximum of 100 pounds and 115 inches each) for free. Military dependents with travel orders can check up to two bags (maximum of 70 pounds and 62 inches each). When traveling on official orders, dependents can travel alone.
Active-duty military personnel and their spouses can also receive certain benefits for transporting their dogs and cats while traveling on assignment to and from international destinations. Qualifying pets that meet all of United’s requirements, including the weight limit, will receive specialized handling through United PetSafe and will receive a tag during check-in.
Space-A Travel for Military Families
Formerly known as Military Airlift Command (MAC), the Space-Available (Space-A) program allows active-duty service members, veterans and their families to travel around the country at little or no cost. The catch is that these flights are provided not on commercial carriers but on military flights on a mission. Access to the flights is on a space-available basis.
Space-A Travel Restrictions
Before considering booking a Space-A flight, it’s important to be aware of the various restrictions and other drawbacks involved (and there are quite a few).
- There are limits on how many passengers can join a flight.
- Availability is limited for retirees with a Gray Area ID card.
Their dependents are not permitted to use Space-A.
- National Guard, Reservists and family members without an active-duty sponsor qualify only in certain circumstances. They and their dependents can use Space-A if they are activated over 30 days.
- Passengers may be limited on where they can fly based on their status.
- The sign-up process can be complicated, and passengers might have to wait longer than normal in order to travel to where they want to go.
- It is not uncommon for a flight to be canceled.
- Although flights are often free of charge, service members should contact the closest Air Mobility Command (AMC) passenger terminal or the terminal at the location they intend to depart from for specific information (most terminals have a Facebook page with flight information, including the 72-hour flight schedule).
Space-A Travel Eligibility
There are six “travel-status” categories of eligibility for flying in the Space-A program, listed in order of priority (I is highest and VI is lowest). They are:
Category I: Emergency Leave Unfunded Travel. This covers emergency situations only; it does not apply to leisure travel.
Category II: EML (Environmental and Morale Leave). Open to active-duty service members and their accompanied dependents.
Category III: Active-Duty Ordinary Leave. This category also includes those on Terminal Leave and their accompanied dependents; those on House Hunting Permissive TDY; Medal of Honor holders; and dependents of deployed service members as long as they are deployed for 365 consecutive days or more. Dependents will be selected behind active-duty members no matter when they signed up.
Category IV: Unaccompanied Dependents on EML or dependents whose sponsor is deployed between and including 30 to 364 days as well as Department of Defense Dependents Schools teachers on EML during the summer.
Category V: Unaccompanied command sponsored and non-command sponsored dependents of active duty, permissive temporary duty (non-house hunting) and students.
Category VI: Retired as well as their accompanied dependents; reserve; Reserve Officers’ Training Corps; Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate; Civil Engineer Corps; veterans with a permanent service-connected disability rated as total; surviving spouses of service members who died in active duty; inactive duty training or annual training status; and retired military members.
For detailed and up-to-date information on the Space-A program, go to the Air Mobility Command travel page. Among the information available is what type of identification is required for you and your family; the baggage allowance for checked and hand-carried baggage, and prohibited items.
About The Author
Tom Jackson focuses on writing about debt solutions for consumers struggling to make ends meet. His background includes time as a columnist for newspapers in Washington D.C., Tampa and Sacramento, Calif., where he reported and commented on everything from city and state budgets to the marketing of local businesses and how the business of professional sports impacts a city. Along the way, he has racked up state and national awards for writing, editing and design. Tom’s blogging on the 2016 election won a pair of top honors from the Florida Press Club. A University of Florida alumnus, St. Louis Cardinals fan and eager-if-haphazard golfer, Tom splits time between Tampa and Cashiers, N.C., with his wife of 40 years, college-age son, and Spencer, a yappy Shetland sheepdog.
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