Most major airlines are happy to offer special military rates for tickets, but these are not always the best deal available. Compare special military fares with other discounted offers to see which option will save you the most money.
Airlines Offering Discounts
Airlines do not generally advertise their military rates, but instead provide special discounted prices to military members who call and ask. Expect to have to pick up the phone instead of booking online. These discounted rates are typically available for dependents as well, and sometimes for retirees. Consult with the airline to find out if you are eligible for special military ticket rates.
Keep in mind that while you will probably not have to prove your military status when purchasing the ticket (unless doing so in person), it is likely you will have to show your military ID at check-in. Using special military fares may exclude you from automated check-in at a kiosk or online because of this ID requirement.
Southwest offers special discounted rates for military personnel and their immediate family members. These special rates cannot be booked online. Call Southwest directly to book your flight and ask for the military discounted rate: 1-800-I-FLY-SWA.
American Airlines sometimes provides discounted flights to military members, but this is not an ongoing program like it is with Southwest. Military fares are not available on the American Airlines website. To find out if any military fares are available, contact AA directly: 1-800-433-7300.
United Airlines offers a flat 5 percent discount to all military personnel and their families, but they must first join Mileage Plus (United's free frequent flyer program) and then register for Veteran's Advantage, which is a fee-based discount program. Reduced fares are occasionally offered outside of this program. Contact United Airlines to inquire about Veteran's Advantage or any additional discounts available, but note that booking a ticket over the phone with United incurs an additional $25 fee: 1-800-864-8331.
US Airways provides military leave fares to military members and their families who are on leave status. Members recently discharged from active duty (within seven days) are eligible for these special rates as long as they can provide copies of their separation paperwork. Book this reduced rate by calling US Airways: 1-800-428-4322.
Jet Blue offers some discounts for airline travel to military members including reduced fare, reduced fees and baggage fee waivers. To find out what discounts are currently available, contact Jet Blue directly and ask about their Military Leisure Travel fares: 1-800-JETBLUE.
Delta offers a military discount, but does not offer it for online bookings. Call Delta directly and ask about reduced rates for tickets for military members: 1-800-221-1212.
Other airlines may occasionally offer special military fares, particularly around patriotic holidays like Veteran's Day, Memorial Day and the 4th of July. When buying airline tickets regardless of the airline, keep the following in mind.
- Even if an airline does not advertise a military discount, ask about one when booking. Don't assume there isn't a discount just because you don't find one online.
- There may be other opportunities for you to save even if you don't receive a fare discount. For example, according to the Aviation Blog on DallasNewsc.om, several airlines offer free baggage checks for active duty military members with ID.
Travel agents are well-versed in finding discounts, so if your plan is to book your travel through an agent be sure to mention your active duty status and ask for additional savings. Another option is to choose a travel agent who works exclusively with military personnel and their families. A few examples include:
- Army MWR is the official Morale, Welfare Recreation agency for the Army.
- Armed Forces Vacation Club is a travel agency solely catering to military members and their families.
- Coast Guard MWR is the official Morale, Well-Being, and Recreation agency for the Coast Guard.
- MWR Exchange Vacations is the AAFES/NEX-based travel agency, offering travel and vacation packages to people eligible to utilize the military exchange.
Additionally, if your military installation offers a Tickets & Tours office, check in to see what travel discounts they can find for you.
You do not have to utilize a travel agency that specializes in military travel in order to get discounts, so be sure to check with a few other sources before deciding on one. See ASTA.org to find travel agents who are members of the American Society of Travel Agents.
Available to military members, their families and retirees, Space-Available travel (most often referred to as "Space-A") features seats on flights that are already heading to a specific destination for an official reason, yet is not yet filled to capacity. For example, Air Combat Command frequently flies from Andrews AFB, MD into Travis AFB, CA. If you need to travel from the East Coast to the West Coast, you may be able to get on this flight and only have to pay a federal inspection fee, if applicable.
Meals are sold on some of these flights and there are many regulations regarding Space-A travel, but if you can figure out the ins and outs of Space-A you can fly all over the world without purchasing an airline ticket. Air Mobility Command offers great tips for Space-A travel on the AMC website.
If you travel results from an emergency - such as rushing home in order to see a dying relative or to attend a funeral - there may be solutions available to help you pay for your airline tickets.
Military Aid Societies
Each branch of the military works alongside the Red Cross in order to assist military members who must travel on emergency leave. The aid society on your military installation may be able to partially cover the costs of your airline ticket, pay it in full, or provide an interest-free loan so you can purchase your ticket.
Contact the relief organization specific to your branch of service:
- Army Emergency Relief
- Air Force Aid Society
- Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society
- Coast Guard Mutual Assistance
Traveling from Overseas
If your emergency occurs while you are either deployed or stationed at a remote location, the military has regulations in place to cover the cost of your airline travel back to CONUS. DoD Regulation 4515.13-R states that if no Space-A travel to CONUS for emergency leave is available, the service member's unit is responsible for the cost of the airline ticket. This only covers the cost of getting you back to CONUS; whether your unit covers the entire cost of getting you all the way to your final destination depends on funds availability and your commanding officer's preference.
Check your branch-specific regulations for clarification on this directive.
Military members who ask for discounts may also find that they receive upgrades, waived fees and more. While these are relatively small perks for all the sacrifices military members make for their country, these perks can make air travel much more affordable and enjoyable.