As a service member you’re probably well-used to spending exorbitant amounts of money on flights. After all, will your parents ever forgive you if you don’t use your leave for a flight home during Christmas?
While you can’t control holiday pricing, you are entitled to some benefits as a member of the military.
You’ve hopefully heard about the free TSA PreCheck you’ll get with a DoD ID card. And you may have also known about airport lounge access if you’re in uniform. While those are nice perks (seriously, skipping the security line can save you a lot of time), they don’t do much to lower the cost of the flight itself, especially when your dates are inflexible. Along with pricey tickets, you may also find yourself faced with hefty baggage fees and charges for flying with your pets.
Fortunately, plenty of airlines and online travel agencies will offer discounts to members of the military — and even veterans — so do yourself a favor and take advantage of these the next time you head home.
Who Qualifies for Military Discounts?
The military discounts you’re entitled to differ whether you’re active duty, in the reserves, or a veteran. Most airlines will offer a discount to active-duty personnel simply by calling, but veterans will have a harder time of it — in many cases, you’ll need to sign up for Veteran’s Advantage to receive flight discounts. We’ll take a look at the discounts each airline offers and how to take advantage of these perks, but first, let’s talk about Veteran’s Advantage.
Hot Tip: Our comprehensive Military & Veterans Travel Guide helps you get recognition for your service via discounts for airlines, hotels, rental car companies, cruises, theme parks, and more!
What Is Veteran’s Advantage?
If you miss flashing your CAC everywhere you go in order to score those sweet military discounts, you may want to consider signing up for Veteran’s Advantage and its VetRewards program. It’s not free, though the cost varies according to which plan you pick:
|Plan||30-Day Trial||Month-to-Month||Annual (12 Months)|
|Cost||$4.95 with an automatic upgrade to an annual plan after the trial ends||$9.99 per month||$59.99 per year + $4.95 processing fee|
In addition to its plethora of shopping and lifestyle discounts, VetRewards also offers discounts on tons of different airlines and hotels. Even better, VetRewards is available to more people than you’d think. If you’re active duty, a veteran, a retiree, or an immediate family member of a service member (active duty or veteran), you’re eligible for VetRewards. That’s huge!
Airlines Offering Military Discounts
Air Canada is, as you’d think, a Canadian airline. Because of its close proximity to the U.S., American service members still receive some perks.
Air Canada allows members of both the U.S. and Canadian military to check 3 bags up to 70 pounds each for free. This applies to active-duty and retired service members alike and doesn’t change whether you’re traveling on orders or for leisure travel.
Air France is a member of SkyTeam and operates flights around the world, including to the U.S., the Maldives, and more, which can make its perks highly valuable.
Air France’s baggage discount for military members varies based on your type of travel and cabin of service. If you’re on orders, you and your eligible family can check 5 bags up to 70 pounds each when traveling in economy. If you’re heading on vacation, you — and no one else — can still check 2 bags up to 50 pounds each free of charge.
Alaska Airlines is a West Coast-based airline and part of the Oneworld alliance. It’s based in the Pacific Northwest and operates flights all throughout North America.
Alaska offers special military fares to active-duty service members flying during leave, those who have been discharged from the armed forces within the last 7 days, and reservists who are currently activated and on active duty.
Dependents are also eligible to receive the discount; anyone 10 and up must have a dependent ID. Children 9 and under can travel without.
There is no specified discount amount, and the discount isn’t guaranteed on every flight. In order to get it, you’ll need to call Alaska to book your flight at 800-252-7522.
Alaska also offers a 5% flight discount to members of Veteran’s Advantage.
Alaska allows active-duty service members and their dependents to check up to 5 bags each for free. Active-duty service members can take advantage of this whenever they’re flying, while dependents must have valid travel orders in hand in order to qualify. Your bags can weigh up to 70 pounds each, though if you end up checking more than 5, you’ll need to pay a $100 fee per bag.
In case you (or your 2-year-old) get hungry during the flight, Alaska offers a 15% discount on all food purchased during a flight when you show your valid military ID. This will stack nicely with the 20% rebate offered by the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card, thereby making your airplane food (almost) affordable.
If you’re active duty and traveling on orders, you can get into the Alaska Lounge for free as long as you have your documentation with you.
If you’re getting stationed somewhere else, Alaska will give you a discount on shipping your pet via Alaska Air Cargo, though the discounted rate is not specified.
Allegiant is a low-cost airline that flies all throughout the U.S., including Hawaii. Known for charging additional fees for just about everything — including your carry-on — so military members will benefit by showing their ID cards when checking in. These discounts apply to active-duty and reserve service members as well as veterans.
Military members and their dependents traveling on the same reservation are eligible for a variety of baggage benefits, including 2 free checked bags up to 100 pounds, 1 carry-on item, and 1 personal item.
Excitingly, Allegiant will allow you to bring 1 pet in-cabin without charge.
Military members and their eligible dependents will also be able to print their boarding passes at the airport for free. Active-duty and reserve members can also skip change or cancellation fees when altering a flight due to a change in orders.
American Airlines is one of the “Big 3” airlines in the U.S. and its route network reflects that by featuring flights that span the globe.
American Airlines offers discounts on flights to both active-duty military and government members (such as DoD civilians). You’ll have to call 800-433-7300 in order to receive the discount.
AA also offers a 10% discount to veterans and their families who are registered with VetRewards.
Baggage is free for active-duty service members and their families. If you’re traveling on orders, you can get 5 bags, up to 100 pounds each, checked for free. If you’re simply traveling for leave you can still get 3 bags, up to 50 pounds each, instead.
Active-duty service members traveling in uniform on an American Airlines flight get free access to Admirals Club, AA’s network of airport lounges. These lounges offer free food and drinks as well as a respite from busy terminals.
The newest airline in the U.S., Breeze Airways launched in May 2021 and covers a series of underserved airports across the U.S.
As an active-duty service member, you’ll receive either 2 free checked bags or 1 checked bag and 1 carry-on. You’ll need to show your ID to airline officials at the airport.
Delta Air Lines
Another of the “Big 3” airlines, Delta is a member of SkyTeam, which includes airlines such as Air France and China Eastern. Delta has decently generous policies when it comes to military folks.
Active-duty service members are eligible to receive discounts on airfare, though Delta’s website doesn’t specify the amount. Along with reduced prices on standard airfare, you’re also able to get discounts on Delta Vacations packages, which generally include hotels and airfare, but can also include rental cars. In order to book a flight or vacation package, you’ll need to call Delta Reservations at 800-221-1212.
Delta offers active-duty military members free checked luggage; benefits vary depending on your reason for travel. If on orders, you can take 5 bags, up to 100 pounds each. If it’s leisure travel, you’re entitled to 2 bags of up to 50 pounds each when in economy or 3 bags of up to 70 pounds each in first class. Delta doesn’t specify if your dependents are also entitled to free checked bags.
Service members and their spouses (as well as Active U.S State Department Foreign Service Officers) are allowed to bring their pets as checked baggage on Delta flights when transferring duty stations. While this may be a common benefit for other airlines, Delta only extends this perk to the above-mentioned groups — and no one else. This saves you from having to ship your beloved pet as cargo. Unfortunately, it’s not free; prices range from $150 to $200 depending on your destination.
Delta offers family members of those injured in war to book and fly on a discounted military medical emergency flight. You can either book these online or by calling Delta’s reservation line.
Hot Tip: No matter who you’re flying with, you can always head into a USO lounge for some free food and (non-alcoholic) drinks.
Frontier Airlines is a low-cost carrier whose “unbundled” fares result in extremely cheap flights filled with all kinds of additional fees. Members of Frontier’s Discount Den can score reduced airfare, but Frontier doesn’t have any other published discounts on flights, including those for military members.
Frontier does offer waived baggage fees for those on active duty or in the reserves or National Guard. These include 1 free personal item, 1 free carry-on, and 2 free checked bags. These discounts are only valid for service members — not their companions.
JetBlue is a U.S. airline focused mainly on the East Coast, though it offers service throughout the U.S. and much of North America. It’s renowned for its Mint Suites that offer a lie-flat bed service on premium routes.
JetBlue offers all service members — past and present — a 5% discount on published airfares. If you’re on active duty, you and your immediate family can call 800-JETBLUE to book your ticket. Note that in order to be eligible for this discount you must not be traveling on orders.
Veterans enrolled in VetRewards from Veteran’s Advantage will also score a 5% discount. You’ll need to call the same number specified above. When calling, you simply identify yourself as a VetRewards member and give them your membership number in order to receive the discount.
JetBlue offers free checked bags for all service members, whether you’re on active duty or a veteran. When traveling on orders, active-duty military personnel and their dependents will receive 5 free checked bags. If traveling for leisure, you and your family will instead qualify for 2 free checked bags.
Veterans registered with VetRewards get 2 free checked bags, though JetBlue’s website doesn’t specify if this waiver includes immediate family members.
The 2nd European airline on the list, Lufthansa is a German airline and a member of Star Alliance. They’ve teamed up with Veteran’s Advantage to offer discounts to service members.
By using VetRewards, all military members (and their families) can get a 5% discount on Lufthansa flights, with some exceptions: your itinerary must originate in the U.S., you can have a maximum of 8 people on your reservation, and some web special fares may not be eligible for the discount.
As is evident from the name, Hawaiian Airlines is a Hawaii-based airline that services the continental U.S. as well as major destinations in Asia and the South Pacific. Veteran’s Advantage strikes again here with discounts exclusive to its VetRewards program.
Those enrolled in VetRewards will receive a 5% discount on most Hawaiian Airlines flights (with some exceptions).
You’ll also receive a free Pau Hana Cafe meal and Koloa Rum drink during each flight. As a reminder, active-duty service members are also eligible to enroll with Veteran’s Advantage, so don’t think that this discount is exclusive to veterans.
Hawaiian offers a military baggage allowance. Active-duty service members and their dependents on official travel can check 5 bags each. If you’re traveling for pleasure, you’re still entitled to 2 free checked bags, though your family won’t qualify. Hawaiian Airlines does not offer complimentary checked baggage to veterans.
Another low-cost carrier operating throughout North America, Spirit features extremely cheap airfare. As a result, they, unfortunately, don’t offer any flight discounts for either veterans or active-duty service members.
If you’re on active duty, Spirit’s military bag policy allows you to check 2 free bags and bring 1 free carry-on with you when traveling. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on orders or not. Unfortunately, family members don’t qualify for any additional benefits.
Excitingly, you can use ID.me online to verify your military status and claim your free checked bags before getting to the airport, which can save you some time in line.
Southwest is known for its generous flight policies, which include no change or cancellation fees and 2 free checked bags for every passenger. Its route network covers much of the U.S. and Central America, though it is always expanding.
While Southwest doesn’t publish its discounted rate for military members, you can call 800-435-9792 in order to receive special pricing.
Active-duty military passengers or those on permanent change of station orders are exempt from the 2-piece checked bag limit. So long as none of the bags weigh over 100 pounds or are more than 80 inches in size (L+W+H), they will not be subject to overweight, oversize, or excess bag fees.
United is the last of the “Big 3” and is a member of Star Alliance. You’ll find it flying all over the world with its premium Polaris class featuring hot fudge sundaes and take-home pajamas.
In order to be eligible for discounts, you’ll need to — surprise — sign up for Veteran’s Advantage. You’ll then be able to receive a 5% discount on most flights. There are a few stipulations: flights must originate in the U.S. or Canada, flights must travel to the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, or over the Atlantic, reservations must be 8 people or fewer, and certain web special fares may not qualify. This discount is only valid on United-marketed and United- or Lufthansa-operated flights.
United is more generous than its peers when it comes to baggage benefits. Regardless of how you’re traveling, you and your dependents will receive free checked baggage that can weigh up to 70 pounds. If you’re on official orders, you can bring 5 pieces for free; if you’re traveling for fun it’ll be 3 free bags.
Your dependents will receive the same baggage allowance as you if you’re traveling on the same reservation. Otherwise, they’ll receive 2 free checked bags as long as they’re traveling on official orders.
United’s lounge policy is the most generous you’ll find. As a service member, you’ll be invited into its United Club lounges whether you’re in uniform or traveling on leave. You’ll just simply need to show your papers. United’s lounges offer both free drinks and food — if your family is traveling with you on the same reservation they’re allowed to enter for free as well.
Although United has currently suspended its PetSafe pet shipping program due to COVID-19, it does offer special discounts to military members traveling on official orders.
When its program resumes, you can expect to enjoy discounted handling as well as easy check-in to save you time at the airport. These benefits don’t apply to leisure travel.
Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) Offering Military Discounts
So we’ve covered all the major airlines offering military discounts. These include every single U.S. airline (even if it’s just for baggage), as well as a single European airline. But if you’re not interested in booking directly with an airline, for whatever reason, and instead prefer to use an online travel agency (OTA), you can still be in luck.
OTAs are websites such as Expedia and Hotwire that will aggregate and display airfares to show you all of the different prices for the flights you’re looking for, no matter which airline. This can be helpful if you’re not loyal to any 1 airline or are particularly price-sensitive since if you’re booking via an OTA you’ll always be able to snag the lowest price.
Hot Tip: OTAs will only ever give you a discount on your actual reservation — not your baggage or airline lounge access. You are, however, still entitled to these. You’ll simply need to ask for them at the airport as you otherwise would; booking via an OTA does not change this benefit.
Expedia’s military discounts aren’t constant. You’ll see them from time to time, but the site doesn’t have any ongoing benefits. You’ll need to check its website occasionally to see if any offers pop up.
CheapTickets is a sister site to Expedia and offers the most generous military discount we’ve seen on travel. Once you’ve verified your info with Sheer ID — whether you’re on active duty or a veteran — you’ll receive a whopping 18% discount on your airfare purchase. That’s one way to get cheap military flights!
American Forces Travel
American Forces Travel is a website co-developed between the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) office and Priceline. It’s hosted by Priceline and in order to use it, you’ll need to verify your eligibility. As long as you are able to access MWR you’ll be able to get into the American Forces Travel site, which uses the info in your DEERS account for verification.
This website doesn’t specify its total discounts but does offer some really excellent deals when compared to public offerings.
Bottom Line: OTAs can be a good way to quickly find the cheapest flight for your travel dates. And with discounts of up to 18% off, it’s a no-brainer to apply your military benefits to all your airfare.
Look, there’s no reason you shouldn’t get your discounts. If you’re a military member, a veteran, or even a spouse, plenty of airlines are willing and able to give you discounts to thank you for your sacrifices. They aren’t always huge, but with benefits ranging from an 18% discount to free lounge entry, there’s no reason not to take advantage of these perks.