The holidays mean more travel to see family and friends, and, happily, many airlines like to show their gratitude to U.S. military personnel and their families by offering discounts of flights and baggage. Anyone working with a budget that every little bit of savings helps, so it’s worth your time to check with your preferred airline to see what they offer active duty members and their spouses and families.
With a little bit of legwork, you’ll be able to secure discounts that leave more funds for fun activities on your trip, or extra money left in your bank account. Here are five tips to find the best pricing on your next flight.
Start With the Big Names
Set aside some time several days in advance to work on your search for the best deals. A good place to start is websites for the best-known airlines; you may have to do some digging, but their FAQ pages often contain info on military discounts. In many instances, your best bet is to call the airline’s customer service or reservation lines to see what they will offer you. Many times, military discounts must be reserved over the phone (be sure to take your military ID with you when you go to the airport).
Below are some of the more recent listed discounts for military members. Keep in mind that discounts change frequently, so you should always check before booking, and compare to basic civilian discounts that might be more beneficial.
Alaska Air: Free checked bags for active duty and for dependents traveling on orders
Allegiant Airlines: Active duty get up to three checked bags free
American Airlines: Many available military discounts for various situations, including visiting wounded veterans and Honor Flights.
Delta Airlines: Contact the reservations department for military fares and discounts.
Frontier Airlines: Baggage fees are waived for active duty personnel
Hawaiian Airlines: Baggage fees waived; amount based on the type of travel
JetBlue: Special “MIL fare” pricing available for active duty and immediate family
Southwest Airlines: All baggage fees waived, and additional discounts available for active duty and dependents. Call 1-800-I-FLY-SWA as special rates cannot be booked online.
United Airlines: Offers a “Veterans Advantage” program with up to 5 percent discount on tickets purchased on its website.
US Airways: Special rates for military personnel and for discharged personnel within 7 days of discharge.
Virgin Atlantic: Discounted fairs for active, retired, MOD civil servants, and their dependents to worldwide destinations.
If you’ve already found a great civilian deal or a destination package, you can contact the airline directly to see if you receive additional discounts as an active duty member or dependent, even if the discount is as simple as free baggage check. Similarly, it doesn’t hurt to check with your airline when using your frequent flyer miles to see if a military discount can be combined with the use of the miles. As the saying goes, nothing ventured, nothing gained, and it doesn’t hurt to ask ahead of time. While you might not have to prove your service when purchasing your ticket, you most likely will have to when you arrive to the airport, so be sure you have your military ID with you.
Utilize Travel Agents or Military-Focused Organizations
If you are planning a larger trip with a more complicated itinerary, traveling with a large group, or traveling internationally to somewhere you’ve never been, you may consider hiring a travel agent. Many actually offer their services for free and get their payments from hotels and airlines they work with. Others have long-standing relationships with vendors and offer package deals on cruises and resorts. Some, like Sato Vacations, specialize in understanding military and government travel and have a robust online presence as well as contact numbers for in-person agents. Additionally, organizations like and Military Travel Services were founded specifically to serve military personnel and their families by securing discounts that are often 30- 60 percent lower than the prices you will find on other travel sites.
Fly Space A
If you have more flexibility on when you can travel, Space A is still a good money saving option. Known as “Space Available” or “military hops,” these flights allow active duty members, retirees, and their dependents to fly for free on DoD-owned or -controlled aircraft once all the space-required (duty) passengers and cargo have been accommodated. While this offers incredible discounts, changes in recent years have made it more challenging to find and access Space A flights. Post-9/11, mission schedules are no longer posted online as a national security safety precaution, and you can no longer sign up online for flights. Your best bet is to contact the base nearest your desired destination to check on upcoming Space A availability.
Compare with a Civilian Search
Today’s travel planning is made easier by the proliferation of online search tools that allow you to quickly and easily compare flight across multiple airlines. You may find especially good last-minute deals if you’re willing to take a chance and book at the last minute, or if you’re up for spur-of-the-moment trips. Other sites help you predict the cost of fares in the days to come, or find the best prices for international travel. Some airlines will even refund you the difference – usually in the form of travel credits or vouchers – if their fares at the time of departure fall below what you paid for your ticket, and some online tools track the prices and alert you if they fall beneath what you paid. The finance publication Kiplinger recently published a list of the best websites to save you money when planning a trip. Remember to take the extra step and contact the airline to see if you can add on any additional military discounts they might offer, even if it’s just a discount on checking your baggage. Every little saving can add up to a more affordable trip.
Written By Megan Hammons