American military families are expected to move around a great deal. With the great sacrifices already made by men and women in uniform, they deserve to be spared the additional stresses of frequent air travel. Taking a step in the right direction, many U.S. airlines have consistently lightened the load with benefits for American military families. While each airline has specific preconditions for qualifying, here are a few basic rules to consider if you plan to take advantage of these benefits.
You must qualify under at least one of nine categories:
- You are on active duty
- You are returning from overseas while on active duty
- You are traveling on official orders while on active duty
- You are on leave from active duty
- You are a reservist
- You have been recently discharged
- You are a veteran
- You are dependents of a service member traveling on orders
- You are dependents of a service member traveling without them
Also, make sure you and your family have valid ID at time of travel. Even after you have qualified for an airline’s military benefits you must always carry your military ID on the day of travel for verification at check-in. Your dependents will also need their IDs whether they’re traveling with or without you.
Faster security checks is a benefit offered by some airlines to members of the military and their families with Department of Defence IDs. Before travel, check with the airline that it participates with TSA PreCheck, which identifies you as an unlikely threat to national security. Simply enter your ID number on the TSA PreCheck at the airport and you will be able to bypass long security queues leaving more time for browsing duty-free.
Increased Luggage Allowance
Most airlines offer extra baggage allowances to traveling military families. While it varies from one airline to another, a general rule of thumb is that you may benefit from upwards of five free checked bags (each up from 70 upwards pounds and measuring less than 63 inches wide). Pets or sporting equipment are not included. As this benefit varies greatly between carriers, it is advisable to check your free baggage allowance before traveling.
Many credit card companies offer free lounge access to military personnel on active duty. Airport lounges offer comfortable seating, clean restrooms, WiFi, hot drinks, and snacks. Some may even offer hot meals, cold drinks, spa rooms, and a luxurious hot shower, making even the longest layover a little less painful. Present your valid military ID and boarding pass to access airport lounges around the world. However, this benefit is mostly limited to the military member only and not extended to family or guests. If in doubt, always check before travel.
Most U.S. carriers are sympathetic to changing leave periods or deployment dates. Provide your commanding officer’s name and contact details, and forward a letter on headed paper explaining the change and airlines will offer a full refund on your ticket. If your flight was booked on a reward scheme, airlines will also deposit the points back into your account with no fee or penalty.
It must be added that, despite military personnel and their families being frequent travelers, airlines rarely offer discounted fares for those in any category. The best offer maybe a discount of 2-5% based on spend and other restrictions such as availability may apply. Always check before booking. You may, however, find cheaper fares on online booking platforms.
Are you or a family member in the military? Are you taking advantage of all the benefits available to you when you fly?