Military Airfare / Discounts for Leisure Travel

Taking advantage of miles and points are great but the occasional military traveler might not have that many miles to work with.  Thats whats great about military discounts on airfare; any military can take advantage regardless of how much you fly.  While I was stationed in Florida, I always made sure to call and check for available military fares with Southwest.  It was hit or miss but when it worked out, I saved hundreds while if it was a miss, it only cost 10 minutes of my time.

Southwest Military Fares

Southwest allocates unspecified number of military rate tickets for some of their flights and not necessarily a set military discount.  In my experience, the military fares tend to be comparable to their “Wanna Get Away” fares.  Sometimes its cheaper and sometimes not.  The sweet spot of really benefiting from this program is when “Wanna Get Away” fare are sold out, and they have military fare still available.  When you’re about to purchase Southwest tickets, take 10 minutes and give Southwest a call @ 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (1-800-435-9792).  Keep in mind of some key points:

  • The program is for active duty military AND their dependents all the way up to 7 days after their discharge date
  • Dependents can use the program even when not flying with the military member
  • Military and dependents will need military/dependent IDs or discharge papers when checking in
  • Military fares won’t be available for every flight and might not be cheaper than their Wanna Get Away fare so check online fares before calling

Delta Military Fares and Vacation Package Discounts

Delta has a similar airfare program to Southwest but not as lucrative.  Some key differences are:

  • They have discount fares for active duty and veterans
  • Dependents are eligible but only if traveling with the military member
  • Full details on their Military Benefits website

Just like Southwest, you will have to call Delta to reserve the military rates.

Delta Military and Government Desk
Hours: M-F 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Phone: 800.325.1771

Military discount for Delta Vacations: Easy to understand, transparent discount and no requirement to talk to a representative!

Much easier to use and a lot more transparent is Delta’s Military discount for their vacation packages.  You will need a military e-mail to sign up, in which Delta will send you a promotion code.  Once you get the code, apply it to the promotion entry when searching on Delta Vacations.  You can get $50-$300 discount based on the vacation package and an additional 500 Delta SkyMiles per person; all without having to talk to someone on the phone.  You won’t see the discount calculated until you’ve selected the flights.  I’ve vetted their vacation packages prices to multiple destinations with Expedia and they had comparable prices.  Expedia and other mass search sites have an advantage since they have the freedom to select the cheapest flights, regardless of the airline while Delta vacations is going to limit itself to Delta flights.  The sweetspot for taking advantage of this program is to a destination where Delta is the cheapest flights.

Discounts through Military Advantage – United and JetBlue Military Discount

United and JetBlue advertise that they provide a 5% discount to military & veterans through Veterans Advantage program.

United 5% discount details:

  • Up to 5% discount on tickets for United and United Express®-operated flights purchased on United.com.
  • Flights must originate and be ticketed in the U.S. or Canada to be eligible and are valid for travel to all 50 states, Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.
  • Your discount will automatically be applied to qualifying base fares including First Class, Business, and all Economy classes except Basic Economy.
  • No limit on the number of tickets that may purchased each year with no blackout dates.

JetBlue 5% discount details:

  • Save 5% on all JetBlue fares, including MINT reservations, when you book with JetBllue toll-free phone.
  • You can check two free bags on all flights, a $60 savings per flight/$120 round trip.
  • There are no restrictions on the number of JetBlue tickets you can save on annually or blackout dates, so you can get your deal over holidays.

Seems like a decent program but I don’t consider it a true military discount for 2 reasons:

  1. Anyone can technically sign up for a Veterans Advantage membership and take advantage of the discount and
  2. You have to pay their membership fee to take advantage of the discount

I consider this a membership discount through group purchasing power, similar to how Costco or Groupon can offer membership discounts negotiated with companies with mass purchasing leverage.  It doesn’t mean its not worth it.  Currently Veterans Advantage offers a 30 free trial, $9.99 month to month, or a $4.95 per month fee if you pay for an entire year in advance.  Based on your travel patterns, this membership may make sense.

Have anyone else taken advantage of any of these programs?  How easy was it to book through this program?