Arlington National Cemetery
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

Should Travel Benefits For Military Personnel Be Improved?

Do the travel benefits already offered by some airlines need to be improved?

Should travel benefits for military personnel be improved? The secretary of the Department of Transportation of the United States believes so, as he sent a letter to the chief executive officers of the ten largest airlines that are based in the United States in order to urge them to improve travel benefits that are provided to members of the military who are currently on active duty and their families.

Should Travel Benefits For Military Personnel Be Improved?

Flags Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

The complete text of the aforementioned letter from Pete Buttigieg is as follows:

America has the greatest military in the world, thanks to the unwavering commitment of service members who protect this country and the family members who support them. As we approach the 25th anniversary of National Military Appreciation Month, I urge U.S. airlines to improve military travel benefits to honor, recognize, and support service members and their families who sacrifice so much for our freedom.

The Department appreciates that carriers currently provide active-duty service members and their families various military travel benefits. However, these benefits are not consistently detailed in carriers’ public-facing Customer Service Plans, resulting in many service members being unaware of them. Also, airlines’ travel benefits often do not fully address the needs of service members who may need to cancel or change personal travel plans due to military directives.

To encourage improvements in military travel benefits offered by airlines and ensure that service members have easy access to this information, the U.S. Department of Transportation is creating a ‘Support Our Troops’ dashboard that provides service members and their families with easy-to-read, comparative information on the travel benefits that each of the large U.S. marketing carriers will guarantee for service members and their families.

The dashboard will be displayed on the Department’s Aviation Consumer Protection website in May 2024. It will be based on commitments that airlines have made to service members and their families in their Customer Service Plans, such as a full refund to service members and their families who cancel travel plans due to military directives and allowances for free baggage. The Department also intends to provide direct links to airlines’ Customer Service Plans from its website.

As someone who often flew on military orders as an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, I know how important airline benefits and services can be for members of the military and their families. I look forward to working together to ensure that service members and their families have clear and reliable information about the special travel offers and benefits that they deserve, reflecting our gratitude for their service and sacrifice. I have sent similar letters to the other nine largest U.S. marketing carriers.


Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg is not completely clear on exactly all of the benefits he believes should be improved for members of the military who currently serve the United States — nor does he seem to be advocating for special treatment versus improved travel benefits…

Baggage luggage
Photograph ©2022 by Brian Cohen.

…but some members of the military do not want special treatment when they travel. They humbly want to be treated just like their fellow passengers. Some of them have even posted these thoughts in the Comments section of this article pertaining to whether the men and women who proudly serve the United States should receive special treatment whenever they travel. An example of one of those comments is as follows:

As a military friend of Brian and someone with 32 years of service and counting, I would like to add my own non-emotional thoughts. Every military member is taught to be humble and treats everyone with the utmost respect. The reason they shave our heads in Basic is to show us that we are nothing until we earn respect by deeds. As much as the protesters talk about the 1% as the rich guys on Wall Street, we, the military, are the true 1% since only 1% of Americans now serve in uniform to defend the rights of every American. If I die in service to my country, I gladly give my life to know that I have achieved a cause worth dying for – freedom. If you do not spend a lot of time in other countries, you probably don’t appreciate what you have in America or other western countries (yes Australia and NZ included).

I know some Service Members get tired of it, but I am glad whenever a citizen say thank you for your service. Should we be saying that to every cop, fireman, or Peace Corps volunteer, absolutely! The military just stands out because we sometimes wear our uniforms in the airport (typically not be choice). Do I need an upgrade, of course not. But if it makes the giver feel they have given back to the 1% who serve, then that is what makes America great. When we forget the sacrifice of others, then we have fallen as a country.

Final Boarding Call

Arlington National Cemetery
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

I respect the men and women who are members of the military and are willing to sacrifice their lives to uphold the Constitution of the United States and protect the freedoms and rights which citizens of the United States currently enjoy, as those freedoms and rights can easily disappear if not defended — but I am not sure that improving travel benefits for them is a productive way to appreciate their service.

Many airlines already do offer benefits to personnel in the military — such as priority boarding aboard airplanes — but Buttigieg wants these benefits to be more consistent across the ten major airlines.

Should some of the improved benefits for which Buttigieg is advocating for currently active members of the armed forces of the United States — such as allowances for free baggage and full refunds in certain situations — be extended to all passengers?

All photographs ©2016 and ©2022 by Brian Cohen.

  1. All civil servants serve their country. Many of them need to travel. Few get special treatment.

    In fact, deadliest catch fisherman risk their lives everyday to get you food. And yet they receive zero special treatment when flying.

  2. I am opposed to special privileges to service members. They should not board first. Some of them start to feel entitled, looking for free stuff not only with airlines but other instances. I sympathize with them for wanting cheap merchandise due to the pay not being too good, though.

    Priority boarding should happen during times of war. During wartime, I support perks for service members.

    During peacetime, one perk might be that travel can be changed to refunded if there are changes in active duty assignments related to changes in station. But if they book a vacation to Orlando and change their mind, tough luck. If the book a vacation to Orlando and they suddenly get called to Oman or Korea, that’s different.

  3. All this is nice but maybe he needs to send the letter to the military where they have agreements with these airlines and they are the ones that pay for certain classes of service. In addition, the Department of Transportation doesn’t even have good flying OR TSA treatment for air traffic controls or others that already have clearance.

  4. Gee whiz. A simple request by the Sec’y of Transportstion has already engendered some arcane and not well thoughout responses.

    The active duty military personnel traveling on orders deserves perks. Any one that thinks a “park ranger”, whose greatest danger may be confronting park visitors or wild animals is not in the category of a person on a war environment.

    Personnel in the lower pay grades E1/E6 or O1/04 are financially stressed when deployed/change of duty station singularly or with family by commercial air.

    Boo to the parsimonious people not willing to maintain or extend “perks” for active duty military personnel.

  5. No. Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen serve the government we don’t support, not us. They blindly follow orders for generous benefits and in no way help us. The pay itself is not great but when they add on signing bonuses, hazard pay, and other allowances they do well for themselves. The military is basically a welfare pipeline. They get tuition paid and those who stay in get pensions.

    Given that they serve a corrupted and evil government that limits freedom, they should sit at the back of the plane and board last. These don’t deserve any praise.

  6. This makes me wonder, do military members of other countries get similar perks that they get in the US?

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