Updated October 14, 2019
We honor and respect the men and women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. In appreciation for their service, airport security has become more accommodating and airlines are offering some added benefits to those in the military.
When military personnel are being deployed, it is a difficult transition for them and their families. In light of this, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allows family members to accompany those that are being deployed to the boarding gate. Family members can also greet members from the U.S. Armed Forces at the arrival gate when they are returning home from deployment.
To receive a gate pass, family members will need to contact the designated airline at the arrival/departure airport in advance. This will allow them to enter the secured area of the airport. They will have to go through the screening process at security checkpoints and follow the TSA guidelines to avoid any problems.
Screening of Military Personnel at Security Checkpoints:
TSA Pre√® Expedited Screening Program:
Members of the Armed Forces (Navy, Army, Coast Guard, Air Force, and the Marine Corps) are automatically enrolled in the TSA Pre√® expedited screening program at no cost. It is normally $85 for five years.
When making flight arrangements (for leisure or for official duty), use your 10-digit Department of Defense Identification Number for the Known Traveler Number (KTN). This information will print up on the boarding pass and will include the words TSA Pre√® (or TSA PreCheck), thus allowing you to go through expedited screening at airports offering TSA Pre√® lines. You can add your DoD ID (in the Known Traveler Number field) to your airline account so you don’t have to enter it again for future flights.
As a member of TSA Pre√®, your wait time in line will be reduced and you will be allowed to keep your shoes, belt, hat, and light jacket on as well as keep your laptop and 3-1-1 liquids in your carry-on bags. Accompanying family members ages 12 and under are also eligible for the expedited screening.
Go through Security Checkpoints with ease:
- Keep your boarding pass and ID available.
- According to TSA, you should remove your Class A uniform jacket and any metal items in pockets for X-ray screening.
- You are not required to remove your footwear unless it alarms the metal detector.
- Ensure your carry-on luggage does not contain any prohibited items.
- Pack all valuables and electronics in your carry-on luggage.
- Firearms, ammunition, and tools greater than 7 inches and sharp objects are not permitted in carry-on bags. Hammers, drills, saws, and crowbars are prohibited in your carry-on, regardless of their length.
Military Benefits Offered by the Airlines:
Several airlines offer added benefits for members of the U.S. Armed Forces and Veterans. Currently, these airlines include Hawaiian Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue, Alaska Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Allegiant Air, and Frontier Airlines.
Discount on Airfare
Some of these airlines offer a discount for military members and their families as well as veterans. The discount is typically 5% off the base fare. Compare the discounted rate with other airlines to make sure that is the best deal.
Use of Airport Lounge
Check to see if the airline will offer free use of their airport lounge. United offers this perk to active U.S. military personnel and their families traveling with them. You will need to present your military ID, gate pass, and possibly other travel documentation when entering the lounge.
Upgraded Seats or Discount on Food
American Airlines allows active U.S. military members to choose the best economy seats for free, while Alaska Airlines offers 15% off for food purchased during the flight.
Free Checked Baggage
Many of the airlines listed above will allow three to five checked bags for free.
Call the airline directly when booking your ticket to ensure you will receive the military benefits available.
- You may be ineligible to check in at a kiosk if you are traveling with a military fare.
- Some of the airlines will transport the pets (at a discounted rate) of active-duty U.S. military personnel and their spouses if they are being assigned overseas.
- When packing, keep your heavier equipment/personal items at the top of your checked baggage (i.e. helmets, boots, books, etc.). Place your clothing and smaller items in the bottom of the bag. This will help TSA screeners re-pack your bag neatly if a physical search is required.
- Sheath or securely wrap any sharp objects in your checked bags.
- Firearms, ammunition, and firearm parts may be transported in checked baggage and are not allowed in your carry-on bag. If you just returned from overseas duty or any assignment where you carried a gun or ammunition, be sure to check your belongings, especially your carry-on bag, to make sure there are no firearms, parts, or ammunition.
Wounded Warrior/Military Severely Injured Joint Support Operations Center Program:
Many wounded warriors are traveling to and from hospitals, military bases, or going home — or they may be a wounded veteran traveling the world. These remarkable soldiers and veterans have suffered greatly. They may have lost limbs, are in extreme pain, blinded, and more. The last thing they need is a hassle when going through airport security.
In light of this, TSA (noting that about 25% of their employees are veterans) offers additional assistance through airport security. Family or friends of a Wounded Warrior or disabled veteran can contact TSA Cares Helpline at (855) 787-2227.
According to TSA: “Wounded Warriors – TSA verifies the status of individuals identifying themselves as a wounded warrior through the appropriate military branch. Following verification, the travel information is provided to the departing/arriving U.S. airports where wounded warriors may experience expedited screening procedures.
Veterans – Injured service members/veterans requesting assistance will have their travel information and type of assistance required provided to the departing/arriving U.S. airports to ensure they receive proper assistance at the security checkpoint. Veterans who are not enrolled in TSA Pre✓® will be screened in standard screening lanes.”
Military Severely Injured Joint Support Operations Center was initiated to help severely injured veterans or servicemen and women through security screening at U.S. airports. This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Here’s how it works:
Once flight arrangements are made, the injured service member, a family member, or other representatives can contact the TSA Cares Helpline or the Operations Center with the itinerary. This needs to be done at least 24 (preferably 72) hours prior to travel.
The Operations Center will contact the Security Directors at the airports involved to ensure that the security screenings are made easier and done respectfully for the Wounded Warriors.
- Operations Center (24/7): Email MSIJSOC@dhs.gov with the itinerary (or call 888-262-2396)
- Call TSA Cares at 1-855-787-2227 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Eastern time) and weekends and holidays 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Eastern time)
- E-mail TSA-ContactCenter@dhs.gov
Here’s What Wounded Warriors Can Expect:
- Curb to Gate service – they can be picked up out front when they arrive at the airport and will be escorted through security checkpoints and taken to the gate.
- They will receive expedited service and not have to endure embarrassing screenings.
- They will not have to remove their shoes, jacket, or hat.
We send out a big thank you to our veterans and those in the U.S. Armed Forces. They put their lives on the line so that we can enjoy ours.
For more insightful travel ideas, check out my book:
Know Before You Go: Traveling the U.S. and Abroad