Should Military Personnel Airline Passengers Receive Special Treatment?

FlyerTalk members based in the United States have long discussed and debated about passengers who are military personnel receiving special treatment and benefits when traveling on domestic airlines — such as a complimentary upgrade to a seat in the premium class cabin or priority boarding — leading to the question of whether or not they should receive these perks simply because they are military personnel.

Should Military Personnel Airline Passengers Receive Special Treatment?

Some FlyerTalk members believe that because military personnel sacrifice their lives defending their country while deployed in some war-torn area for months at a time away from their families in spartan conditions, they should be thanked by civilians and airline employees with gestures of appreciation — such as relinquishing their seats to military personnel when upgraded whether during the holidays or other times of the year, for example.

Other FlyerTalk members, however, believe that life in the military is a chosen profession paid by collecting taxes from civilians and companies such as airlines where the risks and living conditions are known. They argue further as to why military personnel should warrant special treatment when people in professions where they risk their lives — such as police officers and firefighters — do not. The argument has even been extended to include passengers whose professions are in fields where lives are saved every day, such as doctors and nurses.

Still other FlyerTalk members argue that when a person actively serving in the military is given an upgrade by a fellow passenger, their own upgrades have supposedly been taken away from them. This, of course, leads to a separate argument as to whether or not passengers have the right to give away their upgrades once awarded to them — but that is an issue for another time.

Military personnel have been recognized in numerous ways aboard aircraft. They have not been charged for beverages, where passengers applauded after hearing an announcement to that effect. They have enjoyed priority boarding — in some cases, even before passengers seated in the premium class cabin.

There are cases where military personnel pay special airfares when they book their flights in appreciation for their service.

You might have noticed that some of the links in this article are for discussions on FlyerTalk which have been closed and locked. The reason is because the debate pertaining to perks and benefits for military personnel can be rather contentious…

…but I noticed something else in my research for this article: most of the discussions regarding the debate over perks and benefits for military personnel are primarily in the forums on FlyerTalk dedicated to domestic airlines in the United States.

Why is that the case?

Could the reason be the patriotism many Americans feel with regard to everything that has to do with the United States? Is there something about saluting a red, white and blue flag with stars and stripes as opposed to saluting flags with a red maple leaf, three colored bars or a red circle?

I am proud to be an American, but I do not adorn my car with American flags or attend Independence Day parades. That is simply my choice, which does not mean I like or appreciate the United States any less than those who do those things — nor do I disparage them in any way. That is part of the beauty of living in the United States: the supposed freedom to celebrate or commemorate any holiday or milestone of significance any way that you choose.

All right — for those of you who bring up airport security checkpoints and the Transportation Security Administration, the “loss of freedom” and “security theater” arguments and debates are for a different discussion on a different day.


So, as I asked before: is the passionate debate about perks and benefits for military personnel rooted in patriotism? A love for a country which is arguably one of the best in which to live? A pride which swells to the point of being perceived as pompous, perhaps? Is it about showing an appreciation and respect for a special group of people who sacrifice themselves to protect the freedoms and the ways of life in the United States? Is the debate steeped in politics?

What about military personnel themselves — should they accept the gift of a free upgrade, whether by a fellow passenger or a flight attendant? Are they violating any rules or breaching any ethics or morals when they do so?

Why is it that you do not see people based outside of the United States embroiled in a debate over whether or not military personnel should be given an upgraded seat in the premium class cabin aboard an airplane simply because they are in the armed forces?

I am not sure of the answers to these questions — nor have I taken any sides in this debate. Believe me when I say I am definitely not passionate either way about this issue, despite the contrary for many FlyerTalk members based in the United States. However, I do want to hear your thoughts.

  1. My personal treatment of active duty military people has nothing to do with patriotism. Rather , it is rooted in the 30 years I spent on active duty and recognition of the issues they deal with as a result of their service. That’s my choice to treat them as I do. Others may treat them differently as a result of their particular service or lack thereof. No skin off my nose. IMO, some posters try to overanalyze issue like this. If someone wants to spread rose petals along the path of some jarheads. That is fine with me. If someone wants to try and embarrass military folks for whatever reason, we’ll discuss that.

  2. The reason I make an effort to give these men and women special consideration, and would expect those I do business with to do so also, is because I was in the service and reasons already expressed already. However, I have one to add. The pay that many of these fine people receive is NOT that much, especially considering the sacrifices they make. Now the extent to which they deserve special consideration is a different matter. But getting servicemen to their family on usually very limited leave time, perhaps during a busy holiday season is giving a lot to someone that has very little time for their family or money to get on such flights often-times.
    Maybe people who think these folks get paid for risks they decided to take don’t really understand the level of either in this case? I would have to assume so, because the alternative is that its mere rationalization and not all that admirable.

  3. Yes, they should.
    it’s a shame that one is old enough to lose limbs while serving , but not old enough to have a beer…

  4. My only experience of this was traveling to Vegas with a friend who’s in the Army, and boy did it get awkward when they hauled him almost forcibly to first class and left me back in cattle class. Maybe it’s because I’m a New Yorker and was here in 2001, but once the awkwardness of the moment passed, I thought it was pretty smart of the airlines to essentially position soldiers at the front of the plane. Anyway, I wasn’t too annoyed because he got free checked luggage…I may have benefited from that.

  5. Coming back from Cam Rahn Bay to Sea Tac in 1967 I wanted to crawl under a rock – especially on the trip from SeaTac to SFO.
    In 2005 I was in Shannon when a flight of young soldiers stopped on there way to Iraq.
    Half of them were trying to call home without success – we gave them our cell phones.
    Times change – and yes we should go out of our way to honor them

  6. not every soldier is on the front lines defending our country with heavy weaponry…. Regardless, if you make exceptions for soldiers, then do so for doctors and nurses, cops and firemen, border patrol, DEA….

  7. I am all for the airlines’ decision to give special treatment and discounts to millitary servicemen and women. As long as they are not taking F seats away from passengers etitled to upgrades through elite status or from those using upgrade instruments, I do not see how this adversely affects anyone else. They certainly deserve the recognition.

  8. I never heard of this in Australia. But then again we have a small military force.
    Yes discounted tickets for economy and business class would be fine.
    But i know Australian soilders get paid well starting around 45-50k aud per year no tax.
    And very good military pension so i feel they are already well compensated.
    And i lost a very close class mate who was serving in afghanistan in 2011.
    One of those green on blue attacks.

  9. During the war in Iraq, especially in the few years after 9/11, I was all for giving members of the military a few extra perks as a way to say thank you & good luck. But today, in 2013 its no longer necessary. The Iraq war is over, yes, we are still in Afghanistan but the US military will ALWAYS be somewhere. The Iraq war came as more of a surprise, people were angry, in short it was a different time then it is now. As far as I’m concerned there is no longer a reason to give special boarding, upgrades, etc to military. If someone wants to give his own upgrade away, they should have that right but the military today is slowly moving back to the military of pre 9/11 – just a job

  10. I think it is just good PR by the airlines, plain and simple, then the airlines can point out the good they are doing for one specific group. Doesn’t really cost the airlines anything to do this.

  11. I have no problems with military getting upgraded by the airlines IF it is to a seat that would go out empty anyway or if a passenger that is already upgraded choses to give up their seat and sit in the back. I do have an issue with the GA upgrading military members before passengers on the upgrade list.
    If someone is on military orders, why isn’t the government paying the bag fees instead of making the airlines give special allowances????? If people are traveling for work and need to check bags their employer should pay it. In the case of the military the US government should be paying these bag fees.
    I am very appreciative of the military. But there are many other people who put their lives on the line at work everyday as well. Policemen, firemen, FBI agents, and now sadly teachers and other school employees

  12. I think that priority boarding with the higher tiers of elite status (1K, not GS, for example) is fair. I also think that free drinks/meals is fine. These come either from the airlines themselves, or don’t adversely affect premium flyers.
    I am not sure why they have a special boarding tier. It slows down all boarding while the ground crew announces the perk and waits for no one to step up. and no one is hurt with a premium boarding with the higher statussed flyers.
    not sure why upgraded seats are needed. If a premium flyer wants to give up their upgrade to active military personnel, it should be theirs to give. But bumping a premium flyer from an available premium seat shouldn’t be the norm.
    that said, I support the military and understand that all of us owe them more than the meager pay they receive.

  13. I think there are two principal reasons for why you see this in the US and not elsewhere:
    1. Size: The US has a large military compared to its Western allies, therefore far more people feel a connection to the military (through friends and family) and there are enough military personnel traveling to make the gesture real.
    2. Visibility: In the UK until the early 2000s it was against regulations for military personnel to travel off base in uniform and even today it is still frowned upon. It’s extremely unlikely that a regular soldier would find himself traveling by scheduled aircraft in uniform and therefore again makes the perk less valuable for the airlines.
    I think the third factor is that most other countries have small domestic route networks (which military personnel would rarely take) and if the military personnel are traveling internationally they’ll most likely be going on holiday with friends and family.
    I think there is also a divide between the very open congratulatory nature of the US (and especially US politics) vs. the more reserved nature of Europe (and the UK in particular). We all know which ever country we come from is the greatest in the world, so we don’t feel the need to tell people about it 😉

  14. I bet my miles that the individual people giving up their seats to military personnel are the same that ‘pay it forward’ to others.
    Should there be a policy? No. To have one set devalues the gesture.
    The best is one that’s done anonymously, and IMHO, the most American way one can get.

  15. I do not mind getting bumped down the upgrade list for military personnel on occasion, and will not lose sleep if I miss out on one upgrade in my lifetime. Let them enjoy the perk once in a while. “I support the troops, but don’t you dare let them touch my Q fare upgrade” sounds a bit comically ironic to me.

  16. We are such a hypocritical country! We LOVE and SALUTE the military and that’s great, but OH NO, they can’t handle one beer until they are 21. Simply ridiculous! Give our military men and women the right to drink at 18!

  17. US solider in Vietnam War:
    Significant chance of being killed
    Treated like murderers when they get home
    US solider in Iraq War:
    Volunteers in return for large financial compensations
    Slight chance of being killed
    Gets special treatments on airplanes
    Yeah that makes perfect sense!?!

  18. spkg – the young women who spit on you and screamed baby burner are now proud grandmothers of our troops meeting them at the airport. Hypocrisy at its best. I have no problem with the volunteer troops just the nasty people from the 70’s that tried to blame the troops for the war.
    As far as equality for women – I never saw any women in the 70’s demanding to be sent to Nam against their will. If they were part of the draft, my number would have been diluted by 50%.
    Rich old men send.poor young men to fight their wars… And why are we still in Germany, haven’t they found Hitler yet?

  19. As a non-U.S. citizen who sometimes has to use U.S. airlines for U.S.-domestic flights, I am frequently appaled at the level of gratuitous displays of overt patriotism bordering on crass jingoism demonstrated by supposedly private, commercial airlines. They can board before everyone else, not pay for drinks. get upgraded etc. etc.
    Now, before anyone reminds me: I know that being upgraded from economy to first in a domestic U.S. airline is not really a big deal: it is roughly equivalent to being ‘upgraded’ from travelling in the baggage hold to travelling to a regular economy seat in many international Asian or hub airlines.
    Still, it grates me that soldiers, whose job in essence is to kill anyone against interests of the U.S. state, are given preference to nurses/doctors/firefighters etc., whose job is to save human lives, regardless of their race, identity or beliefs.
    Army personnel are paid professionals in service to the government, just like any other public servant in the U.S. They volunteer for the job they do, and they get paid for it, just like any other public servant in the U.S.
    Airlines’ preferential treatment towards them makes them look even more like instruments in the service of specific government interests, rather than the interests of their customers and shareholders – and sets a horrible example of what kind of public service is appreciated: a soldier who kills other people’s sons are more valuable than the teacher who teaches your son.

  20. America is a violent nation and we idolize our warriors. Many citizens confer their esteem through simple gestures in token appreciation and smugly embrace the groupthink gratitude thought to be their properly patriotic civic duty.
    Some citizens view the military as the living embodiment of failed diplomacy, escalated aggression and the awesomely awful expression of brutal American violence. And it saddens these citizens to standby as others idolize and reward these warrior representatives.
    I’m just a sad citizen.

  21. wow, it’s nice to read these opinions as i type this from my third world living conditions in Afghanistan..Yes working for the military/Gov is chosen but don’t you dare compare it to being a cop or firefighter.. Those people don’t deploy to countries for months @ a time, have to live and do things that i can’t even mention just to stay alive..The nerve of some to complain that we shouldn’t have our baggage fees waived or after being away from our love ones for as i type this 123 days get an upgrade as a thank you when we are traveling to see said love ones
    To those who support I thank you

  22. I don’t even want to get into the debate of whether soldiers are good or bad guys. Simple fact: As a regular paying passenger I am subsidising the preferential treatment of a certain group of passengers, in this case soldiers. That’s unfair.

  23. People’s anger is misplaced. Soldiers don’t start wars. Politicians do.
    I know a few people in the military and, unlike politicians, they are honest and decent guys.

  24. I am against the military-industrial complex. So I am also against companies that further pro-war goals, either directly by supporting war mongering politicians, or indirectly by giving preferential treatment to soldiers. I will not thank a soldier for putting themselves in harsh conditions. I pray instead for their safe and speedy return, and retirement from the military.

  25. Soldiers, airmen and seamen are brave people who put their lives on the line for our respective countries, but they have chosen to enter their careers knowing that they are expected to serve in war zones. In the UK soldiers are paid a basic salary plus a bonus while they are deployed (I am assuming the same model is used in the US) so they are already receiving an additional mark of appreciation from the tax payer.
    As a non-US citizen I find the practice of automatically upgrading US military, past or present, discomfiting. It is not necessarily the preferential treatment over everyone else (yes, including doctors, nurses, firemen, etc.) but rather the open parading of that person in front of all of the other passengers. The airline could just as easily quietly upgrade them when they check in but instead they hold this mini-ceremony at the gate in which everyone is expected to participate. Those who don’t join in the ceremony are silently judged by those who do (this has happened to me), as if membership of society requires one to laud the military.
    I have no problem with passengers giving up their upgrades to military personnel off their own back. That is an individual choice (emphasis on the word “choice” there) that someone has chosen to make by the gifting of something that is, arguably, theirs. Just please don’t make everyone else participate.

  26. Have you ever read the CONSTITUTION?
    We have an AMENDMENT that says the Military can’t march into your home and demand to be “quartered.”
    While it certainly would be nice if private business offered the best possible deal and terms to our military, they should be under no obligation to do so.
    We don’t want to live in a military dictatorship, where the military can push citizens around. This is a BASIC PRINCIPLE of our GOVERNMENT that’s codified in our CONSTITUTION.
    Anyone who thinks the Military should be able to take goods and services from private individuals or businesses HATES what AMERICA is all about.

  27. Airlines have the right upgrade military personnel and should do so when space is available. These seats should not fly empty. Moreover, our troops desverve a little comfort before heading into a long deployment away from home.
    If someone can’t stand how we support our troops, then they can choose to fly foreign carriers and not visit the US.

  28. I am happy to offer those soldiers a little consideration, and have picked up their checks in restaurants without them knowing. But, then again, I am a Vietnam veteran and I think that anyone who volunteers in defense of our country deserves more than the lousy pay and constant deployments that these young men and women have been handed. Oh, and Gypsy and Unweird, take a flying leap. God bless America and the brave men and women who defend it.

  29. There is a distressing dichotomy between how we claim to feel about our Armed Forces and how we actually treat them.
    It’s really easy to say “salute the troops,” bump them in first class or cajole people into standing or applauding for them. But we then pay them absolute pittances, send them into battle with insufficient equipment, deploy them in futile wars and send them home with serious mental and physical issues that they are unprepared to deal with.
    These jingoistic flourishes really bother me because they are so futile and basically just a sop to ones conscience. How about a little less red white and blue and a little more basic support for members of the military?

  30. I’ve had a think about this a little more. As I said above, I dislike the little ceremony at the gate when upgrading or early-boarding military personnel and I didn’t understand why they couldn’t do this quietly at check-in. I’ve think I’ve worked it out and I don’t like the conclusion I have come to. The airlines give preferential treatment to these people in a very public way simply so that they can show everyone that they are doing it. Put simply, they are utilising the bravery of military personnel for their own promotional purposes. When I figured this out it left a really bad taste in my mouth.

  31. I am with Roberino here.
    Why should a newly-minted soldier, sailor or airman barely out of boot camp get special treatment? Why should somebody in uniform who has only served in a comfortable rear echelon overseas or has never served overseas get preferential treatment? What about all the wounded veterans of foreign wars who do not get any special treatment?
    UA and those other airlines who do this are really doing it for their own selfish purposes. This is one of the reasons I avoid UA where possible.

  32. Out of interest, do the military personnel have to be serving specifically in the US armed forces to enjoy the benefits?
    What about soldiers, sailors and airmen from US allies like UK and France?
    And (theoretically) what about Russians or Chinese?!

  33. Sixth Freedom,
    I believe it is only for US military personnel who are traveling with their orders and are in uniform.

  34. Well the hype about the privilegs for military personnel also annoys me and my fellow workers in the company.
    Why does a 18 year old freshman in uniform en route for his weekend trip to visit his girl friend or a seasoned Pentagon paper pusher deserve a preferential treatment ?
    Road warriors, forced into cattle class by their corporate bean counters are increasingly murmuring their disapproval about this “pathetic” airline marketing procedure.
    I think everybody is perfectly comfortable that the airline makes the last leg flight for a returning soldier from a combat theatre in Irak or Afghanistan more comfortable, but this should be the exception rather than the rule.

  35. Just because some has served the country does not necessarily mean that they have laid their lives on the line in battle. Some have. Some have not. I suspect that many of those being applauded have never been in harm’s way. Further, taking free drinks, upgrades or perks as a federal employee (military OR civilian) is a big NO-NO!

  36. To answer Sixth Freedom – If our military policy specifies US personnel only, many of us forget/are unsure! (Our list of policies is the size of an encyclopedia. It happens.) I have seen a number of foreign uniformed personnel upgraded. Much less often, but sometimes.
    In my own experiences, the soldiers in question have been ungraded quietly by the crew once onboard. Don’t forget, the airlines and military have deep connections, so…there’s that impetus. And no one loses upgrades for this – these upgrades are done last.
    Yes it’s a job, but recruits are usually 18 year olds promised all sorts of stretched truths to convince them to sign up, and for so many it’s the only seeming way out of poor circumstances. Look at the stats. I doubt Native Americans are heavily over-represented because they’re eager to go kill foreigners on behalf of the US gov’t.! I think most are just guys/girls trying to pay their families’ bills, like the rest of us.

  37. Federal ethics rules do allow military employees to accept upgrades and free drinks, see 5 C.F.R. 2635.203(b)(4) and 5 C.F.R. Part 2635 Every military member has to take ethics training every year, where we cover the minutia of what gifts can be accepted and from whom, believe me the rules are complex and precise and no-one messes around with violating them. The idea that military members, especially junior soldiers, are wholesale knowingly breaking federal ethics rules is quite frankly insulting. If you really feel that any federal ethics rule has been broken then you should report it to the agency’s office of Inspector General immediately, as I would do.
    On to the subject at hand, I’d ask if those who are so angry about the airlines giving a free drink to a soldier get equally angry at restaurants or hotels that offer senior discounts? Aren’t you “subsidizing” their cheaper meals and rooms, same as the military member’s free drinks? Did the senior do anything to “deserve” their lower rate?
    What’s going on is price discrimination and marketing, nothing more. Basic 101 level MBA stuff, it happens in everything from hospitality to college tuition. You can get angry at it all you want, but its a free country and it works, so you’re just tilting at windmills. Relax and enjoy life a little more, if you spend your life angry about every minor unfairness you’re subject too you’re going to have a pretty miserable life!

  38. CG – I don’t think it’s unfair at all, and in fact if it’s done quietly and as a genuine expression of thanks I think it is an extremely nice gesture. As for me subsiding these “perks”, I doubt it adds more than a cent to my ticket (which my company pays for anyway) and many of the perks (e.g. upgrades) are sunk costs for the airline anyway.
    My concern is that it is more of marketing gimmick for the carriers than a genuine show of thanks. I’m deeply suspicious of people who make a big show of being generous (or as Jeep did at the Superbowl take out TV ads about how generous they are) as it generally means they’re not doing it for altruistic reasons, but perhaps I’m being too British about this. Nice gestures are great, doing it to shore up a weak corporate brand is exploitative.

  39. I think that military personnel should be paid better and should receive better benefits. Ironically, the most jingoistic among our elected representatives are the least likely to want to increase military pay or benefits. Instead, they want to cut the VA budget and willingly underfund protective gear and other necessary equipment that directly benefits military personnel.
    The government should contract with airlines and other suppliers for the benefits that the public is willing to provide for military personnel. My understanding is that they do contract for baggage for personnel who are being deployed overseas.
    I don’t think that airlines should provide any benefits that aren’t contracted. The government and elected officials who support the military need to pay for what they want. Private businesses should pay an appropriate level of taxes to support the government. Why don’t airline companies pay more in taxes so that the military personnel can have better pay and benefits? Airlines fight taxes tooth and nail, but they want to show off how much they support the military by giving out free drinks.
    On the other hand, if an individual wants to trade seats with another passenger or pay for someone else’s meal, whether or not the other person is a member of the military, it is their right to do so. It is also their right (and responsibility) to pay a level of taxes to give members of the military appropriate pay and benefits for their service.

  40. I agree with alex_b. I don’t think that the airlines are giving perks to be generous. I think that they want to put on a show.
    If they were really generous, they would either make a contract giving appropriate perks to the military or they would willingly pay taxes so that military personnel could have decent pay and benefits.

  41. I think its just old tradition that hasn’t yet died with the airlines . It’s just a PR stunt now to make them look good. I thank our men and women who protect me every day from the bottom of my heart, but I’m sorry, you don’t deserve flight privileges any more than the man who’s business generates millions in taxes for all of our sake, or for the family who spends thousands on a vacation that boosts the local economies.
    Getting special flight privileges is the same as getting a better seat at Red Robin or getting to drive in the HOV lane… just because you are in the military doesn’t mean you get all of those things.

  42. 1) Giving away seats is a marketing ploy –> AA only gives free upgrades away to military personnel in uniform. I don’t travel in uniform, don’t expect an upgrade, especially since I am in a rank/profession where I get paid enough to buy my own upgrades or fares when I want them. I use my military ID as my identification because it is easier for me to pull out of my wallet, but I don’t notice any special treatment at the ticket counter or at TSA. I don’t have any problem with airlines giving away empty seats to people who are required to travel in uniform. If they think it’s good PR to allow uniformed service members to occupy those empty seats, great. They are private companies and can make their own business decisions.
    2) Bag fees, etc that are waived for military members traveling on orders are waived because the contract that the government writes with the airlines every year specifies that baggage fees are included in the negotiated airfare. In return for negotiated airfares with liberal change policies and bag fees included, the airline gets a guaranteed stream of business on whatever particular route it wins from the GSA. There is a competitive bidding process and if the airlines don’t want the business, they don’t have to bid. I imagine any other large organization, public or private, that contracts with an airline could have enough negotiating power to specify that no baggage fees are to be charged for the tickets they buy. This is a simple business relationship.
    3) To spkg — please educate me about the large financial compensation that the average volunteer member of the military received for going to Iraq/Afghanistan. I am decently paid but I guarantee my civilian counterparts are paid more than I am for less work than I do.
    4) finally…I don’t think that a majority of the members of the military (myself included) deserve special treatment, BUT…if an airline or any other business wants to provide a discount or perk, I’m going to appreciate them and direct more of my business their way.

  43. Should elites and people paying extra to the airlines get special access for security lanes with TSA? After all, the TSA is the government, there for all the people and paid for by tax dollars.
    I think they are similar questions.

  44. In the UK, service personnel do not draw attention to themselves when they travel. So no uniforms, no ranks etc, because it made them a target for the IRA, so it’s hard to see how airline personnel would know they had service personnel on board (except on the GIB route, where on any plane, there will be a number of service personnel or people flying on the MOD reserved tickets). As such, no fuss made about service personnel – they look just like other pax.
    And over here, we don’t really wear our patriotism on our sleeves, so that kind of brouhaha (as we see it) doesn’t fit well with our culture.

  45. Some of the comments here make my blood boil, but that’s the great thing about the country many of us here live in.
    True – these service men and women choose this career path and are paid a presumably fair wage to do so. They know going in that they will likely be in harm’s way and will also likely be away from family for an extended amount of time. I’m thankful for all that volunteer for this so that others that would rather not are not conscripted into service (draft). It is their choice, and I’m thankful for and in many cases in awe of that choice.
    Any time I have sat with or given up my F seat fo a uniformed soldier, they were always humbled to be there and many times it was their first time “up front”. Not once did I get the impression that they felt it was expected or deserved.
    To the airline and in some cases the fellow passengers that CHOOSE to honor or recognize these men and women. It is just that, their CHOICE in this free country. Our government has not required them to do so. Whether you think the airline’s motive is pure or not, the beneficiary, more than anyone else, is the soldier. If you don’t like or agree with the airline’s choice to allow a uniformed military person board first, get an upgrade, or other perks, then try another airline or form of transportation – that is your right.
    I know about a multitude of areas where American Airline employees volunteer their time and resources for wounded veterans and survivors of fallen soldiers through programs like Skyball and Snowball Express where I haven’t seen a single TV commercial or airport announcement of self promotion. These are programs the employees genuinely care about.

  46. What happens if the airline is upgrading and there are more serving personnel in uniform travelling than premium seats available?
    Would the upgrade be cleared by rank, length of service or something else?
    Another interesting point would be that here in the UK we have a concept of a ‘senior’ service. With a seaman, soldier and airman each of the same rank and length of service the RN takes preference over the Army, which in turn takes precedence over the RAF. Is there an equivalent in the US?

  47. I am retired military (and current Army civilian employee). During my many years in the military, most of the time Army directives stated we were not to travel in uniform; if we did, we had to be in dress uniform. I don’t think many service members travel in uniform, so this is largely a PR stunt of the airlines.

  48. A large number of service members travel in uniform 1) some when traveling to/from a deployment, especially if they are traveling to or from an airport where they are going to pick up a government charter flight 2) some when traveling to from basic or other advanced entry level training. Service directives are starting to lean back towards requiring travel in uniform while on official business. On about half of my domestic flights I see someone in uniform on board.

  49. @zski1
    A large number might travel in uniform, but it is a small percentage. For most military members, travelling commercial for duty happens very rarely in ones career. You have to consider that most military members only travel for training or deployment like you said. It is far more likely that a military member would travel for leisure purposes than for duty purposes. You better believe they show their military IDs instead of a drivers license when they are at the airport. Supposedly, the entire DOD is cleared for TSA Precheck (I think that is what it is called). To me, when I see someone use their military ID, it instantly signals that they are the opposite of a threat.
    Also, while military service is volunteer, the commonly used figure is that less than 1% of the population has any kind of military service history. I believe that those that VOLUNTEER to serve not only deserve recognition of what they have volunteered for (deployments and danger), but they also deserve thanks for allowing others to live lives free of mandatory service (presumably because of a lack of volunteers).

  50. Based on a ancient tradition applicable during much of my service, active and reserve, 1962-1987, I would like to see the airlines return to a policy, applicable domestically only IIRC, of allowing service personnel traveling in the “uniform of the day” (no camo BDUs) to fly on the old “Standby/Half Price” Y fares. On a couple of occasions, I recall, pre-FFs, awards, and automatic upgrades for elites, being seated “up front” on a couple of red eyes from the West Coast, but then in service dress blues, grey gloves and gedunk ribbons (the sort awarded for “being there”), I was a well dressed traveler. Of course, back in days of yore, active service members traveling on orders and “TRs” (government-paid tickets) traveled in full uniform, and because of the old standby rule, wore “Uniform of the day” for leisure travel by a/c.

  51. Admitted bias up front…my only sibling is a active duty Marine, with two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. His current posting requires him to travel at least once a month, and he receives no preferential treatment–including while going through the silliness that passes for security. I suspect he would be embarrassed by it if he did. But, as someone who has wept by the gate as the honor flights come into DCA with our elderly veterans, and waited not only for my brother to come home but for him to escort the fallen home to their families, it seems like a very small thing to allow active duty servicemen to board a flight early.

  52. I absolutely think our military soldiers should get any perk possible. They put their lives on the line every day..yes, as do firemen & policemen..but without the comforts of home to go to at night after doing a job that’s far more terrifying, so that the rest of us can enjoy freedom. I thank every person I see in military uniform for their service to this fine country. It breaks my heart to see so many vets now with prosthetic limbs.

  53. That this should be an issue is ridiculous. If an airline or passenger wishes to acknowledge military service, then it’s petty, churlish and childish to squawk.

  54. Should we also give special treatment for police officers, fireman, doctors, paramedics, nurses, priests, volunteers and other do gooders? None of which I feel are less deserving than a person from the military?

  55. Be very careful comparing the military profession to any other to include other life risking professions such as Law Enforcement or Fire Fighters. The military is 100% it’s own ball of wax. No other profession goes to war. No other profession has been at war as long as our current military. There is a reason cops thank military members for their service – because they understand its not even close to the same.

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