Happy Veterans Day! and a heartfelt thank you to all of our Veterans past and present who have served our nation.
Today we decided to take a look at how several airlines do their part in honoring those who’ve served; American, JetBlue, and Southwest.
American Airlines (AA) has a long and proud tradition of serving our nation’s veterans. They’ve been the official airline of the USO, an organization dedicated to supporting troops with programs and entertainment, for years. The airline regularly partners with the non-profit for fundraising efforts, collecting donations to support the USO’s many programs. Many of the USO centers are in AA’s terminals at airports around the country.
To acknowledge the partnership, American has painted six airplanes over the years. Each airplane features the USO’s yellow ribbon with the phrase “In support of all who serve.” Three American Eagle ERJ airplanes have the special paint, along with three mainline aircraft.Mainline aircraft also feature their own unique names; Flagship Independence (767-200, N320AA), Flagship Freedom (757-200, N690AA), and Flagship Liberty (737-800 N905AN).
The airline also offers free, automatic upgrades to service members in uniform (as do many airlines). The policy recently made the news when six Marines in a group of thirteen, returning from Afghanistan, were upgraded by the airline to first class. Seven other passengers in the first class cabin gave up their seats so the entire group could sit together.
VIDEO EXTRA: American Airlines’ “Thank-you” ad
JetBlue runs a number of internal and external programs for veterans. The carrier has hired 120 veterans so far this year, joining the ranks of the nearly 1,000 veterans already employed by the airline. They’ll be hosting a Veterans Career Expo on November 2013, which is “geared toward veterans and their spouses interested in getting a better idea of what career opportunities are available at JetBlue.” Internal programs include VetConnect mentoring opportunities and Vets In Blue, an internal community group formed to support the airline’s veteran initiatives.
Externally the airline also supports the community by supporting a number of groups, including Fisher House, the National World War II Museum, and the USO.
VIDEO EXTRA: A JetBlue TV spot on Hiring America, a TV series dedicated to serving Veterans looking for work
The airline’s signature contribution is their role as the official airline of the Honor Flight Network (HFN). HFN flies military veterans and their families from across the country to Washington DC to visit the war memorials. The tour provides them an opportunity to reflect on their service and see the memorials erected in their honor. Southwest has donated more than 5,800 tickets to date. For those not flying on one of the special honor flights, the carrier also offers military fares to military personnel and their dependents, based on their Anytime fares.
The carrier has also created Military Heroes Month, with a number of special activities to honor, serve, and celebrate veterans. Activities include special honor flights, a LUV the troops customer card campaign, and sponsoring the Dallas Veterans Day Parade (full list here).
While we only took a look at three airlines in this story, almost every airline in the US honors veterans in some way (in fact the three airlines we looked at today do even more as well). With obvious parallels to the Air Force many hire veterans for work as pilots, though many more are hired for other jobs in the industry as well. Carriers often offer free upgrades, free food/drink, free bags, priority boarding, or complimentary lounge access to those in uniform. Still others offer discounted tickets. While what we can offer may not be much to repay them for their service, it’s something. And it’s our duty to do our part to thank them.