The Guide to USO Lounges

If you’re a member of the military, you have access to exclusive lounges when you’re traveling. Spread all over the world, United Service Organizations (USO) lounges give service members and their families a place to relax before a flight.

Let’s take a look at what USO lounges are, who is eligible to use them and what to expect when you visit.

The USO is a charity organization dedicated to helping service members and their families. As a part of their mission, it operates USO lounges. These lounges are found in airports all over the world and provide free food, nice seating and a quiet place away from crowded airport halls.

Who can use USO airport lounges?

USO lounges may be a sanctuary for service members, but access is fairly restrictive. Only these folks are allowed entry:

  • Active duty service members.

Retirees and veterans, disabled or not, are not allowed entry.

Note that you’ll need to be traveling to access the USO lounge, which means you’ll need to provide a boarding pass or proof of same-day travel to enter.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Some USO lounges may allow retirees entry if space is available.

Amenities of the USO lounge

If you’ve ever visited an airport lounge, you’ll find similar amenities on offer at USO lounges, such as:

  • Complimentary food and drinks.

Note that USO lounges are run by volunteers, so opening hours and amenities may differ.

The USO has more than 230 locations worldwide, with 50 of these being airport lounges. To find a USO lounge, you’ll want to head to the USO’s location page and search for your airport.

Alternatives to USO lounges

If your airport doesn’t have a USO lounge, don’t worry. There are still plenty of ways for active duty service members to access airport lounges when traveling.

Airline lounges

Many airlines will allow active duty service members entry into their lounges, though their policies differ.

United Airlines

Active duty military members in uniform on leave or R&R can gain entry to United Club lounges. You’ll need to be flying a same-day United or United Express flight and must present a boarding pass, your military ID and documentation for your orders.

Family members with gate passes or those who are traveling on the same flight are also allowed in.

American Airlines

American Airlines allows U.S. military personnel in uniform to enter their Admirals Club lounges. They must be flying a same-day flight operated by American and must present their military ID and a boarding pass. Immediate family or up to two guests can also enter.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska lounge policies are more restrictive than those of United and American. Military members must be on official government travel booked through SATO. The flight must be operated by Alaska and departing within three hours.

Other active duty military members can choose to purchase a discounted day pass for $30. They’ll need to be traveling on an Alaska flight and show their military ID.

Credit cards that provide airport lounge access

You don’t need to rely on USO lounges or travel in uniform to get airport lounge access. Many travel credit cards offer airport lounge access as a benefit to their cardholders — and if you’re active duty, you may be able to get your annual fees waived.

Some of the best credit cards with lounge access include:

NerdWallet rating 

The Platinum Card® from American Express provides one of the most comprehensive lounge access programs to travelers. Called the Global Lounge Collection, cardholders gain entry to more than 1,400 lounges worldwide, including:

  • American Express Centurion Lounges. 

  • Escape Lounges — The Centurion Studio Partner.

The Platinum Card® from American Express card also comes with a Priority Pass Select membership (enrollment required), which grants access to over 1,000 participating airport lounges.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

NerdWallet rating 

Another high-end travel credit card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, includes a Priority Pass Select membership (enrollment required) to those who hold the card. It also allows unlimited entry to its Chase Sapphire lounges for the cardholder and up to two guests.

Like American Express, Chase also waives the annual fee for active duty service members. This is big news for a card that charges a $550 annual fee and comes with a myriad of other travel benefits.

USO airport lounges recapped

Service members traveling through an airport have enough to deal with. Between early-morning physical training, late afternoon formation and a whole host of other activities, they deserve a rest at the airport. USO lounges strive to provide this, with 50 locations around the world allowing military members and their families complimentary access.

However, if you’re not traveling through a location with a USO lounge, don’t worry. United, American and Alaska all allow eligible service members complimentary entry to their lounges. Additionally, many travel credit cards provide airport lounge access as a benefit and waive annual fees for service members.

To view rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, see this page.

How to maximize your rewards