An honor flight is a free flight for United States military veterans to visit war memorials in Washington, D.C., provided by honor flight organizations.

Honor flights first began in 2005 thanks to Earl Morse, a U.S. Air Force Captain who wanted to honor veterans of previous wars.

Since then, there have been multiple honor flight organizations around the country that provide flights to veterans of multiple conflicts, including the Second World War, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War.

If you’re a veteran, you can sign up for an honor flight by visiting an honor flight organization’s website and filling out their application form.

If accepted, they’ll contact you with further details. 

How Honor Flights Work

Honor flight organizations contact verified veterans and request them to attend an honor flight if their application has been successful. 

The organization bears all expenses for the plane tickets and other costs.

They depart with the veterans and fly to Washington, D.C., where they visit their respective war memorials, and are flown home afterward. 

Where Honor Flights Fly To

Honor flights fly to Washington, D.C., to visit war memorials in the city.

These memorials include the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Marine Corps War Memorial.

Some honor flights may even take veterans to the National Air and Space Museum. 

The Cost of an Honor Flight

An Honor flight usually costs $500 per veteran.

The exact price depends on the region the plane is flying from, the number of veterans on board, and onboard amenities. 

Honor Flight organizations often have generous donors who offset the cost.

So honor flights are always free for veterans. 

Who Qualifies

Depending on the organization, it can vary who qualifies for an honor flight.

Some honor flight organizations only allow U.S. military veterans of a certain age and who have served in older conflicts, like the Korean War and Vietnam War, to apply, while other organizations allow veterans from more recent conflicts, such as the Iraq War to apply.

Some Veterans Get Priority

Veterans of the Second World War and terminally ill veterans are usually given priority for honor flights.

Besides this, generally, the older the veteran and therefore the older the conflict they served in, such as the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, are priorities.

Who Accompanies Veterans

Guardians can accompany a veteran on an honor flight. The guardians could be friends, family members, or even volunteers.

Most organizations only permit one guardian per veteran.

They allow guardians because older veterans may need support. 

Why Spouses Can’t Go on Honor Flights

Spouses can’t go on an honor flight because honor flights are only intended for the veteran.

Generally, spouses are not even allowed to go on an honor flight as a guardian for the veteran, either.

Additionally, most organizations require guardians to be of a specific age to accompany veterans, so even if the organization allowed the spouse as the guardian, it still wouldn’t be possible in most cases.

Number of Honor Flights a Year

There are around 100 honor flights per year on average when accounting for all organizations.

The exact number depends on the organization, since each honor flight organization has its own schedule.

In terms of number of veterans, the Honor Flight Network, which is the largest organization, has flown over 244,000 veterans to the Washington, D.C. memorials since 2005.

Where the Funding Comes From

Honor flights receive funds from multiple sources, including corporate sponsorships, private contributions, donations, and grants.

Some honor flights even receive financing from other foundations and sources. 

The History of Honor Flights

Earl Morse founded the Honor Flight Network, which had its inaugural flight in May 2005.

He’s a retired U.S. Air Force captain and physician assistant who founded the Honor Flight Network and is its current president.

Earl Morse was motivated to honor World War II and Korean War veterans by taking them to Washington, D.C., to visit memorials for the conflicts they participated in. 

His original program was later expanded with new organizations starting honor flights for veterans of other conflicts, too.

Currently, multiple honor flight organizations perform over 100 honor flights annually for veterans of multiple wars. 

The Honor Flight Application Process

You can apply for an honor flight by visiting an honor flight organization’s website and starting an application.

The application process varies for each organization.

Most require you to provide proof of service, a medical form, and complete an application form with your other details. 

Some organizations may request more information and documents than others.

You’ll find each organization’s individual requirements on their websites.

Once accepted, the organization will contact you with further details of your honor flight. 

In conclusion:

  • Honor flights are free flights to war memorials in Washington, D.C., for U.S. veterans.
  • Honor flights are free of charge for veterans, and they’re provided by honor flight organizations.
  • There are multiple such organizations, with each having their own rules, and provide honor flights to veterans of different conflicts.
  • Honor flights are funded with private donations, grants, and corporate sponsorships.
  • Honor flights permit veterans to bring accompanying guardians provided they meet certain age requirements.

Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.

Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.

Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.