Military personnel, retirees and their family members now have access to an exclusive discount travel website managed by Priceline.
American Forces Travel is a full-service travel booking site, offering hotel, flight, car rental and cruise deals as well as bundled or package deals that Priceline spokesman Devon Nagle said can save travelers an average of $240 per person.
The site, which is available to active-duty military, National Guard members, Reservists, retirees and family members, as well as 100 percent disabled veterans and civilian Defense Department employees, officially went live Tuesday after having been beta-tested on several military bases for the past three months.
According to Nagle, the site offers discounts that have been negotiated specifically for military personnel, including hotel deals up to 60 percent off and cruise deals up to 80 percent off. Roughly 1.2 million hotels can be booked through the site, as well as the most popular flight and car rental brands, he said.
Brett Keller, Priceline chief executive officer, said that the company was thrilled to be selected by the DoD to "bring the site to life."
"American Forces Travel was developed for a simple reason. The people who support the United States of America through military service have earned access to the world's most exclusive travel deals," Keller said.
A recent review of the site by Military.com found hotel deals in San Diego ranging from $20 to $50 off prices found on non-military travel websites, and car rental discounts ranging from $10 to $18 off per day for a minivan, SUV or convertible.
A non-stop round trip airline fare from the Washington, D.C., area to San Diego for a weekend in February was available for $323 on Alaska Airlines, while the same flight was advertised as $354 other travel websites. Still, non-stop flights for the same weekend on United could be purchased for significantly less on another website -- between $200 to $400 less.
Advantages to booking air travel through American Forces Travel include reduced fees for reservation changes and all flights being cancellable within 24 hours, according to the site. For cars, benefits include free cancellation on post-paid cars and larger discounts for prepaid rates.
Each AmericanForcesTravel.com transaction also will generate a commission that will go to the military services' Morale, Welfare and Recreation and quality-of-life programs.
Nagle described the new site as a "labor of love for Priceline."
"Members of the military are a unique community and deserve the opportunity to access great deals when they take vacations. With American Forces Travel, they can search for deals 24 hours a day," he said.
Users can access the site by inputting their last name, date of birth and last four digits of their Social Security number when prompted. The DoD then verifies the information, and future travelers are ready to shop.
Nagle said Priceline does not capture or retain any of the verification data that is provided.
In addition to Defense Department service members, National Guard and Reserve and civilian employees, Coast Guard men and women and their families also can use the site.
Military members have had access to travel deals through base ticket and tour offices, as well as lodging through the Armed Forces Vacation Club, a no-fee membership group that offers week-long stays at resorts, apartments, condominiums and homes -- usually timeshare destinations -- in more than 100 countries on a space-available basis for about $350 a week.
Armed Forces Vacation Club is managed by Wyndham Worldwide.
According to Nagle, Priceline was chosen to run AmericanForcesTravel.com by a competitive bidding process. Company executives said they -- and the Defense Department -- see their website as a way to thank the military community.
"Until now, leisure travel was typically handled by travel agents on military bases. The DoD chose to create a new online platform that was modern, fast and widely accessible and to populate the site with the broadest and deepest collection of travel deals," the Priceline release states.
-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Military.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.