Airport Secret: The USO Lounge


The first thing I learned about air travel as a military spouse was this: don’t fly through any airport that does not have a USO lounge. And this is why …

Air travel is probably part of your military life whether you like it or not. Unless you never want to see your family again (or get lucky enough to be stationed near them), you’re going to have to get their somehow … and flying is probably your best option.

The very idea of flying with my children does a number on my blood pressure. Racing to the airport at zero-dark-thirty. Going through security with a stroller, car seat, computer, baby food and, oh yeah, babies. Transforming into the Hulk as I somehow, all by myself, move a 3-year-old, an infant, my computer bag, an over-stuffed diaper bag and a car seat down the center aisle of an airplane. Deplaning at the layover. Getting my baggage without losing my children. Renting a car.

Vacation? Hardly.

But there is one – ONE – bright spot in the midst of all this.

The USO lounge.

Available at many airports nationwide, USO lounges come in all shapes and sizes. Some are located before the security checkpoint. Some are located after it in the terminal. Some are spacious, recently remodeled and luxurious. Some are small and homey.

But all are run by helpful volunteers who want to set you up with a much needed Diet Coke, feed you snacks, help you secure your stuff in a locker and then set you up with their wifi, children’s area, ridiculously comfortable lounge chairs, movie room or, really, whatever you need.

Simply put: I LOVE the USO. I love the snacks. I love the helper people. I love the chance to walk around for 30 minutes without hauling bags or children. I love the relief.

I find it so valuable that I now ONLY book flights that connect through airports with a USO lounge. Even if my layover isn’t long enough to visit, the security of having a place to crash with my kids at the off-chance that our flight is very delayed or canceled is well worth it.

Back when I had extra time on my hands and did a lot of traveling (read: before I had kids), this USO ignorance so bothered me and my friend that we created a BlogSpot based site so that we could review all the lounges we visited. The project never got off the ground, but the question remained:

Why do so few military spouses know about this great benefit?!

The best in-terminal USO lounges that I’ve visited are in Philadelphia, Denver and Houston — and the best I’ve seen located per-security are in Baltimore, Phoenix and Atlanta.

But I also tend to travel through the same airports over and over again. If you have USO experience tell us — where is your favorite lounge?

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of’s spouse and family blog A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.

30 Comments on "Airport Secret: The USO Lounge"

  1. During my tours in Vietnam, I became intimately acquainted with the USO lounges in KSFO, KDEN, KGTF, and KPNS. They are indeed staffed with wonderful people who gave us their undivided attention.

    I hope they still do.

  2. I love the Philly USO…the Charlotte NC USO is also awesome…Atlanta and Dallas…not so much, not their faults though, as these are the places where CONUS LEAVE is terminated as warriors get ready to head back to the sandbox…

  3. My favorite USO was in Seattle. It was the absolute largest USO I have ever seen until they rebuilt it. Now is a a third of the size and can take in far less Military members. Now it is just like the rest of the USO's across the Country, small. Do not get me wrong it is a nice place to stay but it see's a lot of Soldiers coming and going. I would say two nights a week the USO at Seattle is just as busy as Atlanta was at the height of the Iraq war. The people that work there are the most helpful I have seen at any USO around the Country. I have been to USO's at Baltimore, St Louis, San Diego, Germany, Atlanta, Philly, Dallas, and Chicago.

  4. ArmyMom of 6 | February 19, 2013 at 8:48 am |

    Mnay mil spouses don't know about the USOs b/c they used to not let Mil Spouse in to the lounges unless they are accompanied by the active duty member. I recall getting turned away from the USO lounge with my 4 kids b/c we were travelling w/o hubby.

    • I'm not sure when the policy shifted, but I've been using them for five years and never had a problem :-)

    • AFWife2006 | June 27, 2013 at 5:34 pm |

      I use them all the time when I'm not traveling with my Mil Spouse. Did you travel awhile ago? I've been using them for about 4 years now. You just need to make sure you have your Mil ID with you.

    • That is not true!! As long as you have a dependent ID you can use it! My teenage daughter has used it by herself, I have by myself many times also.

  5. LtCol Bob Stephenson | February 19, 2013 at 3:31 pm |

    My dependent wife was "non-reving" during a busy time (Spring break, March, 2010) and got stuck at SFO for 28 hours. USO lounge there is awesome. LAX and DFW (great romper room for little kids at DFW) are both quite elaborate and nice. Too bad they aren't all inside the security wire.

  6. i recently visited the USO in Indianapolis, it was fantastic! The Miami and Chicago ones are great too.

  7. I can only compare the two I have been to…Charlotte NC and Denver. Charlotte was bigger and had more provisions but both were extremely well staffed and comfortable. My son, who is 9, LOVES checking out the USOs at the airports now that we are aware of them. It is a wonderful perk for sure.

  8. A new USO will be opening at the Nashville, TN airport in May.

  9. Put lounges INSIDE the security zone already.

  10. charles Williams | February 24, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  11. I am a Marine's spouse and I have NEVER been turned away from a USO because I was there without my husband. USOs rock!

  12. I'm a frequent traveler and a huge fan of the USO. I've been to the USO's in Houston, Washington DC, Denver, Norfolk and Jacksonville airports. I also volunteered at the San Antonio airport location for years. Please support this fine organization by using them when you travel. If you are lucky enough to have one in your back yard sign up and volunteer.

  13. I am retired Army and also a widow of a veteran. I absolutely love the USO ! RDU is nice…..not so large but open all night. I travel so much that I've just recently started keeping notes on the ones that I've visited. LAX WAS NICE, Denver, Houston, SFO was very small…..Frankfurt closed around 3……..Chicago is nice……..visited many others but they all seem to come together. Each one I've visited has very friendly volunteers. I don't remember utilizing USO's prior to my retirement 17years ago…….so happy they exist for today's soldiers and their family……,,,.found this site as I searched for a USO in NJ……,,haven't sen mention of one so here I sit in a restaurant …..haha……MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

  14. I am so thankful for the USO's. My son is stationed in Europe and has layovers in several airports when he is flying home to Indianapolis and back again to Europe. He is so relieved he can go somewhere and 'catch a few winks' without worrying about his gear being stolen. It's an area where soldiers and their families can go and relax, grab a snack and be safe. My son and I visited the USO at the Indianapolis airport when my son's flight was delayed leaving for 3 hours. Can't say enough about the kindness of the volunteers. (I bet alot of the volunteers were veterans themselves). May God bless them and our men and women in the service. May He keep them safe and bring them home soon.

  15. dianathetutor | June 22, 2014 at 9:46 pm |

    FYI, I am a space A traveller with a dependent ID Card and SFO (San Fran) is my home airport – The USO at SFO is open 24 hours! You can sleep in their comfy recliners all night long if you get stuck.

  16. Thanks for the link Erin! Now that you mention it I think I remember reading your post. The PHX one is SUPER nice. They could hang a sign that says "brought to you by IKEA!" — super sleek and IKEA-ey. I decided to write this post while sitting in there with my kids feasting on diet coke and snacks. "I love the USO," I thought. "I DEFINITELY need to write about that."

    Re: Atlanta — I know it can be hard to come up with volunteers for ANYTHING, much less for night shift in an airport. But I know what you mean.

  17. Guess no military should be using the Pitsburgh, PA Air terminal anytime soon….If any USO is on that grounds it's the best kept secrete ever….My lst visit to Phila. Air Terminal was vacant of any USO activity as well….So I guess you may as well skip that Terminal too???

  18. I highly recommend the Philly USO: Occupying 5,000 square feet on the tarmac level of Terminal A the Liberty USO Center at Philadelphia International Airport is open 24/7/365. There members of our armed forces and their families have access to complimentary meals, internet, showers, laundry, bunks, a library, game room and a home theater. (Overnight accommodations are available for active duty military and their dependents only.) Liberty USO there also supports outreach to military units in Philadelphia, Delaware and Chester counties.
    Philadelphia International Airport
    8500 Essington Avenue
    Terminal A-East (Adjacent to Gate A-6 a)
    Philadelphia, PA 19153

    Liberty USO Center Manager: Mike Schultz or 215.365.8868

  19. Kat….tiny might even be "invisable"…Nice to hear you think it is nice…Do they hae a light on at the entrance???

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