My thoughts on Space-A travel

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My thoughts on Space-A travel

by: Kim Suchek | .
. | .
published: June 03, 2013

Hello Military Community,

Traveling the world for military service members and their families is one benefit of military service. With installations on most continents around the world
and most states, the opportunity to see the globe teaches military families many valuable things about other cultures and ways of life which can be eye-opening and rewarding. The downside is being away from your extended families for extended times.

As the end of another school year is upon us, I know many of you are planning your trip home to see your families. Military families are among the most active
travelers in the country. They are generally also among the least able to afford the expenses of travel, so the military has one of the best benefits to assist. Space availability or generally called “Space A” is a free travel for military members and immediate dependents designed to take advantage of open slots on regularly and specifically scheduled flights.

I have personally used Space-A in 2011 to meet my husband in Raimstein, Germany, and found helpful online forums at Dirk Pepperd’s Space A message board
(www.pepperd.com/vb/forum.php) and John D’s Military Space A travel pages. Both of these sites offer free information, flight schedules, and trip reports from
those who have “been there, done that.” Both sites are highly recommended, but I personally found Dirk Peppered’s site to be more useful to me.

Most days, forum members post the scheduled flights from the terminals and the number of seats available, if there are any. These members call the passenger terminals for recorded information and then post it on the forums. Flight schedules are generally available up to 72 hours ahead of time. However, flights still get cancelled and you can still be bumped from a flight, so your schedule must be flexible. For Space A eligibility/requirements go to www.amc.af.mil.

I was a little nervous as I approached the military aircraft (I think it was a C-17) as I did not know what to expect. I was not worried about my safety, more for the unknown. The seats were arranged along the sides of the aircraft with the cargo secured in the middle. This was a pleasant surprise as it meant no one kicking the back of your seats or reclining into my lap. Plus I could stretch out my legs whenever I needed to.

Once in flight, the people that brought air mattresses and sleeping bags set up spots on the floors and relaxed and napped through the flight. The box lunches were excellent quality, with plenty of snacks and drinks. There was also a bathroom for us to use whenever we needed it along with electrical outlets and a
couple windows.

The only downside was the need for earplugs and the need for a blanket (since it was winter) from the cold because the aircraft is not particularly well insulated
from noise etc. But I will take a little noise and carry a blanket any day for the cost saved and the secure feeling of flying with our military. A couple tips to keep in mind are:

  1. Don’t try to travel during the peak travel times. May 15 - Sept. 15 are considered “summer rush” periods. People are PCSing to new assignments and going on vacations. Likewise, Dec. – Jan. 10 is peak holiday travel time (I traveled during Christmas I got bumped several times and days on our trip home). If you can wait for the shoulder seasons, you’ll likely have more success with Space A travel, especially if your priority is less.
  2. Sign up for travel as soon as possible. If you’re active duty, you can sign up by email for Space A travel at midnight on your first day of leave. As soon as you get your destination, be sure to sign up for your trip home. That will get you in the system and give you seniority on your preferred travel day.
  3. Make sure you have ALL your paperwork and travel documents! This includes current travel orders, military ID cards (for all family members), passports,driver’s license, letter from commanders (for military spouses traveling without service member), etc.
  4. Get to your preferred passenger terminal early. You never know when they may need to leave early or a flight gets cancelled.
  5. Be very flexible. Sometimes aircrafts get delayed or break down.
  6. Be prepared in the event you get “bumped”. Sometimes a person with higher priority will be given your seat, even if they show up at the last minute.
  7. Be prepared to fly to any terminal reasonably close to where you want to go.
  8. Have the credit or cash handy to purchase a commercial flight if the need arises.
  9. Try to travel light. Your chances of getting a flight are better if you don’t have much luggage.

Another site with awesome information regarding Space A is www.spacea.net and www.militaryliving.com where you can purchase a book (I did) that
will tell you everything you need to know about Space A and more.

A couple other sites of interest are www.militarytravel.com and www.guidetomilitarytravel.com.

Stay safe, and blessings from my family to yours,

Kim Suchek

If you have any questions or concerns or would like to share a story or situation, contact me at Kim@MilitaryResource-Books.com and visit my website at MilitaryResourceBooks.com for updated information and other resources not listed in my book.