Know the ins and outs of Space-A travel

by Tetsuo Nakahara
Stripes Okinawa

If you’re looking to take a Space-A flight, or military hop, there’s some things you should know. We recently sat down with Matthew Faculo, civilian in charge at the Andersen Passenger Terminal on Guam, to discuss the ins and outs of traveling Space-A.

Q:  When is the ideal time to start booking for Space-A flight?
A:  Peak travel periods occur during Spring/Summer/Christmas break.  Registering for Space-A travel two to three weeks prior to these periods will help avoid the rush of travelers.  Space-A seat releases vary depending on mission and allowable cabin load (ACL).  When seats become available, show times (roll-call) will be posted (on websites and at terminals.  Customers are reminded that all times and seat releases are subject to change with little or no notice.  Passenger selection starts with priority then date and time of sign-up, which emphasizes the importance of early registration… Passengers should be made aware that Space-A registration can be accomplished no sooner than the effective date of their travel orders, except retirees.  Space-A registration/sign-up allows travelers to be eligible for processing to certain countries and not meant for signing up for specific travel dates or missions.  The majority of Space-A travelers will be Category 2 (Sponsors on Unfunded Environmental Morale Leave with or without dependents), Category 4 (Dependents on Unfunded Environmental Morale Leave), Category 5 (Command Sponsored Dependent Travel) and Category 6 (Retirees with or without dependents).

Q:  Is there any particular time or date that you recommend for travel during the summer using Space-A?
A:  As an in transit base without bookable passenger missions, it is not possible to determine any particular date or time of recommended travel with the type of mission we handle.  Monitoring the flight schedules, being travel ready and competing on the first opportunity Space-A roll-call is recommended.  Not all missions will offer seats.  C-5 and C-17 aircraft usually offer a fair amount of seats, but it all depends… on the mission.  A few hours prior to roll call, our agents will usually have an estimate on seats and passenger turnout. Space-A registration can be accomplished via email or fax. However, it is recommended to register in person and have all necessary travel documents verified by our agents to avoid any travel delay. Passengers should verify border-clearance requirements, especially when traveling to foreign countries.  Some (countries) may require a VISA.  Also, proof of citizenship is required for trips to the U.S. mainland, Alaska or Hawaii.  Proof of citizenship is mainly verified by a passport or birth certificate. 

Q:   Any suggestion or other travel tips from you for people planning to use Space-A?
A: Travel with the right attire and baggage allowance: Open toed shoes, sandals, slippers are not allowed.  Skirts should be avoided as some aircrafts require loading via a ladder such as our C-5 aircraft.  Baggage standard is 2 checked bags per person (not to exceed 70 pounds each).  Operational support aircraft such as C-21s, C-12s may be limited customer’s baggage weight to 30 pounds.  Navy C-40 aircraft is limited to 2 bags not to exceed 50 lbs. total weight.  Avoid liquids in baggage as we apply TSA standards and restrictions.

Nothing absolute about taking a hop

The military’s space-available travel program is a globe-trotter’s treasure, provided those who are traveling are flexible about travel dates and even locations. The “A” in Space-A means “available,” not “absolute.”  Space-available passengers travel only after all duty cargo and passengers have been accommodated. Space-A seats are normally identified as early as 2-3 hours and as late as 30 minutes prior to departure. Your flight may not depart during daylight hours.

Contact the nearest military passenger terminal for the most current flight information and assistance. For general information about the Space-A program. go to the Air Mobility Command website at www.amc.af.mil. Click on “Questions” then click on “Space Available Travel” to download a 14-page document with frequently asked questions.

– From staff reports

Helpful Tips

  1. RESEARCH - Most AMC terminals have web pages or Facebook accounts which can provide additional information and flight schedules.   
  2. TRAVEL DOCUMENTS - Have the necessary travel documents and border clearance requirements.  You can contact a passenger agent who can assist you with the proper documents.
  3. TRAVEL READY - It is recommended to be on a flexible schedule and travel ready at all times.  Never bypass an opportunity for convenience during summer break.
  4. SPACE-A REGISTRATION - Space A-registration (sign-up) can only be accomplished no sooner than the effective date as indicated in travel authorization (UEML form, leave papers, etc.).  Retirees excluded.  Space-A registration will expire 60 days from the date of registration or on the date of expiration on the travel authorization whichever comes first.
  5. FLIGHT INFORMATION - Passenger should call and monitor Space-A roll call times (Show times) for seat release info or any changes.  Be advised that all information is subject to change.
  6. MARK PRESENT - Prior to Space-A roll call have your registration record marked “Present” by a passenger agent.  This will flag records and identify them for a mission being processed.
  7. SPACE A ROLL CALL - Passenger selection will begin at this time.  At this point all passengers should be travel ready and baggage within the terminal proximity in the event of selection.   Immediately following selection passengers will be required to check in.
  8. NON-SELECTION - Passengers who do not make the cutoff can repeat steps 5, 6 and 7 until they are accommodated on another flight.

- Courtesy of Matthew Faculo

Patriot Express offers comfort of commercial flights

The Patriot Express is a commercial charter airplane that provides support for Department of Defense eligible travelers and their family members as a part of Space Available program. 

In the Pacific, the Patriot Express services Osan Air Base and Kunsan Air Bases in Korea; Yokota Air Base, Misawa Air Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in mainland Japan; Kadena Air Base on Okinawa and Seattle.

The primary purpose of the Patriot Express is to be used by people who are in a duty travel status such as PCS, TDY, or deploying.  Any unused seats can be filled by people traveling Space-A. For those who want to use Patriot Express, they are selected by category and date/time of sign up.

It offers a chance for military members, dependents and civil service employees to be able to leave from closest air base without traveling down to the airport of the major city.  Keep in mind that if you plan on traveling to Seattle, you will be charged a federal head tax and inspection fee of $29.10. But that’s the only cost of using the Patriot Express.

Currently, there are three Patriot Express flights from U.S. to Pacific region.  The flight originates and terminates at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Washington. So you need to plan on your own to make other travel booking from there to your final destination.

  1. The flight departs from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Tuesday and go to Yokota Air Base, Japan; Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea; Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea on Wednesday and stay overnight, and then backtrack through Osan AB and Yokota AB on return to Seattle-Tacoma on Thursday.
  2. The flight departs from Seattle-Tacoma on Sunday; to Misawa Air Base, Japan on Monday; Osan AB on Monday and stay overnight Tuesday; and then follows the same route back to Seattle-Tacoma on Tuesday.
  3. The third route, also connecting Japan-based personnel to the United States. It begins at Seattle-Tacoma on Thursday and goes to Yokota AB; Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan; Kadena AB on Friday and stay overnight; and then backwards to Seattle-Tacoma.

1a)  Seattle (Tuesday)–Yokota (Wednesday)-Osan (Wednesday)-Kunsan (Wednesday – stay overnight - Thursday)-Osan (Thursday) –Yokota (Thursday) - Seattle (Thursday)

2a)  Seattle (Sunday)–Misawa (Monday)- Osan (Monday – stay overnight - Tuesday) -Misawa(Tuesday)–Seattle (Tuesday)

3a)  Seattle (Thursday)–Yokota (Friday) –Iwakuni (Friday) –Kadena (Friday – stay overnight - Saturday)–Iwakuni (Saturday)-Yokota (Saturday)–Seattle (Saturday)

For most update and time schedule information, call at each passenger terminal.  Projected availability is released 72 hours ahead of time.

The best way to monitor Space-A travel is through their Facebook page at:
Osan: www.facebook.com/OsanPassengerTerminal   
Yokota: www.facebook.com/#!/YokotaPassengerTerminal  
Kadena: www.facebook.com/AMCKadena   
Iwakuni: www.facebook.com/IwakuniPassengerTerminal
Misawa: www.facebook.com/#!/MisawaPassengerTerminal

Useful websites:
militaryhops.com       
www.spacea.net

What they offer

 

 

 

 

Related story: 'Taking leave to a foreign country'

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