Space-A travel: A way to see the world
A privilege to Uniformed Forces personnel, their dependents, retirees, and others who support the mission, the Space-Available travel program may be a great option for seeing the world on a budget … if the timing is right. The program is nicknamed Space-A, and although that A is short for “available,” it could also mean “attitude.” Learning how to navigate the program with a positive attitude, plenty of leave and a back-up plan is key for a successful “hop.”
What is Space-A?
The program allows authorized passengers to occupy surplus seats after all space-required duty passengers and cargo have been accommodated. Most Space-A flights are offered through the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command (AMC) or the Navy and are usually free of charge. On commercial, Patriot Express flights, a small tax (usually under $30) is charged per seat and per leg. Common destinations include the Continental U.S. states, Hawaii, Alaska, Germany, England, Spain, Italy, Japan and South Korea. In spring of 2020, flights between Seattle and Guam were added on a bi-weekly, proof-of-concept basis. Flights may even go to South and Central America, Africa and Australia. The best time to obtain seats is when DODEA schools are in session.
Have a back-up plan
Because this program is a privilege, it is imperative to understand the circumstances may change due to mission mobility. Flying exactly where you want to go at the time or day you want to fly is not always possible. The first obligation of the AMC is to fill seats for military missions, therefore available seating could change at any time. So, if you have a specific itinerary for your destination or your return, you may want to reconsider using Space-A for those travel plans. This program is designed for those who have enough available leave, time and flexibility to wait or change their schedule.
For example, it may be a breeze to sign up and get seats on the first flight, but when you try to return, you could wait several days for available space. Or, you could even be dropped off in another country to wait for a flight. Sometimes travelers attempt to catch a hop at neighboring base terminals. Remaining calm, positive and being flexible will help. When flying Space-A, be ready for anything.
Who can fly Space-A?
The program was created as a way to enhance the lives of personnel by creating an avenue of respite; recognize the careers of veterans who have served; and extend a privilege to other categories of passengers such as dependents of Uniformed Services personnel, Red Cross and USO personnel who also support the mission. Passengers may not use the flights for personal gain, in relationship to employment, to find a house or for other prohibited activities.
Qualified travelers need to be sure they have completed the proper procedures and also have the required documentation needed for travel. For instance, active duty must be on leave before they can register for Space-A. Dependents of active duty flying unaccompanied need an Unaccompanied Command Sponsorship from his or her spouse’s commander. The letter is valid for one round trip travel via military aircraft, describes the reason for travel and the category of passenger travel. The following are also mandatory for travel: military ID cards, passports, social security numbers and emergency contact information at the final destination.
How do you register?
There are many ways to register for Space-A. For in-person registration, head to the terminal and visit the helpdesk or self-help kiosks. You can also register via email, fax, or online through www.takeahop.org. Passengers can register for up to five departure airports and five countries of destination. The website also offers a smartphone app where, for a couple of dollars, users can quickly sign up for the flights and destinations. Also, save time by monitoring terminal activity via the phone app.
Once registered, your information remains active for either 60 days, or for the duration of your leave orders or authorization of flight, whichever occurs first. Print a copy of your registration to keep on hand at the terminal. The time and date stamp of your registration determines your position and priority within your Space-A category.
Each passenger is assigned a passenger category for travel. These categories designate the order by which you may be boarded on Space-A flights. The following list is generalized.
Category I – Emergency travel on a round-trip basis in connection with serious illness, death, or impending death of a member of the immediate family.
Category II – Environmental Morale Leave (EML) and dependents.
Category III –Active duty ordinary Leave and dependents; convalescent leave; permissive TDYs; Unaccompanied dependent of deployed servicemember for more than a year.
Category IV – Unaccompanied dependent of deployed servicemember on EML status.
Category V – Unaccompanied military dependent of non-deployed servicemember.
Category VI – Retirees, Reservists.
Passengers may check two pieces of checked baggage, 70 pounds each, up to 62 linear inches in size. You and your family can pool your baggage allowances as well. Carry-ons must fit in overhead bins if they’re available or under your seat. Hand-carried baggage must fit under the seat or in the overhead compartment, if available. Do note: it is best to travel light as baggage weight could be restricted for your flight.
Getting a Space-A flight
Decide which terminal you think would be the best chance for Space-A departure and head out. It helps to phone the terminals that you requested for departure and to monitor recent schedules. Check online and on Facebook for your favorite Space-A terminals’ information.
Available seats are now identified between two to five hours prior to departure, but being at the terminal early will help you vie for seats. At the terminal, verify you are indeed registered for departure on the correct date, time and the correct number of passengers in your party. Be “travel-ready” with the proper luggage, any dependents and paperwork, your car parked or rental returned, etc.
It’s show-time for the roll call
You now wait for the “show-time” of the particular flight you’d like to be selected (manifested) for, as well as the upcoming flight’s “roll call” of names of those who are designated for the flight’s Space-A seating. The priority of your assigned category, the day and time that you signed up to travel and number of available seats will determine if your name makes the roll call. Remember, be travel-ready! If your name is called and you are not physically present to hear the roll call, your name will be put at the bottom of your category list, and you may not make that flight.
A hop flight could be either on a military plane or commercial airline. If you travel on a military plane, be aware that accommodations and services are different, from fold-down jump seats along the wall, cargo in front of you and a plane that is either pretty warm or cool, depending on the time of year of travel and location. Open-toed or open-heeled shoes should not be worn on military planes. So, wear appropriate footwear, bring jackets, blankets, snacks, bottled water and things to keep you busy, like books, games or electronic devices. Available plugs for charging are along the walls. Remember to stay flexible. Travel during off-peak seasons (stay away from summer break and major holidays) and keep a positive attitude about this great privilege. If you look at the program as an opportunity to a new adventure, plan accordingly and have a back-up plan, you are sure to have a great time, wherever you land.
Patriot Express Guam to Sea-Tac
New in 2020, the Defense Department will add charter flights between Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport starting in March, officials announced in Dec. 2019. The flights, part of a service called the Patriot Express, will begin on a bi-weekly, proof-of-concept basis for six months.
733 AMS, Unit 5145 Box 10
Phone: 634-5806 / 098-962-6487
Bldg. 17002 Unit 14008
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