Space-A Travel has evolved with the times. Once upon a time military members had to physically report to the military terminal or fax copies of orders and other paperwork to sign up. Today, Space-A signup procedures may vary depending on the base you’re at, but there’s usually a variation on a standard requirement to register via email to be put on the Space-A waiting list, then check the 72-hour flight schedule.
USAF photo by Master Sgt. Eric Harris
72 hour flight schedules are commonly posted on the official Facebook pages of each AMC Passenger Terminal. Travelers who wish to fly Space-A must then show up at the passenger terminal for a roll call for their chosen flight.
The roll call process includes selection of Space-A passengers by category (see below), followed by the date and time of signup. Travelers using Space-A travel for Emergency Leave and Environmental Morale Leave get the highest Space A priority.
Factors Affecting Space-A Travel
There are several issues that can affect your Space-A travel. If you have flexibility in your travel schedule and are going to a common military aircraft destination such as Japan or Germany, your chances of a “successful” trip are higher than if you are traveling to a destination that isn’t as common. Even if you are headed to a country with plenty of flights, it’s best to determine how far away the airport is from your final destination.
For example, are you trying to get to Berlin? If there are only Space-A flights that get you as far as Spangdahlem or Ramstein, you will still have to travel some 500 kilometers to your final destination. If that is an important factor, plan accordingly. Some need to get to a specific city, others just want to arrive “in country” and let the trip take them where ever it leads. How flexible is your travel schedule?
Space-A Peak Travel Times
Yes, there are peak periods for Space-A travel, especially around the traditional family holidays. But don’t forget that military dependents can also travel Space-A, and you’ll want to take that into account when traveling overseas.
Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DoDDS) located overseas have summer holidays and other vacation times for students; many Space-A flights during the DoDDS spring break and summer vacation time get more crowded with military spouses and dependents taking holidays away from the military base they are stationed at.
Space-A Travel Considerations
The more complicated your trip is, the harder it may be to successfully use Space-A. For example, do you need one seat? If you need more than two, Space-A becomes harder to navigate. For multiple travelers, it may be wise to limit your Space-A use to one destination rather than taking a chance on getting stranded halfway between Point A and Point B due to a lack of seats for your entire party.
How much Space-A “seniority” do you have? If you signed up for travel five minutes before the next flight out, you stand a good chance of getting bumped depending on circumstances. But if you have been in the system for a while, your chances at an open seat get better as time goes by.
If you can travel light, your range of aircraft options increases. Some flights may have a bag restriction, others may not. Under 30 pounds of luggage is ideal for maximum flexibility.
Passenger Terminal Issues
It is never safe to assume that 24 hour operations are available at military passenger terminals around the world. Your Space-A travel may require an overnight stay between destinations depending on circumstances. Be prepared to sleep somewhere away from the terminal, since some facilities may not allow overnight stays or sleeping in the terminal area.
When traveling Space-A overseas, you will need to carry your military ID, passport, and any other required paperwork showing your status as a military member or military dependent protected under the Status of Forces Agreement made between that country and the United States. This is crucial even if you are flying back from an overseas installation to the ‘States; you may be required to utilize off-base facilities, hotels, transportation, etc.
It’s also not safe to assume that it’s acceptable to park your vehicle at the terminal you depart from for an extended period of time. Unless otherwise posted/enforced, you may have a time restriction on how long you can leave a vehicle parked at the military air terminal.
Things To Remember About Space-A Flights
Space Available travel is exactly what the name implies-getting your seat on the aircraft is dependent on whether or not the flight crew needs that seat for mission-related purposes. It’s possible to get bumped off a Space-A flight due to mission requirements, but there are other factors that can alter your journey. You should keep the following factors in mind and plan accordingly.
Changes To The Mission
Here’s a fictitious example of how mission requirements and changes can affect your travel. An aircrew headed from Joint Base San Antonio, Texas to Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam in Hawaii releases 10 seats for Space-A travelers 72 hours ahead of time, and Space-A sign ups for this flight begin immediately.
But 24 hours before the scheduled departure time, the mission changes to include a medical evacuation to Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam. The medivac requires 6 seats total, leaving only four Space-A options. 20 people signed up for Space-A travel on this mission, so the first four signups in the system would be considered for this flight, but no more.
A Space-A flight from Japan to the United States with 25 seats gets cancelled due to heavy snow, leaving the Space-A travelers stranded until conditions are suitable for flying any aircraft in the area.
Mechanical problems can also cause delays. In this final example, aircraft maintenance creates a 15-hour delay in a Space-A flight while the aircraft is repaired and declared fit to fly once more. While it’s true that in such cases, Space-A travelers can sign up for another outbound flight, the option isn’t always available depending on destination, traveler needs, or mission requirements.
When you fly Space-A, you must always be prepared to adapt to changes to the mission.
Other Facts About Space-A Travel
Some Space-A travel is similar to flying in a commercial aircraft (with a few military adjustments). If, for example you are able to catch the Space-A rotator to Ramstein from BWI Airport, you will be provided with in-flight meals and beverages, just like flying commercial.
Meanwhile other Space-A travel is as austere is it can possibly be, with “jump seats” or other minimal passenger accommodations. Your flight may be colder than you expect while in the air compared to commercial travel. Even in the middle of the hottest summer, it’s best to fly Space-A assuming the cabin temperature won’t be ideal mid-flight. These comfort issues affect all travelers differently, so it’s important to plan ahead and bring bottled water to stay hydrated, and snacks and warm clothing too.
USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook
Depending on the mission, time of year, and other factors, you may find yourself flying Space-A with cargo, deploying troops, and sometimes even live animals. Expect dust and other environmental issues, depending on where you’re going. You may also experience less communication from the flight crew when compared to commercial flights.
As with most other air travel, there is no smoking on or near military aircraft. Smoking is not allowed in the military air terminals either. Planning ahead also requires anticipating possible delays in getting to areas where you are allowed to smoke again.
That advice may seem targeted specifically at those with tobacco habits, but those who have needs for regular medication or issues that require consistency in care should expect delays and prepare accordingly. You may need to administer medicine or other treatment in the air or at a military air terminal because of delays or changes in flight plans.
There are six Space -A categories (CAT-I thru CAT-VI) with CAT-I being the highest priority, the first to get offered a Space-A seat.
Category I – Emergency Leave Unfunded Travel. Transportation by the most expeditious routing only for bona fide immediate family emergencies, as determined by DoDI 1327.06 and Military Service regulations. This travel privilege will not be used in lieu of funded travel entitlements.
Category II – Accompanied Environmental and Morale Leave (EML).
Category III – Ordinary Leave, Relatives, House Hunting Permissive TDY, Medal of Honor Holders, and Foreign Military.
Category V – Permissive TDY (Non-House Hunting), Students, Dependents, Post Deployment/Mobilization Respite Absence, and Others.
Category VI – Totally Disabled Veterans (effective 2018), Retired, Dependents, Reserve, ROTC, NUPOC and Civil Engineer Corps (CEC) members.