Space a flight schedule
McChord Field’s Space A program, which provides free flights aboard military aircraft, is a hidden gem among military-related benefits at participating military bases. Photo credit: Christina Butcher
There are adventurers in the world who don’t think twice about traveling without guarantees. Those travelers enjoy moving through the “unknown” and often consider missed flights or changes to the itinerary as simply a part of the travelling experience. For those people, especially military servicemembers, retirees and their families, travelling with Space A is the way to go. The Space A service comprises free travel of servicemembers, retirees and their family members aboard military aircraft with available seats.
“Active-duty (military), reservists, retired (servicemembers), National Guard (members) and family members can all utilize Space A,” said Helen Anderson, the Lead Transportation Assistant at McChord Field’s AMC Passenger Terminal. “It’s a big benefit of being in the military. Both active-duty and retired servicemembers use it all the time . I love to watch people get on (the plane) and then come back happy.”
While not every military base has Space A travel available, servicemembers and families at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) have access to not one, but two AMC Passenger Terminals: McChord Field’s AMC Passenger Terminal, which includes flights to destinations all over the world, and the AMC Sea-Tac Gateway, which serves travelers heading to the Orient.
So, how exactly does Space A travel work? It’s surprisingly simple, with only a four-step process. First, interested travelers need to head to the McChord Field AMC Passenger Terminal website, or contact personnel from the office to gather general information about passenger qualifications, required paperwork, proper attire and travel services.
For qualifying travelers, the second step is to peruse the JBLM Passenger Terminal Facebook page to find specific information on upcoming, scheduled flights and passenger roll calls. Information is usually posted every 72 hours. If travelers see a flight on the Facebook page that fits their needs, they can sign up for it in-person at the AMC Passenger Terminal or via email or fax. It’s important to note that travelers must sign up for each leg of their travel separately, at the respective AMC Passenger Terminal serving the location they plan to fly out of.
“Keep yourself informed when you’re travelling Space A,” Anderson advises. “Make sure you know what’s required and keep up with the schedule. I see a lot of passengers who are constantly calling or coming in, and that’s what I like to see because it keeps them informed.”
The third step for Space A travelers is going to the AMC Passenger Terminal to have their required documents looked over. “Make sure you have hardcopy documentation, including your leave form,” Anderson said. “And remember that (for active servicemembers) you can’t sign up before your leave starts. Family members will need to have their ID cards, passports or other documents they’ll need, too.”
The fourth and final step is perhaps the easiest: travelers simply need to arrive at the AMC Passenger Terminal on the day of their flight, preferably at least 20 minutes early, with hard copies of their documents in hand and ready to board the plane. As usual, TSA rules apply to all travel out of the AMC Passenger Terminal. The four-step process is so straightforward that AMC Passenger Terminal employees have seen travelers complete it in a single day.
“I once had the opportunity to fly from Japan to Hong Kong, which is not a trip I would have normally had gone on,” said Anderson, who utilized Space A travel opportunities several times during her 20 years of service in the Air Force. “It was an adventure.”
If Space A sounds too good to be true, then hold on to your seat, because it gets even better. The AMC Passenger Terminal at McChord Field also provides free long-term parking, no baggage fees for your first two pieces of luggage (within limitations) and has in-flight meals for sale onboard.
Qualifying Travelers who are alright with a little uncertainty need look no further than Space A. “Having time and patience helps, too,” said Anderson.