Today's blog is for all of those military dependents out there who have ever wondered about taking a Space A flight but have yet to do so. You may have heard of Space A but never really knew what it was all about. When it comes to flying Space A, the more information you have the better.
Well let’s start with the basics. Space A stands for Space Available. There are military flights that go around the world each day. These flights might be relocating people, moving cargo or a variety of other things. Sometimes these airplanes are not completely full and that is when the available space is offered to the military sponsor and/or their dependents. Some flights may have 5 open seats, while others may have over 30.
Who is eligible for Space A? Well that is a good question. On a regular day, a uniformed member of the military along with his/her dependents is eligible to fly. BUT, there are a few reasons that dependents can fly without their sponsor. This includes but is not limited to emergency situations, those with deployed sponsors, Command Sponsored OCONUS dependents, Non-Command Sponsored CONUS located dependents, Command Sponsored OCONUS dependents on EML.
I know this sounds a bit confusing, but let me direct you to a site that explains in detail much of this information that I have shared. http://spacea.net/mediawiki/index.php?title=Main_Page
I have learned a lot in the last few weeks as I prepared to leave South Korea and fly home Space A to visit my family in the United States. One of these things is that those flying on Space A are broken down into different categories. Depending upon how and why you are flying, will determine which category you will be assigned to for your trip.
Since I was flying without my sponsor from an OCONUS duty station to CONUS, it put me in Category V (5) of the 6 Categories. I made the decision to get approval for EML which bumped me up to Category IV.
Here is a summary of the categories:
Category I – Unfunded Emergency Leave
Category II – AD (Active Duty) on EML and their accompanying family members
Category III - AD and their accompanying family members, House Hunting Permissive TDY, unaccompanied dependents of deployed service members (365 plus day deployment)
Category IV - Unaccompanied dependents on EML or sponsor is deployed for 120 days
Category V – Unaccompanied dependents of AD (command/non-command sponsored), Permissive TDY
Category VI – Retirees and their accompanied dependents
To use Space A you must sign up ahead of time. If you are active duty or traveling with your sponsor, the earliest that you can sign up is the day that their leave or pass begins. If you are traveling unaccompanied, then you can sign up as soon as you have your travel authorization or EML form signed. Signups are only good for 60 days, or the duration of a soliders leave. There are a few ways to sign up but the simplest way to tell you is to use the AMC form which can be found here: http://www.amc.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-100706-057.swf
I simply sent an email to the AMC termials that I wanted to fly out of or through with the required information. Always keep a hard copy of the email that you sent because if you get to the terminal to check in for a flight and they do not have you listed in the system, then you have the email as proof and they will add you in with the date on the email.
Even though you fall into a certain Category, all those people in that Category will then be placed in order of earliest sign up to most recent with those who sign up first getting on the plane before the others would.
I must tell you upfront, I am not the adventurous type and doing a trip from South Korea to the United States without my husband but with my 4 daughters in tow, was a big deal for me. When we moved to Korea, I had to do this same trip but I was on a commercial flight with flight attendants, meals and movies. From the stories I had heard, Space A would not be the same. BUT the idea of saving the cost of 5 commercial airlines tickets at $1500.00 a piece is what enticed me to take this adventure.
It takes a lot of work to make phone calls, jot info down and put the pieces of the puzzle together but if you don’t have to pay for the flight and can get where you want for little or next to nothing, it’s all worth it in the end.
Here is my Space A experience from Korea to the USA. My plan to get to the states was to start with the Patriot Express since it leaves Osan AFB every Tuesday and Thursday and flies to Seattle, WA. I attempted to get on the Tuesday flight, but it was booked, (they never called anyone below Category III) so I stayed at Turumi Lodge in Osan (about 41.50 a night) and decided that I would try the Thursday flight to Seattle. We did not make that either. After talking to some of the airmen working at the AMC(Air Mobility Command) desk, I was told that it would be easier getting out of Yokota, Japan to the USA then it would going out of Osan. Since the Thursday Patriot Express was heading through Yokota AFB, I gave them a call and found out that they had three flights going to California in the next week. There were seats on the Patriot Express from Korea to Japan, so I decided to just take a chance, head to Japan and pray we got on a flight bound for the USA from there. Worst case scenario, I would have to pay for lodging for a week (again 41.50 a night) at Yokota and head back to Korea on the next inbound Patriot from Yokota to Osan.
We arrived in Japan too late for the flight that was heading to CA that same day, so we went to the lodge and stayed the night. We had dinner at Chili’s and stopped at the commissary for some items for breakfast and lunch the next day. Friday afternoon there was a flight heading to Travis AFB with a roll call of 1600. It was a C17 with 20 Space A seats available. I was afraid we would not get on because I needed 5 of those 20 seats for my 4 daughters and me. After waiting through roll call, we did get on that flight and made it to the USA some 9 hours later.You need to be flexible to take Space A. Have a little room in your budget in case you get stuck somewhere. But the good thing is that a room at AFB lodging is between 39.00 and 42.00 a night.
You also need to be proactive and make lots of phone calls. In addition to the Patriot Express, you can call Osan (or wherever else you may be flying out of) and see if they have any other flights going out and where they are heading. Most AMC (Air Mobility Command) places will only have confirmed flight info for 3 days out but they may have a schedule of where they fly regularly for the month. Yokota was that way. Last May, when I flew, Yokota had regular flights to Elmendorff (AK), Travis (CA) and Hickam (HI) at least 3-5 times a month. They may not give you the monthly schedule over the phone though. They had a sheet with information at the AMC desk though. The link to all the AMC Travel site: http://www.amc.af.mil/amctravel/index.asp If you go here, it will give you the contact information of all the AMC locations: http://www.amc.af.mil/amctravel/amctravelcontacts.asp I printed this list and took it with me on my adventure.If you are not flying with your spouse, you can only fly until you hit the continental USA, unless you are manifested through. This means that say you start in Hawaii and they have a flight that is going to Travis AFB, Scott AFB and then onto Dix/McGuire. You can get on in Hawaii (which is OCONUS) and fly all the way to Dix/McGuire, as long as they put you on the flight manifest the entire way through. In my case, since the flight I got on ended at Travis and did not go further east, I had to get off there and pay for a commercial flight from there.
In the long run, it was definitely worth it. The trip on the C17 was an experience like no other. It was cold and loud, but it was FREE!