What is Space-A Travel?
Space-A is a travel benefit offered to U.S. military service members and retirees that allows them to occupy surplus DOD aircraft seats when all required passengers and cargo have been provided for. They are normally free aside from a service charge (excepting tax for Patriot Express flights via AMC).
Space-A travel can be an invaluable moneysaving tool for military personnel that want or need to travel, but it can also be intimidating and confusing for people who have never used it and aren’t familiar with how it works and what the best practices are for using it.
Below you will find the top tips for Space-A travel, from planning to packing to flying, along with some crucial information about Space-A eligibility, priority, and terminology. Make sure to visit the links listed at the end of this article for more details on what you find here.
Top tips for Space-A travel
When Planning Leave or a Trip
- Keep in mind that the best times to travel Space-A
are when school is in session; this is when you will be least likely to be
competing with dependents for Space-A seats.
- If a base has a reserve/National Guard unit, you may want to research when there will be a drill weekend and avoid that time frame to decrease competition in getting a seat.
- Make sure you have all the paperwork you will
need in order before you attempt to secure Space-A travel. This includes:
- Leave paperwork, if applicable
- EML orders, if applicable
- Uniformed Services ID with DOD ID number for all
travelers in your party
- Children under 10 years will need a passport but also must have their DOD ID number
- Copies of birth certificates, if applicable
- Passports, if applicable (for overseas travel; some foreign countries require a passport with more than 6 months left until expiration)
- Visa, if applicable (for overseas travel)
- Immunization records, if applicable (for overseas travel)
- Medical documentation, if applicable
- Women less than 6 weeks postpartum and infants under 6 weeks require written certification of travel readiness from a medical officer or civilian physician to fly Space-A
- Space-A documentation, if applicable (i.e. unaccompanied dependents)
- Try to pack light when possible. Depending on what aircraft you find yourself flying on, the baggage allowance limit may be lower on your return flight than it was for your departing flight, in which case you will have to either send stuff back home or jettison some of your luggage to fall under the limit.
- Make sure to dress in layers. Some aircraft will remain a comfortable temperature in flight, but others may be very cold, so it’s a good idea to have extra clothes for the flight just in case.
- It’s a good idea to ensure that you have enough money in your bank account to fund a commercial return flight, just in case. It’s also a good idea to make sure that you would be able to fund a few nights in a hotel as well as ground transportation if you needed to; for instance, if you ended up returning to a different base than the one you departed from you might need accommodations in order to make it back home in a safe and comfortable manner.
- Keep in mind that non-commercial flights may or may not have box lunches for purchase, so make sure you are packing food for all travelers in your party in case there isn’t any available on your flight.
When Looking for a Flight
- Use Facebook, the AMC main page, and Google to look up and save as many terminal pages as you can. Make sure to jot down all contact information for each terminal.
- Spend some time looking at the flight schedules. You can find a lot of useful information there for predicting which flights and what times you will be most likely to secure a flight. Some important points to note are previous seats available, seat usage, and what Space-A categories were ultimately selected for which flights.
- Keep in mind that you will only be able to get flight schedules up to 72 hours in advance of the actual flights.
- If you can’t find flight information online, you can always call or visit terminals and ask the PSAs about their schedules.
- Make sure to sign-up for Space-A as soon as possible and at each location where you wish to compete for seats (this includes locations for return as well as departing flights). Active duty may sign up immediately upon the start of their leave. All other eligible members may sign up at any time. There are four ways to sign up.
- On-line sign up (and email)
- For emails you can cut and paste information from a generic signup template here
- In person
- On-line sign up (and email)
- It’s always a good idea to call the terminals to verify signup.
- Make sure to know when you can mark yourself as “present”; most of the time this is within 24 hours of Space-A roll call, although it can differ. Also, know the rules for how long you will remain marked as “present”; some locations will purge their lists at midnight, in which case you will have to return to be marked as “present” again.
- Ensure that you are at the terminal (or watching your email if you are participating in a Virtual Roll Call) at “Show Time” for Roll Call. If you are not present when your name is called during roll call, you will be passed over and your seats offered to the next person on the priority list. A new Roll Call will only be initiated if there are remaining seats after the first Roll Call has been completed.
- Make sure you are flight ready at the time of Roll Call.
When You Get Where You Are Going
- It’s a good idea to verify right away that you are signed up for Space-A for your return flight at any terminal you might want to return from
More about Space-A
Who Is Eligible
- Active Duty Service Members on leave
- Reservists and National Guard Members
- Dependents not authorized unless members activated more than 30 days
- Only authorized to CONUS and OCONUS (but not overseas) destinations
- Reservists and Guard Members activated more than 30 days get same Space-A privileges as active duty
- May travel “space-required” for IDT assemblies CONUS /OCONUS with memorandum or service form
- This does not include gray retirees, meaning reservist retirees that are not yet 60 years old and not receiving retirement pay; once a reservist retiree has reached 60 and is receiving retirement pay (blue retiree), they may claim Space-A privileges
- Only accompanied by a sponsor unless sponsor activated more than 30 days
- Foreign exchange service members and dependents
- Must be on permanent duty with DOD
- Totally disabled veterans
- Only eligible for CONUS and OCONUS (not overseas) travel
- ROTC or Academy Cadets – If enrolled in ROTC, NUPOC or CEC course or enrolled under a financial assistance program, cadets may travel CONUS/OCONUS (not overseas) without dependents
- Reservists and National Guard Members
- There are six Space-A “categories” that
determine priority for competing Space-A passengers.
- CAT I (this is the highest category) – Emergency
Leave Unfunded Travel
- Space-A passengers can be upgraded as high as the bottom of CAT I if they are validated by a competent and formal authority (i.e. American Red Cross, unit Commander, Doctor); upgraded passengers return to original category for return travel.
- CAT II – Environmental Morale Leave (EML)
- This includes active Duty and any accompanied dependents
- CAT III – Ordinary active duty leave
- This includes terminal leave as well as accompanied dependents, House Hunting Permissive TDY, Medal of Honor Holders, dependents of service members deployed 365 consecutive days or more
- CAT IV – Unaccompanied dependents on EML or dependents of service members deployed between 30-364 consecutive days
- CAT V – unaccompanied dependents of active duty, permissive TDY, students
- CAT VI (this is the lowest category) – Totally disabled vets, retired and accompanied dependents, Reservist/Guard members, ROTC, NUPOC, CEC
- For a more detailed description of the categories, visit here
- CAT I (this is the highest category) – Emergency Leave Unfunded Travel
Important Acronyms & Definitions
- Airport codes – Three letter codes that identify each airport. You can look up all airport codes here.
- AMC/MAC – Air Mobility Command (MAC is a previously used acronym)
- AMCI – Air Mobility Command Instruction
- BEQ/BOQ/CBQ – Bachelor Enlisted Quarters/Bachelor Officer’s Quarters/Combined Bachelors Quarters
- CONUS – Continental United States – this means all lower contiguous 48 states
- OCONUS – Outside the Continental United States – this includes overseas locations as well as any U.S. states or territories not located within the lower contiguous 48 states (Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, etc.)
- Overseas – Locations outside of the United States and all U.S. territories
- EML – Environmental Morale Leave
- Leave authorized from locations that have been deemed as having an unsuitable geographic or cultural environment to accomplish the purpose of leave.
- Command-sponsored dependent – Dependent residing with a service member at an OCONUS location at which an accompanied dependents tour is authorized.
- Patriot Express – AMC commercial charter flights
- AMCGRAM – A passenger terminal FAQ that includes helpful information such as long-term parking instructions, lodging contact numbers, rental car info, etc.
- Manifested – Selected for a flight (only one-way)
- Manifested through – Selected for flights through to a certain location; this guarantees seats through all connecting flights
- Show Time – time (usually 2 to 3 hours) prior to scheduled aircraft departure that terminal passenger service may start manifesting
- Roll Call – process in which passengers of each category are manifested
- VRC – Virtual Roll Call – Only offered at some locations; Allows participation in roll call from somewhere other than the terminal after in-person terminal check-in
- Useful Space-A links