By John W Jackson Jr, USAF Ret.
Military Space A flights, otherwise known as HOPS, are available to authorized personnel after all mission requirements have been met and there is still sufficient space available to accommodate passengers safely. Always remember that Space A is a privilege, not a right. This privilege can be revoked at anytime, for everyone. Also, flights are never guaranteed and you should always have a backup plan….or two.
Uniformed services retirees who are receiving retirement pay and possess a blue retiree ID card can travel Space-A with their dependents anywhere that Space-A is allowed. Retiree dependents are only allowed to travel with their sponsor. They cannot travel by themselves or with another retiree. If the sponsor dies, then the dependent no longer has Space A privileges.
People authorized to travel on military Space A flights are prioritized. There are six (6) different categories (Cats) for determining the status. At the bottom of those categories, Cat 6, is the group that includes military retirees. Although there are others that qualify under this category, you can see the official AMC category page at AMC Space A Travel Categories, the majority of the people using this category are retirees.
Military Retiree Advantage
As a retiree using Space A, we have, what I believe to be an advantage, despite being at the bottom of the totem pole. Those in the other 5 categories, and even the other people within Cat 6, need special paperwork. They also have a lot of restrictions and/or can only sign up at certain times. The retirees can sign up whenever they have a desire to do so. All they need to bring is their blue retiree military ID card and a valid passport if traveling overseas. If the retiree has a spouse and/or children, then they will need their IDs and proof that they are enrolled in DEERS. After signing up for Space A, a retiree can just show up, or not show up, their choice. Most retirees are usually not in a hurry and can travel … whenever.
Now there are certain times of the year that retirees should not try to travel if they are planning on going to or from an overseas location. During the summer months or during the Christmas holidays is a very bad time to attempt Space A travel. Basically, anytime that children are out of school for an extended time, it’s a bad time for the lower Space A categories to attempt to travel, especially Cat 6. Most likely you will be waiting in vain and never get a flight. You could get lucky though, it’s not impossible. Normally if you want to travel within the lower 48 US States, you can travel at any time and it’s only a small difference, if any, in the number of passengers and the wait times.
Got Time on our Hands
Usually a retiree’s best asset for using Space A is time. They have all the time in the world to wait for a flight. If it’s this week or next week, it usually really doesn’t matter too much. Also, being older and knowing the ways of the military, has taught most retirees patience, which is something that is required of all Space A travelers. The adage “Patience is a Virtue” is something to live by when traveling Space A.
Author: John W Jackson Jr. retired from the Air Force in 1993. He’s been married to a Filipina for just over 37 years. They have a son and four grandsons. They’ve lived in the Philippines for the past seven years but frequently make visits back to Texas. John is an avid NFL fan and his favorite team is the Dallas Cowboys. He likes John Wayne, Hank Williams Jr, listening to older country music and a nice steak (medium well)! When he is not involved with the Empire Builder series games or playing dominoes, he offers sage advice on how to travel using Space A.