By John W Jackson Jr, USAF Ret.
There are many misconceptions about traveling with Space A (Space Available for military). The first and most important misconception about Space A travel is that it is a “right”. It is not. It is a privilege, and it could be taken away from us at any time. That’s why it is important to be respectful and patient when traveling.
People have been known to complain about not getting on a flight because they think they are more privileged. All that complaining is bad news for all of us. If the passenger service rep is following regulations, it is set up fairly. Be thankful that you have this privilege because most people do not, and never will.
Another big misconception is that Space A travel is free. Well, this one is both true and false. It’s true that ‘most’ Space-A flights are free. But it could end up costing money in other ways, such as lodging, dining, transportation, and activities. The only actual flights that cost money are the Patriot Express (PE) where it’s the international taxes that must be paid. All the cargo flights are free, however, not always reliable. If they get canceled or delayed, then you might need to spend a little or a lot of money until you can get another flight. Always have a couple of backup plans and enough money to cover those plans.
Along for the ride
A third misconception is that Space A flights operate like commercial flights. Some people believe that they can get on a military flight and it will bring them to wherever they want to go. Not true by a long shot. The mission ALWAYS comes first. The military is conducting their mission, and you are only along for the ride. You must go where they are going. Sometimes flights even get re-routed while in the air. It’s up to you, not the flight crew, to be prepared for that. If it’s not exactly where you want to go, it’s up to you to complete the rest of the trip however you can.
First come, First serve?
There are many websites about traveling on Space A. That’s why it’s hard for me to understand why some people still believe that seats on a Space A flight are on a first come, first serve basis. Nope. There are six categories of Space A travel, and the better you learn how to use them, the better your chances are of getting a seat. If you are a, let’s say, Cat 4 with two dependents that have been waiting for two weeks to get a flight; a flight comes up with three seats available. If a Cat 3 with (or without) *2 dependents walks in the door 5 minutes before a roll call and checks in, then the Cat 3 will get the seats before you do.
*Families are usually not separated unless the remaining passengers are able to apply for Space A on their own. If there are children under 18 years of age, they will not be separated from the family. So, in this case, even if the Cat 3 was alone, there would only be two seats left and the family of 3 would not be able to be on this flight unless more seats became available. Everyone, even infants, must have their own seat assigned.
The last misconception I’d like to mention is that it is impossible to plan when using Space A because you never know when or if you will have a flight. It does make it harder to plan, but not impossible. As mentioned, there are many websites about Space A travel. Those websites cover a wide variety of topics, from lodging to transportation and restaurants, to hospitals. Use the resources available to you. Make those backup plans, and you should be able to accomplish what you need to do. Maybe it won’t be perfect, but if your mission is accomplished, that’s all that should matter.
The important thing to remember is to have fun with it. If you end up in a location that you were not expecting, relish the opportunity and explore a little bit. Getting stressed out is not going to help. In fact, it’s probably going to make things worse. Think of it as wherever you end up, that is the destination.
Full Steam Ahead!
I hope this has cleared up some of the misconceptions about Space A and has cleared the way for some of you that have been apprehensive about trying Space A for the first time. It seems overwhelming, but once you’ve done it a couple of times, it’s not so bad. In fact, I believe, you will really enjoy it.
Enjoy your privilege; you have earned it.
For more information about Space A Travel, visit John’s website UJ Space A Info.
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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.