By John W Jackson Jr, USAF Ret.
Just exactly what is this Space-A travel that you probably heard so much about? Check out the following tips for understanding how Space A travel works.
Space-A Travel Newbie?
Space-A stands for Space Available, traveling on military (and sometimes commercial) air crafts for free or for a very small fee. The catch is that there are no guarantees there will be a flight. Or if there is one, that you will be able to get on. The mission always comes first. If there are any seats available after all cargo and duty personnel are loaded, if there is no danger to a passenger and if the pilot feels like it, then there is a chance that you could get a seat. Yes, it is a lot of “ifs”, but people do get to travel plenty on Space-A. So let’s see how people are selected to help you determine the best chance of getting you on a flight.
Flight schedules are normally only 72 hours in advance. The Patriot Express.pdf (PE) does have a monthly schedule though for the places that have a PE.
What Space-A CAT are You?
If there are any seats available on a flight, potential passengers are selected by Category, normally just referred to as Cat, and by sign up date/time. There are six Categories and each has specific requirements that must be met. It’s not as hard as it sounds. The highest category is Cat 1 and they get selected first. The lowest is Cat 6.
Category 1– Emergency Leave Unfunded Travel Transportation by the most expeditious routing only for bona fide immediate family emergencies, as determined by DOD Directive 1327.5 -This travel privilege shall not be used in lieu of a funded travel entitlement.
Category 2 – Sponsors in an Environmental Morale Leave (EML) status and their dependents traveling with them, also in EML status
Category 3 – Ordinary Leave, House Hunting Permissive TDY, Medal of Honor Holders, Foreign Military, and other – Must be ON LEAVE to sign up
Category 4 – Unaccompanied Dependents on EML and DODDS Teachers on EML During Summer
Category 5 – Permissive TDY (Non-House Hunting) Students, Command Sponsored Dependents
Category 6 – Retired, Dependents, Reserve, ROTC
For more detailed information on these categories please visit the official AMC Travel page.
Rules, Rules and More Rules!
Once you have your category determined, then you need to find out the different rules for that category. And you need to sign up to be put on ‘the list’. To sign up, there are usually several ways. I say usually because some locations have specific rules and not the same procedure as most other locations. You can sign up either in person, via e-mail, fax or at Take-A-Hop at most places.
In person is easy, just show up at the terminal and let them know that you want to be placed on the Space-A list.
E-mail (my preferred method)
You can send one e-mail to as many different Space-A locations as you want. The easiest way to find a lot of the e-mail addresses is to go to the AMC Travel Site and look on the right side. Each Space-A terminal is listed there. Once you get to the passenger terminal page, click on “About” and you will find the e-mail address there. A lot of the small, less active locations do not have a passenger terminal page. Most can be found on a few of the good websites out there for Space-A. Once you have the e-mail set, just save it and resend it every couple of months to stay as high on the list as possible, just in case.
Faxing can actually be done two ways. You can fill out an AMC Form 140 and fax it in, or you can fax in a letter with the same information that is on the Form 140. Here is a pdf of the 140.
Take A Hop is used by many people. I think more people use it than any other method to sign up for Space-A. Just select whether you are on a PC or mobile and then fill in the blanks.
One thing to remember is that all methods ask for your social security number or your passport number. You DO NOT have to supply that information until you show up at the terminal to check in. That information is protected under the privacy act.
You Are On the List!
Once you are on the Space-A list you are there for either 45 or 60 days, depending on where you sign up. Most (not all) Navy locations are only 45 days while all Air Force locations are 60 days. The longer you are on the list, without going over the 45 or 60 days, the higher you are on that list.
This next part is important to remember.
You are higher on the list, within your category. So, let’s say that you are #1 on the Cat 6 list and have been signed up for 58 days, only 2 days left before you will go back to zero. If someone in a higher category (1 thru 5) walks in the door, not signed up at all, but checks in to get on that flight, they have priority over you. That’s one of the things you must learn about Cat 6 from the AMC site or other readings you can find on Space-A.
So, you are signed up and see a flight that you want to try for on the Space-A schedule. Go to the terminal and check in with a passenger service representative. When you check in, if you signed up, be sure to check to make sure you are on the list as of your sign-up date. It’s always good to have a printed copy or be able to show them on-line that you did send the e-mail, and to the correct e-mail address. Every once in a while, for some reason, your name will not be in the system. However, they will sign you up, as of your e-mail, if you show it to them.
They will tell you when you check in what time roll call occurs. Do not miss roll call. If you miss roll call you will be passed over if your name would have come up for a flight. You will be added to the back of the list, including behind any Cat 6 that did attend roll call. IF they have extra seats after roll call is complete, then they will ask again if anyone wants to get on the flight and they will go in order again for anyone that still does.
Sometimes roll call is right away, sometimes it is a few hours away. Regardless of when it is, DO NOT LEAVE the terminal. They could change the roll call time at any time. Also remember, when you show up for roll call you need to be ready to board the flight. You might not have time to return your rental car or go back to billeting to get your family or luggage. Be ready to go at roll call.
Cleared to Fly….or no?
So, if they call your name at roll call, most likely it is because you have a seat. You will be given instructions when you go up to the counter or to the representative. Sometimes, and it’s happened to me twice, you will be called up and they will tell you that they have 1 seat left and you are requesting 2 seats. In this case, it gets complicated as to whether you can or should take the flight. Sometimes, especially if you are the only people left in the terminal looking for a flight, the passenger representative can talk to the pilot and sometimes they relinquish another seat so everyone can get on. You should ask for the representative to ask the pilot. Usually they will do it anyways. But it’s better to be safe and ask them to ask.
The Space-A terminals follow FAA regulations as far as what can be carried on a flight. But if you have any questions, ask at the terminal you are departing from before boarding your flight.
I hope that this gives you a little more understanding of how the Space-A sign up works. Check back to the PCSgrades Blog next week for a list of some helpful and informative websites.
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PCSgrades 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. 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.