Space-A Baggage Overload
When traveling on military Space Available flights, commonly referred to as Space-A, many things can determine whether you will be able to board a flight. One thing that most people do not think about is their luggage or baggage overload. Since Space-A passengers are not authorized excess baggage, not even for a fee, you must stay within the designated baggage limitations for the type of aircraft that you will be boarding.
So, what do you pack and what do you leave behind?
The first thing to know is that different types of aircraft have different weight allowances. You will learn some or all of them as you take more Space-A flights, but the customer service representative should inform you at roll call of the type of aircraft and the baggage limitation. If the baggage limits are listed on a board in the terminal, remember those limits are ‘per bag.’
However, if you are traveling with family, then they will take the maximum allowable weight, multiply that by the number of family members and you will be able to pool that weight, so you do not have to worry about individual bags resulting in baggage overload. That’s for dependents only, not friends that may be flying with you. Even your smallest family member is allowed the maximum weight, and let’s face it, most babies and small children do not need as much of an allowance as the parents and the accessories they will need to carry. To make things even more in your favor, all car seats, strollers, walkers and wheelchairs do not count towards your total weight allowance.
So, what do you do if, after all this careful packing, you still find yourself a little over the limit for the flight you want to get on? Well, if it is actually only a ‘few pounds,’ then the passenger service representative may just let it go, but you can’t depend on that because they are under no obligation to do this.
There are very few options at this point, but all is not necessarily lost. If the ‘few pounds’ is more in the 10 to 20-pound range, then you will need to determine how important this flight really is to you. Can you pass on this flight and wait for another? Another flight ‘might’ have a larger weight allowance, but you may not know for sure.
Your first option for fixing your baggage overload should be to rearrange your content. If one bag is over and the other is under, move the contents to the lighter one. You can just do it right there on the floor. I’ve had to do it, and I’ve seen others doing it also. Nothing to be embarrassed about, it happens. Most travelers understand what’s going on. You can also put some of the excess in your carry-on bag if that one is not over the limit.
If you are traveling with someone, not part of your family, then maybe they will be a little under their baggage weight limit and will offer to carry some of your stuff. Even if you have just met someone while at the terminal, you can ask them to help you out. This requires the trust of likely a stranger, but I have found that the military family, and even more closely, the Space-A family, usually stick together.
Nonetheless, this would be the last option that I would use. They may want to run the items you are asking them to carry through security first. Don’t be offended by this. They need to be careful too. Just the same as your first option, things can be moved around in their suitcases also. You can just collect it when you get to your destination. Hopefully, they will be going as far, or further than you or you will be in the same predicament at another stop. Someday someone may ask you to carry something for them.
I don’t mind carry excess luggage for people, but if I don’t know them, I take some precautions.
Someone my wife and I met at a passenger terminal was over her baggage limit. She was authorized only two bags but had three because she did some shopping and there was no way to adjust her bags. She was leaving on a flight very soon, going towards the US and we were going where she just came from. She asked if we’d help out with the baggage overload by bringing the bag there and she would have someone pick it up from us. We didn’t mind helping because she was a very nice lady and had already helped us out while waiting there for a flight. However, after she left on her flight, I brought the bag to security, explained what was going on and asked them to run the bag through the x-ray scanner, just to be sure there would be no surprises later. It was all fine and good, as I suspected it would be, but, as I said, it pays to cover your tracks. You too should follow this procedure.
Another way to get under the weight limit, and the last resort for most people facing baggage overload, would be to give and/or throw some of your stuff away. If you deem it so necessary to get on this particular flight and are desperate enough, you will do this. I’ve seen it done a few times and even had someone give us a whole suitcase full of things, including new clothes (though all of them were too small for me) and some unopened groceries. Of course, I promptly brought the bag to security and had it x-rayed before attempting to check it in as my own.
A few notes and some baggage limits for the more popular aircraft used for Space-A.
- Some commercial airlines have lowered their per bag limit from 70 pounds down to 50 pounds. If you have a connecting commercial flight, take this into consideration to avoid baggage overload.
- The standard issued B-4 duffle bags can weigh up to 100 pounds and are still considered as one piece on Space-A. Other bags over 70 pounds count as two checked bags. Only 1 of these duffle bags per person is allowed.
- A good rule of thumb is to pack as light as possible to increase the number of aircraft you will be able to board. Having 30 pounds or less total will get you on about 99% of the aircrafts.
- The official AMC Space-A Baggage Allowance page: AMC Travel Site/Baggage Allowances
- The official AMC Prohibited Travel Items page: AMC Travel Site/Prohibited Travel Items
- Do not place valuables, medicine, or important documents in your checked baggage.
- Be sure your name and current address are on and inside your bags. AMC terminals have baggage ID tags available for your use. It is also advisable to place a copy of your leave/EML paperwork inside your checked baggage.
- Each passenger is permitted to hand-carry one article (small luggage, garment bags, backpack, etc.) and one personal item (cosmetic case, purse, briefcase, small boxes, packages, etc.) for storage in the passenger cabin area.
- The larger aircraft (C-5, C-17, KC-10 & KC-135) authorizes two bags at 70 pounds each and one carry-on bag, which needs to be able to fit under your seat or in the overhead compartment (if available). All checked bags also should not exceed 62 linear inches (L+W+H).
- The medium aircraft (C-40, C-9 & C-130) allow up to 40 pound checked bags and one carry-on of no more than 10 pounds.
- The smaller aircraft (UC-35, C-20, C-12, C-21) allow 20 pound checked bags and one carry-on of no more than 10 pounds.
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PCSgrades Author: John W Jackson Jr. retired from the Air Force in 1993. He and his wife have been married for almost 40 years. They have a son and four grandsons. They’ve lived in the Philippines for the past eight 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.