Do free or low-cost flights peak your interest? Then keep reading to learn about Space-A travel and how it works.
What is Space-A travel?
Space-A stands for Space Available. Service members and their families can travel on military (and sometimes commercial) flights for free or for a very small fee using Space-A travel.
The catch? There are no guarantees there will be a flight. If there is a flight, there is no guarantee you will be able to board. The mission always comes first.
If seats are 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. It is a lot of “ifs”, but people do get to travel plenty through Space-A.
What Space-A Category are you?
If there are seats available on a flight, potential passengers are selected by Category, normally just referred to as CAT, and by sign-up date and time.
There are six categories of Space-A travel, and you’ll be placed into one of these categories. Each category has specific requirements that must be met. Passengers placed into Category 1 receive the highest priority and are selected first.
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 your category is determined, you need to find out the rules for that category and you need to sign up to be put on “the list.” There are several ways to sign up. You can sign up either in person, via email, or fax for most places, but some locations have specific rules and different procedures.
In-person is easy: simply show up at the terminal and let them know that you want to be placed on the Space-A list.
Email (my preferred method)
You can send one email 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 email 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 email 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.
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.
It’s always good to have a printed copy or be able to show them online that you did send the email, and to the correct email 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 email, if you show it to them.
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.
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, even if your name came 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 happens 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?
If your name is called during roll call, you most likely have a seat!
Sometimes you will be called and then informed that only 1 seat is available even though 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, the passenger representative can talk to the pilot about providing another seat so everyone in your group can board the flight. There’s no guarantee this adjustment can be made, but you should ask for the representative to ask the pilot.
The Space-A terminals follow FAA regulations as far as what can be carried on a flight. 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.
Author: John W Jackson Jr. retired from the Air Force in 1993. He’s been married for just over 38 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.