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Space-A Travel Newbie?

by John W. Jackson Jr. - May 5th, 2022

Space-A Travel Newbie?

Do free or low-cost flights pique your interest? Military families can travel all over the world using Space-A travel. Read on to learn all about Space-A and how it works.

Note: The Department of Defense reopened Space-A travel as of 22 Apr. Travel had been suspended because of the pandemic, but is now open to all active-duty military, retirees, and their dependents.

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.

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. 

If you have the time and patience to wait on a Space-A flight, you can travel all around the world for a fraction of what a civilian airline would cost.

Click here to find more Space-A resources for military travelers.

What Space-A category are you?

If there are seats available on a Space-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 with specific requirements. Passengers placed into Category 1 receive the highest priority and are selected first, then Category 2, and so on.  

If you need some travel inspiration before booking a Space-A flight, check out these great OCONUS military travel locations.

Category 1

Emergency leave unfunded travel. This is for bona fide immediate family emergencies only, intended to get the service member or dependent to their location as quickly as possible, as determined by DoD directive 1327.5. Travelers may not use this privilege in leiu 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. EML is available to military members and dependents living in difficult or isolated conditions. In some cases, dependents may travel unaccompanied on Cat 2 status.

Category 3 

Ordinary Leave, house hunting permissive TDY, Medal of Honor holders, and foreign military. Must be ON LEAVE to sign up for a Space-A flight.

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 

Retirees, dependents, Reservists, and ROTC

For more detailed information on these categories please visit the official AMC Travel page.

Rules, rules, and more rules!

Once you determine your category, you need to find out the rules for that category. Then, you must sign up to be put on “the list" and request travel through a specific AMC passenger terminal. 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. You can find multiple email addresses in various locations by visiting the AMC Travel Site or this contact list. A lot of the small, less active locations do not have a passenger terminal page. If you can't find an email address for your desired location, check some of the other Space-A travel sites (find a list of our favorites here). 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.

FAX

Faxing can actually be done in 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 listed on Form 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 Space-A 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.

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. There are now only 2 days left before you go back to zero. If someone in a higher category (1 thru 5) walks in the door, and checks in to get on that flight, they have priority over you, even if they weren't previously on the list. 

It’s always good to have a printed copy or be able to show the passenger terminal 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. If you have proof, the passenger terminal will put you on the list based on when you sent your email.

Roll call

When you see a flight you want to take, go to the passenger terminal and check in with a passenger service representative. This representative will tell you when roll call will occur for that flight.

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, anyone else wishing to fly will be added in order.

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. This is when it gets a bit complicated. Sometimes, especially if you are the only people left in the terminal, the passenger representative can talk to the pilot about allowing all of you on board.

There is certainly no guarantee that the pilot can or will make this accommondation, but it's worth asking the representative to check.

Luggage restrictions on Space-A flights

The Space-A terminals follow FAA regulations for items that can be carried on a flight. If you can't take it on a commercial flight, you can't take it on a Space-A flight, either.

If you have any questions, ask your terminal representative before boarding your flight.

John W. Jackson Jr.

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 and have lived in the Philippines for the past seven years. John is an avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys, John Wayne, Hank Williams Jr, and listening to older country music. When he is not involved with the Empire Builder series games or playing dominoes, he offers sage advice on using Space A travel.

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