Space-A is a great way for a military spouse to travel.
We used Space-A back in 2009 to get from Germany to California and back again. The whole thing was quite the experience which wasn’t always easy but I am glad that I had the chance to try flying this way. Traveling Space-A isn’t for the faint of heart and knowing how this type of travel works is very important for having a successful trip.
Space-A travel is when members of the military, retirees and their spouses can travel on aircraft under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Defense when there is room available for them to do so. There is no guarantee that you will get a flight and you need a lot of patience and flexibility if you are going to use this method to get to where you want to go.
For us it took about 3 days to get to California from Germany. We were lucky in that we got on the first flight we wanted to get on. However, after 4 hours and after we were seated on the flight, the plane broke down and everyone had to get off and start all over again. This is the type of thing that can happen which can get frustrating but you need to be prepared for delays when you travel using Space-A.
The first step in planning for your Space-A trip is figuring out where you are going to go.
Most Space-A flights leave from Air Force bases around the United States and overseas. You would want to see where you can fly and how often flights go out of that location. Some places might only have 1 or 2 flights a week so your chances of getting out of there would be slim. Sometimes it is best to drive to a better location to get a better chance of catching a flight.
You would then need to figure out what your Space-A ranking is. The Air Mobility Command has a list of what you would be classified as. As a military spouse traveling you would be classified as either:
- Category III– If your spouse is deployed more than 365 consecutive days or if you are traveling with your active duty spouse.
- Category IV– If your spouse is deployed for more than 30 consecutive days but less than 365 days.
- Category V-If you are flying without your spouse and they are not deployed.
- Category VI– Retired military and their spouses
The lower your category, the better your chances of catching a flight. For example Category III is a higher priority for seating than Category VI. Each flight has a limited number of seats. Sometimes the seats are more than a hundred, other times there are just 4 or 5 seats available. You will need to register at every location you plan to fly out of. Once you have, you still have to wait to see if you get on the flight and you will need to check in as “present” when you get there.
This is where patience and flexibility come into play when flying Space-A. If a flight only has a few seats and you are a lower category, unless a lot of people decide not to get on that flight, your name will probably never get called. You will need to have a plan for if this happens to you. If you don’t, you could get stuck somewhere and that can be really upsetting.
The best way to prepare for Space-A is to do your research.
Since I was flying to the United States from Germany, I figured out which locations in the U.S. could get me to California. Although they did have flights going all the way there from Germany, I knew that might not be possible. I figured out which of the U.S. bases did go there and was open to any of those locations. In the end we flew into Baltimore and then had to make our way to Andrews Air Force Base where we were able to get a flight to Travis Air Force Base in California.
With Space-A you also need to have all of the important travel documents with you for you and all of your children. These documents include:
- Travel authorization
- ID card
- Unaccompanied dependent memorandum
- Valid Passport
- Birth Certificates and Social Security cards
Make sure you double-check everything as you will not be able to fly without the right paperwork.
If you do make a flight, you must be there in person to check-in. You must be ready to fly. If you are not, they will go to the next person on the list.
Keep in mind that with Space-A you could be doing a lot of waiting. Plan for a lot of waiting. Bring something for you and your kids to do. Make sure you have the means to stay in a hotel because if a flight gets canceled you might have to wait until the next day to try again.
In the end, you have to decide if Space-A travel is for you. It will not work for everyone. Sometimes buying a commercial airline ticket will be best.
You have to be flexible with Space-A, you have to plan ahead and you have to be willing to change your plans over and over again until you can get to your location.