'Space-A' travel remains open for dependents, retirees

21 May 2004 | Cpl. Micah Snead

Space-available travel, the military’s version of “Have seat, can fly” within the states, will remain available to military families and retirees beyond the one-year test deadline.

The program, which began in April 2003, expanded “Space-A” travel to active-duty military dependents and retirees traveling within the continental United States.

The extension will allow the test to continue while the Office of the Secretary of Defense completes its evaluation of the program, according to Air Force Lt. Col. Darcy Lilley, air transportation division chief, Air Mobility Command.

Space-A is a privilege originally offered to members of the uniformed services to travel on aircraft under the control of the Department of Defense when space is available. When a military flight’s mission, cargo and number of passengers allows for extra seats, those seats become available.

In Dec. 2000, the commander of Transportation Command outlined a test that would extend the privilege to families as a way to improve quality of life. After reviewing the proposal, DoD approved the one-year test.

“Prior to the test, regulations prohibited family members from flying space available within CONUS,” said John Lundeby, passenger policy branch manager, AMC. “This privilege was available only to active duty and retired military personnel.”

Under the testing program, active-duty dependents and retirees can only take advantage of Space-A when their sponsors accompany them on the flights. The test does not apply to “gray-area retirees”, Guard and Reserve members who are retired but are not yet eligible for retired pay and benefits, according to Lundeby.

Family members who were previously only able to travel to, from or between overseas sites and CONUS are now able to travel from or to any location within CONUS as long as their sponsor is present. Retirees may fly anywhere AMC has flights operating and in-active reservists may fly to, from and between Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico the Virgin, Islands, Guam, American Samoa and CONUS. When on active duty, reserve members may fly anywhere overseas that AMC has flights operating.

Service members in the Tri-Command area can take advantage of Space-A, which is only an hour drive at Charleston Air Force Base, Charleston, S.C. The Charleston AMC has three to four flights a week to Germany and the demand for seats is steady, according to Air Force Airman 1st Class Albert Donald, passenger terminal clerk, AMC.

“We probably have 20 customers per day right now, but we expect that to pick up to about 100 per day over the summer,” Donald said. “Once schools let out for summer, we see a ton of people looking to catch flights to Germany.”

The only toll for the flights are tax fees but those are small change compared to commercial flight tickets, according to Cpl. J. A. Briggs, tactical data systems specialist, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron.

“I wasn’t about to pay a thousand dollars for a plane ticket,” Briggs said.  But with Space-A, all you need is to be flexible with your plans. For less than $50 I flew round trip to Germany, and I would definitely do it again. You can’t beat the bargain.”

Service members with doubts about Space-A travel need to look no further than their brothers-at-arms for guidance, according to Air Force Maj. John Doyle, electrical engineer, Los Angeles Air Force Base.

“I’ve been flying Space-A annually since 1987,” Doyle said. “I like the adventure, challenge and price. It’s a great opportunity for service members, and I tell anyone who is thinking about it to try it out.”