A recent announcement from Air Mobility Command (AMC) brought long-awaited news to the military community: effective April 22, 2022, all restrictions on Space Available (Space-A) travel were lifted.
Per the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Space-A had been restricted due to COVID since March 2020. Over the past two years, only select categories of travelers were eligible to fly, generally for emergency or humanitarian reasons.
Now, Space-A is once again open for all categories of travelers, but it’s not back at full capacity yet. This memo from AMC Headquarters explains that units and passenger terminals have until May 13, 2022 to “restore full servicing.”
What this means for would-be travelers is that you may want to wait until some of the dust settles. In the meantime, use the next couple weeks to brush up on how Space-A works and to learn what has changed since the last time you “took a hop.”
Changes to the policy
DOD Instruction 4515.13 outlines eligibility for transportation on DOD aircraft. Over the past two years, DOD made a few notable changes to eligibility for Space-A travel.
- Surviving spouses of service members and retirees are now eligible to fly Space-A within the continental United States. Their dependents may accompany them. Previously, surviving spouses were not eligible to fly Space-A at all.
- Dependents of veterans with a permanent service-connected disability rated as total and dependents of gray area retirees (reserve component members entitled to retired pay at age 60) are now eligible to accompany their sponsor on Space-A flights. Prior to the policy change, these dependents were not eligible to fly Space-A.
Note that Space-A travel for 100% disabled veterans and gray area retirees is still limited to CONUS and U.S. states and territories OCONUS. These travelers are not eligible to fly to foreign countries.
Another policy change that impacts Space-A travelers is the ID card requirement for children. The minimum age at which a uniformed services ID card is required was raised from 10 to 14. Children under the age of 14 who do not have a military ID card need a federal, state, local, or tribal government-issued ID.
New Patriot Express routes
If you’ve been stationed OCONUS, you may have taken the Patriot Express, aka the “Rotator,” to/from your duty station. In the past two years, AMC added two new Patriot Express (PE) routes:
- The AMC terminal at Seattle Tacoma airport added a route that includes Andersen AFB in Guam.
- JB Lewis-McChord added a temporary route to Kadena AB in Okinawa, Japan commencing in 2022. These missions will operate between May 16 and September 30.
PE passengers who are PCSing on orders are space-required passengers, but Space-A travelers can use unoccupied seats. The process of flying Space-A on the Patriot Express is the same as for any other Space-A flight.
Migration from Facebook to the AMC website
Previously, most military passenger terminals had Facebook pages on which they posted flight schedules and related information.
Starting in late 2021, passenger terminals that fall under AMC were directed to migrate away from Facebook to pages on the AMC website. Passenger terminals’ respective web pages are linked from the passenger terminal directory on the AMC Travel Page.
The migration was originally scheduled for completion by February 28, 2022, but as of this writing, it is still ongoing. Some AMC terminals are still posting flight schedules on Facebook. Also, part of the process of restoring capacity to handle Space-A travelers involves training passenger terminal staff on the new system to update and post flight information.
Bottom line: if you’re looking for flight schedules, you may need to dig a little bit to find them online. You can also contact the passenger terminals directly.
AMC terminals are ramping up to meet their deadline to restore full servicing by May 13, 2022. In the meantime, Space-A travelers must have patience. Space-A travel is a fantastic privilege available to eligible members of the military community, so get ready to take full advantage of it when it’s back at full capacity. Stay tuned for more on getting started and tips for taking your first post-COVID Space-A flight and follow Poppin’ Smoke for topics on military travel.Read comments