The world is reopening, travel to many countries is now possible, and civilian flights have resumed their routes. Many military families are now asking, “When will Space-Available (Space-A) travel reopen?” We posed this question to Air Mobility Command and here, we will share their response, plus help you prepare for the eventual resumption of this popular benefit.
As many in the military community know, Space-A has been restricted due to COVID-19 since March 2020, and as of this writing, it is still only an option for active duty on emergency leave and a few other specific cases. All other travelers require an Exception to Policy letter from an O-6 or higher.
According to Capt. Christopher Herbert, AMC Public Affairs, AMC does not yet have an approved timeline for reopening of Space-A flights.
“United States Transportation Command and Air Mobility Command continuously monitor the environment for the potential to ease restrictions on the Space-A program. We are hopeful that the Space-A program will resume soon and in a capacity that balances risk to the force with the use of this valuable benefit,” Herbert said.
When Space-A travels reopens, it may not be at pre-pandemic levels right way.
“We anticipate a scaled approach to the resumption of AMC Space-A flights,” he said.
Also, any restrictions from host nations that are still in place will also apply to Space-A travelers. If a country is not accepting tourists, you won’t be able to fly there using Space-A.
“Restricted access to such countries will remain in place until the host nation authorizes leisure travel,” Herbert said.
While we don’t know exactly when Space-A will resume, it’s good news that AMC is actively looking for a way to reopen the program. In the meantime, there’s a lot you can do to get ready for the day when you can pack your bags and head over to the military passenger terminal to “compete” for a seat.
Learn the ins and outs of Space-A travel
Flying Space-A is an entirely different process from taking a civilian airline. You must get to know the process. Start by visiting the Air Mobility Command (AMC) Space-Available Travel page to figure out your category. Your category determines your priority for Space-A travel and where you are eligible to fly.
The AMC website also has a list of passenger terminal social media pages, where many terminals post their 72-hour flight schedules. Review those pages to learn which bases have the most flights and where they fly most often.
Familiarize yourself with the sign-up options on the AMC page linked above. Also, read through the FAQs linked in the upper righthand corner of the page.
Finally, review the full Space-A process to learn what you should do on the day of your flight, how to “mark yourself present,” and what to do if you don’t get a seat.
Research your departure and arrival terminals
Know what to expect when you get to the military passenger terminal at both ends of your journey. For example:
- Does the terminal have eateries or vending machines?
- What local transportation is available to get you to/from the terminal?
- Where are your lodging options?
- If you’re flying to an overseas location, what are the immigration procedures, and what base facilities are you eligible to use?
Research your Space-A location in advance so you’re not trying to figure these things out when you’re jetlagged and have cranky kids in tow.
Know what to wear and what to pack in your carry-on
When flying Space-A, you may not know in advance what type of aircraft you will get, so it’s best to prepare for all possibilities. If it’s a cargo plane (C-5, C-17) or tanker (KC-10, KC-135), chances are good that it will be quite cold for most of the flight. Wear long pants, and dress in multiple breathable layers so that you can adjust your clothing to the temperature.
After the aircraft reaches altitude, the crew may allow passengers to stretch out on the floor or across the seats, so bring a lightweight, inflatable sleeping pad and a blanket or thin sleeping bag. You may also want an inflatable pillow.
If you’re traveling with kids, bring plenty of snacks, water bottles, and airplane-friendly activities. You may have to wait in terminals for hours, and some military passenger terminals do not have good WIFI, so download movies and books to your electronic devices in advance.
Finally, make sure you have all of the required documentation and paperwork.
Space-A travel is not “hard,” but there is a lot to learn about how the process works. Do your research now so when Space-A reopens, you and your family are prepared for your next adventure.