|Military Space A Travel FAQ|
|5. Other Questions |
|5.1) Can I get bumped from a flight I'm already on? |
Yes, although it's relatively rare. Space required passengers or cargo may require the removal of Space A passengers at any point. But mission details are usually known before departure, so the crew won't release seats that they expect to become unavailable part of the way there. Some types of flights, notably Areomedical Evacuation (Medevac) missions do experience frequent changes, though, so you might want to ask about this before accepting a specific flight if you are the last person to get a seat because you would be the first to be removed. If you are removed en route, you may re-register with your original date and time of registration. Passenger terminals will assign a new date and time to any country you change or add on your application at this point, though, so having that fifth one be "all" is a really good idea. And, at the risk of beating a dead horse, you should always be prepared to purchase onward or return commercial transportation, meals and lodging.
5.2) What if I don't get on any flight before I need to be at my destination?
While you are not guaranteed a flight in the time frame you may wish, passenger terminals generally do their best to make available every possible seat. In case you must get to a final destination before they can get you there, you will need funds to complete your journey or return home.
5.3) How much baggage can I bring?
On the larger aircraft, each passenger may check two pieces of checked baggage, 70 pounds each, up to 62 linear inches in size. Family members may pool their baggage allowances, but Space A passengers may not pay for excess baggage. Hand-carried baggage must fit under the seat or in the overhead compartment, if one is available. Smaller aircraft may limit you to as little as 30 pounds of baggage, and hand-carried baggage may be included in this limit. Since many of the available flights are on these smaller aircraft (C-21 or C-12, for example) you should limit your baggage to 30 pounds if at all possible. You'll thank me for this advice when you discover that it's a 2 mile walk from the terminal to the billeting office :-) Of course, you should not place valuables, medicine, or important documents in checked baggage, and you should be sure your name and current address are on both the outside and inside of your bags. Passenger terminals usually have baggage ID tags available if you need them.
5.4) Do I have to be in uniform to travel?
Each service determines their own policy on this. Currently all services except the Marine Corps permit appropriate civilian attire to be worn by their active duty and reserve personnel when traveling on DoD-owned or controlled aircraft. This matter is up to each service, however, and the Marines still require their members to wear a uniform. When civilian clothing is worn, use common sense. Attire should be in good taste and not in conflict with accepted attire in the overseas county of departure, transit, or destination. Some services are quite specific about this. Tattered or revealing clothing or T-shirts with risque slogans are a particularly bad idea, and some passenger terminals will not allow you to board a plane wearing shorts. One Navy terminal, for example, requires that passengers wear a shirt with a collar (or the equivalent for women), long pants or a skirt, and shoes with closed toes. Be sure to pack some sensible clothes so that you can meet any reasonable requirements that might be imposed.
5.5) Where can I fly into when coming back from overseas?
While you may depart the United States from any airfield, reentry locations are sometimes limited. When traveling on a passport (family members, retired personnel, etc.) you may return to the United States only through authorized ports of entry where customs and immigration clearance is available. Active duty passengers who do not require immigration clearance have more reentry options open. The Air Force is working to increase the number of places at which reenter the country.
5.6) Can I bring my pet on a Space A flight?
5.7) What facilities are available at passenger terminals?
Facilities at most military terminals are similar to those that you would find at smaller commercial terminals. Examples include television sets, snack bars, exchange mini-marts, barber shops, travelers assistance, baggage lockers or rooms, United Services Organization (USO) lounges and nurseries. The facilities vary according to the terminal size and location, and it may be as simple as a couple of chairs near the pilots' flight planning room!
5.8) Can I sleep in the terminal?
Almost certainly not. Most passenger terminals close at night, and most of the rest have rules against sleeping in the terminal. So you should be prepared to defray lodging expenses at any overnight stops. The relatively low price of on-base billeting ($4 to $40 per night) makes this less of a burden than it might first appear, though. At Air Force Bases you can reserve rooms the day before (if you know where you will be), but at other bases billeting offices often won't release their available rooms to travelers who are not on orders until a specified "Space A show time." Some billeting offices will put you on a standby list by phone, though, so it's wise to call ahead to learn the rules at any bases you plan to visit.
5.9) What are the trends in the availability of Space A travel?
A couple of years ago the Air Force established an project to improve Space A travel in an effort to improve the quality of life for military families. But movement still depends on the number of unused seats. The dramatic reductions in the DoD budget in recent years have reduced both the number of eligible people and the number of flights. Actually, the reductions in the number of transport aircraft have been relatively small over this period, and an increasing number of within-theater flights overseas are being flown by CONUS-based crews. So some overseas destinations are actually easier to reach from CONUS than they were before the drawdown started. A number of domestic bases have been closed, but most major metropolitan areas still have at least one military airfield nearby. In some cases this consolidation has actually made Space A easier by reducing the need to travel from one base to another to catch a continuing flight. All in all, it's a mixed picture. The bottom line is that if you know what you're doing, you can usually get where you want to go.
5.10) What is the best time of the year to travel Space A ?
In general it is wise to avoid peak travel periods when traveling overseas if possible because the number of dependents traveling, often with a quite high priority (PCS or EML), is highest then. The peak travel periods are December-January and June-July, which roughly correspond to school holidays when there are a lot of travelers on leave. There are also more PCS travelers on the AMC passenger channel missions during the summer because people prefer to move when their children are between school years. Domestic routes see less fluctuation in volume, but it is usually more difficult to travel during three day weekends (weekends followed by Monday holidays, for example) and near holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas because there are fewer missions scheduled then but more people with some time off who might want to catch a flight.
5.11) Is it easier to go to some destinations?
Yes. Places where large numbers of U.S. military forces are stationed are much easier to get to than rarely visited areas. Travel to Europe or Japan is relatively easy, for example, while travel to South America or Africa is much more difficult. Infrequent flights to remote areas are often cargo missions, which may have few seats available for passenger movement. But with persistence it is amazing where you can get.
5.12) Do you have any other tips for Traveling Space A?
Of course! Plan your trip, be flexible and be patient. As a rule of thumb, military bases offer more Space A flights than commercial gateways or Reserve Component squadrons at civilian airfields, but the advance planning made possible by charter schedules and Reserve Component employment plans that are known months in advance may make those locations a good place to start a trip. Be as flexible as possible in choosing a destination. For example, if you want to get to Germany, consider a flight into the United Kingdom as an alternative. Once there, try for another flight bound for Germany.
5.13) What if I have a problem?
If something does not meet your expectations or if you have a question or suggestion that can't be resolved by the people you are dealing with, you should ask to speak with the passenger terminal supervisor (or their equivalent at smaller bases). At AMC terminals you can also use AMC Form 253, Air Passenger Comment, to bring your concerns to the attention of the terminal supervisor.
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