There is a little known privilege that active duty and retired military personnel, and their dependents, have access to that allows them to travel virtually free all around the globe. What’s the catch you ask? You absolutely must be flexible and be prepared to pay for commercial travel is necessary. This perk is called Space Available, or Space-A, travel and it is governed by Air Mobility Command, or AMC.
The main thing to keep in mind about these flights is that they are not commercial flights. They are military mission flights that have space available to carry a handful of eligible passengers between bases. If you want to take advantage of this privilege there are a few things you must do in advance.
Travel Eligibility – the following types of travelers are authorized to use Space-A per the regulation DOD 4515.13-R. The primary eligibility requirement for dependents to use Space-A is they MUST be listed in DEERS (Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System).
Active Duty Uniformed Services Member (includes National Guard and Reserve members on active duty in excess of 30 days and Cadets and Midshipmen of the U.S. Service Academies): DD Form 2 (Green), US Armed Forces ID Card (Active), Form 2 NOAA (Green), Uniformed Services ID and Privilege Card (Active), or PHS Form 1866-3 (Green), US Public Health Service ID Card (Active), and a valid leave authorization or evidence of pass status.
Retired Uniformed Service Members: DD Form 2 (Blue), US Armed Forces ID Card (Retired), DD Form 2 (Blue) NOAA, Uniformed Services ID Card (Retired), or PHS Form 1866-3 (Blue), US Public Health Service ID Card (Retired).
National Guard and Reserve Members: Authorized Reserve Component Members (National Guard and Ready Reserve) and members of the Standby Reserve who are on the Active Status List: DD Form 2 (Red), Armed Forces of the United States ID Card (Reserve) and DD Form 1853, Verification of Reserve Status for Travel Eligibility.
Retired Reservists Entitled to Retired Pay at Age 60: DD Form 2 (Red) and a notice of retirement eligibility as described in DoD Directive 1200.15. If the automated DD Form 2 (Red) has been issued, the member is registered in his or her service personnel system as a Reserve retiree entitled to retired pay at age 60, and a notice of retirement is not required.
Retired Reservists Qualified for Retired Pay: DD Form 2 (Blue), US Armed Forces ID Card (Retired), DD Form 2 (Blue) NOAA, Uniformed Services ID Card (Retired), or PHS Form 1866-3 (Blue), US Public Health Service ID Card (Retired).
On Active Duty for 30 Days or Less: DD Form 2 (Red), orders placing the Reservist on active duty, and a valid leave authorization or evidence of pass status.
ROTC, Nuclear Power Officer Candidate (NUPOC), and Civil Engineer Corps (CEC) Members: When enrolled in an advanced ROTC, NUPOC, or CEC course or enrolled under the financial assistance program: DD Form 2 (Red) and DD Form 1853.
Family Members of Uniformed Services Members: DD Form 1173, United States Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card.
EML Travelers: EML travel orders issued in accordance with Combatant Command procedures.
Disabled and Widows/Widowers: Currently, 100 percent disabled veterans and widows of service members are not eligible to use Space-A travel.
Category – Once you have determined eligibility then you determine your Space-A Category.
Category I — Active-duty service members and their accompanying families traveling on emergency leave.
Category II — Service members and accompanying family members traveling on environment and morale leave. This includes command-sponsored family members stationed outside the continental United States.
Category III — Service members and accompanying families traveling on ordinary leave or re-enlistment leave status, and unaccompanied family members of service members deployed 365 consecutive days or more. This category also includes service members and their families on house-hunting leave.
Category IV — Unaccompanied family members on environmental morale leave orders and eligible family members of service members deployed 30 consecutive days or more.
Category V — Students whose sponsor is stationed in Alaska or Hawaii, and students enrolled in a trade school within the continental United States when the sponsor is stationed overseas.
Category VI — Retirees and accompanying family members. This category also includes National Guard and reserve members who are traveling within the CONUS, Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. territories.
Locations – there are mission flights all around the globe. Review the list of common destinations offered with their contact information here.
Documents – be sure that you have all the required travel documents, such as your passport and any required visas. Contact your departure terminal for current documentation requirements and travel restrictions as Customs and Immigration requirements may change. Some of the documents you will need are:
- Your military ID
- A copy of your leave orders for emergency, environmental morale or ordinary leave passengers
- Unaccompanied family members of service members who are deployed for 120 days or more require a letter verifying eligibility from the service member’s commanding officer.
- A passport and appropriate visas for overseas travel
- DD Form 1853: Verification of Reserve Status for Travel Eligibility for eligible National Guard and reserve members
Registration – once you have a good idea of where you want to travel to, from and in-between, you need to register with each AMC Passenger Terminal. This can be done by speaking with them on the phone, fax or email. Registrations are good for 60 days (some only 45 days).
Flight Schedules – for the 72-Hour Flight Schedule contact the AMC Passenger Terminal. A lot of them now have a Facebook page that they update daily.
Checking In – When it is time for you to travel check-in at the passenger terminal counter before the listed “Roll Call” time and have yourself, and any travel companions, marked present. Then wait to see if you are called for the flight.
A thing to consider and keep in mind regarding Space-A travel, it’s not your typical air travel, so plan ahead.
Choose your terminal wisely – a less busy terminals might get you where you want to go faster.
Consider off-season travel – instead of waiting for a holiday to take a vacation, go when school is in session for maximum availability.
Expect the unexpected – Space-A seats can be released two or three hours before a scheduled flight, so get there early. They can also be removed after you have been boarded. The mission requirements come first and if they need the room you will be bumped off the plane. The plane can also be delayed a few hours, to a few days or it may be rerouted to unscheduled stops.
Manage your money – you will want to ensure that you have enough money for a commercial plane ticket home or an extended stay in a hotel room, just in case.
Pack lightly – not every military plane has the same luggage allowance, so pack efficiently.
For answers to frequently asked questions take a look at the Air Mobility Command Space Available Travel Questions.