For those of you who are non-military, let me first explain what Space A is. Space A is a way for us military folk to travel by air for little or no cost. It's a nice little travel benefit, but it takes A LOT of time, patience, and most of all flexibility. I'm fine on the time part, it's just the patience and flexibility part that really gets me. :)
Space A stands for "Space Available" and that's exactly what it is. Passengers are only allowed to fly on DoD (Department of Defense) flights when and if there are seats available.
We are currently on EML leave (for you non-military folks, this is environmental morale leave), so we are authorized to use Space A to fly to the States. So with that, we decided we wanted to fly to Seattle to attend a friend's wedding. Well, it didn't work out so well. We went to the air terminal on Kadena AFB 3 times over the course of the weekend, trying to catch flights to the States. Flights either were cancelled (not allowing any passengers) or had no seats available.
Sooooooo frustrating. Not only did we miss the wedding, we spent three days getting up at 3am just to be told, we couldn't fly.
Grrr.....you would think I would be used to this.....considering my Air Force father used this nice benefit to travel our family to exotic destinations like Korea and the Philippines when we were stationed at Yokota AFB in Tokyo. I'm not entirely sure how my mother and father coped with two small children in tow. Unfortunately as an adult, I think my own patience is waning....
So with that, let me offer my two cents on Space A.
Space A can be a bit frustrating, so relieve your stress by understanding the rules. Just because an aircraft is flying, doesn't mean there are seats. Keep in mind there are categories. Certain folks get priority. Active duty usually go first and then folks with EML leave. Families with children, dependents, and retirees all follow suit. The other golden rule? Remember, the military mission comes first. Plain and simple. Most of all be patient and flexible. You can't just decide on one location. If you want to fly to the Pacific, pick more than one location to fly into. Be prepared to wait. Try to use Space-A during non-peak times. If you plan to fly during the summer, remember that's when everyone else wants to fly as well. There are also certain destinations that are more popular than others. Keep in mind that you may get stuck somewhere, so plan ahead.
Another tip is to find out what kind of aircraft you are flying. The terminal may not be able to give this information to you over the phone, but they should be able to tell you in person. Some aircraft are designed only for cargo, so if you fly on this, you may be errr...uncomfortable.
Hope you enjoyed this installation of "The joys of traveling on Space A."
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