I’m writing this during hour 1 of my 1st wedding anniversary with my husband, who is deployed. This moment is pretty rough, so I’m going to spend it writing … there’s something wonderfully therapeutic about writing and sharing my time.
Last Friday I had my very first Space A adventure, and it was a major success! I flew from Hawaii to Japan on a KC-10, which is a refueling plane. It was definitely my favorite flight ever. Ever, ever. Ever.
Here’s a picture of a KC-10 refueling a F-18, which I found here:
This isn’t a definitive list of do’s and don’ts, and please feel free to comment with your own advice!
The term “Space A” refers to the “space allowed” for passengers on military flights. What are these military flights? They are flights on military aircraft that are staffed by military air crews and pilots to fulfill a need of the military – whether it is flying mail or home goods across an ocean, a training trip for student pilots, or any other need. We dependents are NOT entitled to these flights – view them as a very nice gift that the military gives us. The flight staff do NOT cater to us and we do NOT receive (or should we expect) any kind of special treatment. The military crews deserve first dibs on seats, “amenities”, and most anything else. We’re basically hitching a very long ride in their cubical at work. On the other hand, these flights can be a LOT of fun if you are willing to have an adventure. The flight crew on my flight was AMAZING, and I’ve always heard good things about the flight crews from friends.
– have your service member spouse request a Space A letter from their command’s admin; you will need to provide your passport and military ID, as well as your desired trip itinerary (dates/places to visit). You may also have to speak with folks at PSD.
– visit SpaceA.net often and get a sense for what flights are available to/from your desired departure location, your desired arrival location, and a few locations in between. For example, I flew from Hawaii to Japan; I familiarized myself with the AMC terminals in San Diego, Guam, and Okinawa.
– once you have an idea of where you may have to stop on your way to and from your point of origin and your destination, find the AMC Space A contact information for each terminal by visiting its FaceBook page or webpage.
– once you find the terminal’s contact email address, send a scanned copy of your letter, your sponsor’s information, your emergency contact’s information, your desired destination, and the date of when you will begin your trip. Most terminals will keep your information on record for at least 30 days, beginning on the start date of your trip. *The earlier you do this, the better. Try to begin emailing terminals at least 3 weeks in advance of your trip start date.
– have copies of these emails readily available when you arrive at said terminals, just in case they don’t have you on record (this often happens, and they are usually very gracious about prioritizing you based upon the date of your email if you can show it to them).
– familiarize yourself with any luggage or travel restrictions/requirements for the terminals. Make sure that you read-over the information on the website or Facebook page; lots of people skip this step and then miss-out on flights because of luggage, arriving too late, etc.
– know your category. SpaceA.org has all the details that you need. The terminal will prioritize putting passengers on the flight based on their category first and foremost, but then passengers will be sub-categorized based upon when they emailed their information and letter to the terminal. EMAIL THEM ASAP!
How It Works:
– 3 days prior to your desired departure date, begin
obsessively checking the terminal’s Facebook page and website. Every terminal posts a 72hr departure schedule. It is usually updated frequently, and do not be alarmed or surprised if a flight that you want to get on suddenly changes or is cancelled. This is the way of Space A.
– 12hrs before your desired flight, begin
obsessively calling the terminal’s passenger hotline and LISTEN to the departure schedule, the regulations for flight out of that terminal, and any other information on the hotline. This is another step that many people skip, which leads to them missing out on a flight. Call at least once 12hrs before, once 3hrs before, and once just before you leave for the airport. If you’re smart, you’ll call more often then that!
– arrive at the terminal at least 40min prior to the roll call of your desired flight. Check in. Do not be surprised if your flight is cancelled or changed. This is the way of Space A.
– DO NOT LEAVE, even if you have very little hope of getting onto the flight (such as if you are person 12 in line to get on the flight, and the flight only has 6 seats available — I was in this situation on Friday and somehow they still got me on the flight! I was passenger #7!).
– you will probably have to drive onto a military base in order to board a Space A flight. Having dear Auntie Bea drive you on base may be a hassle, unless she has DoD tags. Dear Auntie Bea probably won’t be allowed onto base to pick you up if your flight doesn’t work out. Plan accordingly!
– usually you cannot carry more then 2 pieces of luggage and 1-2 carry-ons. FAA regulations and restrictions apply!!
– some flights limit passengers to only carrying 1 item of luggage or a weight limit of 50lbs. Check the website!
– you cannot wear open-toed shoes or high heels on these flights, and do not expect wheelchair service, access ramps, etc. This is a military flight and it is NOT there to support your comfort or needs! These flights exist based upon the needs of the Navy, and we are very lucky to be allowed on these flights.
– bring something warm and prepare yourself to sit on a cargo net or on something else equally un-civilian. Roll with it; this is one of the things that makes Space A fun!
– eat prior to departure and bring snacks for the flight (but no liquids! FAA regs apply!). You can buy a meal for $5, which is usually a lunchmeat sandwich, a piece of fruit, a small water bottle, a juice, a fruit cup, and some kind of not-so-healthy snack. You can buy as many as you want, but both will arrive at the same time.
– ask before you take pictures.
– these flights are for those who have flexible itineraries. Murphy’s Law applies; if you’re trying to get someplace by a particular date or time, it’s best to fly commercial.
– the people staffing this flight are in the military, and they should be treated with respect AND be given a fair shake. Again, do not expect that your flight will be in any way like a commercial flight. Things change based upon the needs of the military, and things could even change while you’re in the air. We are lucky to be allowed on these flights.
I loved flying Space A. My favorite part of the flight was when I got to ride in the cockpit with the pilots. In typical military fashion, I was harassed a bit by the flight crew and pilots because my husband flies Navy, and they were Air Force. I received a few comments along the lines of, “oh, too bad your husband doesn’t fly a REAL airplane”. I replied with things like, “oh, you’re right, especially if you don’t think a F-18 is a ‘real airplane’!” Lots of silence followed that particular come-back 😉
Flying Space A was fantastic, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has a flexible travel itinerary. Please feel free to post questions – I’m not an expert, but I am happy to help you find answers!