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How to Plan for a Military Space-A Flight

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As you might know, my youngest sister spent a year of service in Europe. When she left last year, John and I decided that we would visit her at the end of her time in Europe and spend some time touring around with her. We’d use Space-A since, as a military family it is available to us, to be able to fly over cheaply.

Perfect.

Get started with your Space A flight plans here

If you’ve never heard of Space-A before, here are a few things you should know:

  • It stands for Space Available.
  • If you choose to take Space-A, you’re filling empty seats on military flights.
  • Your place “in line” is determined by different things including the category you’re assigned to and what time you sign up.
  • It is drastically cheaper since you only pay the taxes on your flight.
  • There is literally nothing guaranteed when it comes to Space-A flights.

John and I spent hours pouring over documents and websites, making sure that we were doing everything we should be. We talked to people who had taken Space-A. We reread regulations. No stone was left un–turned.

And we never got on the plane. (You’ll read why later.) Read on to find out what I learned through our entire Space-A and how you can make your life a little easier if you decide to fly Space-A.

Follow Facebook

Almost all Space-A Terminals have their own Facebook pages where they post pertinent information about the flights as well as an analysis after the flights have filled so you can see how full different flights to different destinations get as well as what categories were able to fly. It’s important stuff in the weeks leading up to your anticipated departure.

[Tweet “Follow Space-A on Facebook for up-to-date info as you plan your trip. #milspouse”]

Check out a Patriot Express Schedule

Most Space-A flights are announced up to three days in advance. It doesn’t give you too much time to get things ready. Patriot Express flights publish their flights for the entire month at the beginning of each month. Not all Space-A terminals provide Patriot Express flights, so make sure you know what’s going on at yours.

Bring the Correct Documents

Make sure you have everything you need in including military ID, civilian ID, passports, the time-stamped confirmation email from when you signed up, and leave papers. I’d also suggest bringing a copy of your marriage license. We ended up needing ours to prove that we’re actually married (no matter that all of my documentation matches) and had to scroll through photos on Facebook until we found (thank goodness!) a photo of us on our wedding day holding our visible marriage license.

Get started with your Space A flight plans here

Don’t Fly During Congested Times

Reach out to your Space-A terminal to find out when their busy times are. We found out the hard way and accidentally tried to fly on the very first week of the summer PCS rush. Even though we were Category 3, we were at a severe disadvantage since there were tons of people PCSing who had priority. Let’s just say about 180 people would have had to not get on the plane in order for us to actually get to fly.

Have a Back-Up Plan

John and I realized that we weren’t going to get on the one plane going to Europe from the Space-A terminal that week, so we flew into action the minute we did. We got a hotel room for that night (roll call had been at 8 PM and was still on-going at 11 PM) and then I ordered tickets through my phone. We knew that this trip was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip and so we had saved money towards it; we were able to pay for those plane tickets without going into credit card debt, so it was okay in the end. We could make it happen. Still, it’s the most costly impulse buy I’ve ever made in my life– it’s definitely not something I would do normally.

[Tweet “If you’re flying Space-A (or trying to) have a back-up plan. #milspouse”]

Consider Budget Airlines

If you need to get somewhere at a particular time, don’t count on Space-A. They will (most likely) break your heart. Consider using budget airlines for at least part of your trip. Before we knew our Space-A plans wouldn’t work out, we bought John a one-way ticket from Europe back to the US so he’d be able to make it back to work on time without relying on Space-A. It was a $400-something ticket from WOW Airlines. $400 from Europe. To the US. Let me repeat that: $400. And it was totally worth it to have the promise of John getting home. It made both of us relax and be able to enjoy our vacation.  (In Europe, we also used RyanAir which is a budget line run by Aer Lingus, an Irish company. Some tickets are as low as $20, depending on where you want to fly to.)

If you’ve taken Space-A before, what advice would you give? Let me hear all about it in the comments!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Unilever & Operation in Touch via MSB New Media. The opinions and text are all mine.


7 Responses

  1. THIS! I always read of people who have almost-bad experiences but then magically getting on that Space A flight at the last moment, but the slightly-OCD, incredibly worrisome mom in me has always been skeptical. I can’t go on a weekend camping trip without a backup in case of bad weather; I just don’t think I could “hope” to get on a Space A flight!

    Also I’m so glad you got to go on your trip anyways! What a great opportunity!

  2. Space A experience even domestic we had to provide social security numbers of all travelers even the kids with valid military IDs. We arrive about 3 hours before departure. Like you say know with common flight days to and from and check with terminal arrival and departure times. Have a plan when you arrive. Not all airports have rental car service 24/7. We found that out the HARD way!

  3. I saw your blog title and it looked like it would be compatible with my blog. Yours is about how to prepare for travel and mine helps with that and can also help you after you get to a location. Please check mine out and I’m sure that you will agree that these 2 blogs could work together. I’ve got things listed like hotels, restaurants, attractions, hospitals, phone #’s, Space A Facebook pages and forums, transportation and several other areas of interest.

  4. Thinking about a flight to Hickam Air Force Base. I have been retired from USAF for years but have never taken a hop. I may be able to get a flight out of Grissom ARB IN. Next weekend can anybody give me any tips?

  5. Yes if you have the patience and time, Space A is great. Actually most flights are completely free, as far as the travel part goes. The Patriot Express (PE) are the only flights that actually cost any money. Of course if things don’t go as planned, which happens often, then maybe hotels, more food and transportation might add up. I have yet to be on a Space A trip that turned out to be more expensive than if I would have taken a commercial flight, although I was close once.
    Actually my website that I have referenced here is a site that I started to help plan a Space A trip. I don’t travel Space A as much as I’d like, but I am heavily into the planning of the trips and assisting other travelers.
    On the front page of the Official Space A Travel page, right side, they have a list of all the locations that actually have a Space A terminal page. The ones that don’t, well you most likely will be able to find their contact information on my website along with tons of other information.
    This was a very good article. It explained some things that others don’t normally think about putting in their posts, like “Check out the Patriot Express Schedule” and “Consider Budget Airlines”. Sometimes it’s just better to take the budget airline and avoid the possible hassles of Space A.

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