Global space-A program available to reservists, families

Senior Airman Christian Carr and Staff Sgt. Jennifer Lenz, 87th Aerial Port Squadron, help space-available travelers claim seats on flights at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii passenger terminal during annual tour in March 2017. Hickam is a popular location for space-A travelers.

Senior Airman Christian Carr and Staff Sgt. Jennifer Lenz, 87th Aerial Port Squadron, help space-available travelers claim seats on flights at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii passenger terminal during annual tour in March 2017. Hickam is a popular location for space-A travelers. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Joel McCullough)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --

Worldwide, Air Mobility Command oversees hundreds of flights a day, transporting everything from ammunition and military working dogs to drones and uniformed service members. Some of these flights are fully loaded with mission-required cargo, but other flights may have more than 70 empty seats. The space-available program grants Reserve Citizen Airmen the opportunity to occupy surplus aircraft seats, barring negative mission impact.

 

As reservists, Citizen Airmen in the 445th are eligible to fly out of continental United States military passenger terminals at bases in Alaska, California, Florida, Hawaii, Virginia, Washington and more. The cost to fly depends on factors like the air terminal of departure and final destination, but the fee is nominal--typically less than $20.

 

Passengers may bring two pieces of luggage, up to 70 pounds and 62 linear inches per piece, to check at the terminal for free. Two small, hand-carried items are also permitted aboard the aircraft. Details about baggage restrictions are outlined in AMC Instruction 24-101, volume 14.

 

Space-A seats on Department of Defense aircraft are not determined until shortly before the plane's departure, and missions can change with no notice. Available seats are awarded first by priority level, then sign up time.

 

Of the six travel priority categories, Reserve Citizen Airmen fall into the sixth, along with retirees. Reserve retirees who are not yet eligible for pay (commonly referred to as “gray-area retirees”) are eligible to travel space-A, but their spouse may not fly with them until they begin drawing benefits – typically at age 60.

 

Other travel priority categories include individuals on emergency leave (category one), Medal of Honor recipients (category three), and DoD dependent schools teachers (category four), to name a few. The full travel eligibility table can be found in DoD Instruction 4515.13.


To claim an available seat, reservists must be in good standing (promotion-eligible and participating in unit training assemblies), possess a common access card, and present a DD form 1853 signed by their commander to verify their reserve status, per the AMCI previously mentioned. Under standard conditions, spouses and dependents may not accompany reservists on space-A flights.
During a deployment, however, reservists’ families (as identified in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System) gain temporary space-a privileges. The exception applies only to contingency, exercise or deployment orders of 30 days or more.

 

Unlike their reserve sponsors, dependents of deployed Citizen Airmen may fly within the United States, or opt to fly outside of the continental United States to destinations like England, Italy and Spain. Plus, the travel priority for dependents of deployed members is four, rather than six. The baggage allowance and variable fees remain unchanged for all space-A passengers, regardless of priority level or circumstances.

 

Infants must be at least six weeks old to fly space-A, and DoD regulations require a passport for OCONUS travel or a DoD ID number for CONUS travel. Other dependents must present their valid dependent ID, plus a deployment verification letter stating the sponsor's name, social security number, start and end date of the deployment, dependents' names and social security numbers, their relationship to the sponsor, and the unit's contact information. The reservist's commander must sign the letter, and the traveler must carry a copy of the letter throughout the duration of the air travel.

 

There is no limit to how many times the dependents may travel, but they cannot sign up for a flight sooner than 10 days before the first day of the sponsor's deployment orders, and they may not travel after the final day of the orders. No dependents under 18 may travel alone in this status.

 

Despite its appeal, space-A travel does have some drawbacks - maintenance issues, weather conditions, and mission requirements can all delay or cancel a flight. It is not uncommon for space-a travelers to remain in-place at a terminal for hours or even days. Travelers flying in a space-required status (such as military members fulfilling duty requirements) are entitled to empty seats on a military aircraft.

 

For these reasons, space-A travelers are encouraged to prepare a secondary plan, especially in the event they travel to another location and are unable to secure a seat home. After all, flexibility is the key to airpower.

For more information about flying space-A, including upcoming flight times, contact the Wright-Patterson passenger terminal at 937-257-7741.