The Service Members’ Secret to Nearly Free Flights

If you and your family are looking for nearly free flights, then flying Space Available, also known as “Space-A,” might just be your answer.

Traveling Space-A is no easy task. It’s an adventure in itself. But if you have the patience and flexibility your work will pay off. After all, who doesn’t want travel cheaply?

The Basics

Space A Free Flights

Traveling Space A is a great way to go if you have the patience and flexibility.

So, what is Space-A? In a nutshell, it’s a way service members and their families can fly for a very economical rate. The Department of Defense controls a number of aircraft — Air Force, Navy, or commercially contracted — that fly between military bases around the United States and the rest of the world.

Military members, retirees and their dependents have the privilege to fill in the available space on these aircraft after duty personnel have boarded.

Here are the basics for what you need to do to hop on a Space-A flight:

  1. Determine if you’re eligible.
  2. Sign up.
  3. Show up at your departing destination.
  4. Remain present for “show time” and “roll call.”

1. Determine if you’re eligible.

Eligible travelers are placed in one of six categories based on their status and their situation. Travel priority is dependent upon the category. For example, category III travelers will board before those in category IV.

The basic breakdown of categories are as follows:

  • Category I: Emergency Leave Unfunded Travel
  • Category II: Environmental Morale Leave (EML)
  • Category III: Active Duty Ordinary Leave and accompanied dependents, House Hunting Permissive TDY, Medal of Honor holders, dependents of deployed service members whose sponsor is deployed 365 consecutive days or more
  • Category IV: Unaccompanied Dependents on EML or dependents whose sponsor is deployed between 120 to 364 consecutive days, Teachers of Department of Defense Dependent Schools on EML During Summer
  • Category V: Unaccompanied Command Sponsored and Non-Command Sponsored Dependents of Active Duty, Permissive TDY, Students
  • Category VI: Retirees and their accompanied Dependents, Reserve, ROTC, NUPOC, CEC

For a more complete explanation of each category refer to DoD 4515.13-R. Also, see this FAQ for additional eligibility answers.

2. Sign Up

Once you’ve determined that you are eligible, it’s time to register, but keep in mind that you’re not really signing up for a flight. You are placing yourself on a list and competing for available space on outgoing flights.

  • When can I sign up? Active duty, retirees and unaccompanied dependents each have their own rules on when they can sign up for a flight. Active duty can only sign up for a flight when they are on leave or pass status. Retirees can sign up anytime, and unaccompanied dependents need a travel authorization letter to sign up.
  • When should I sign up? The earlier you sign up the more seniority you will have within your travel category. With the exception of active duty, signups expire after 60 days.
  • How do I sign up? You have to sign up for a flight at your outbound location. For most Air Force locations there are four ways to sign up for Space-A travel: 1) complete AMC Form 140, 2) sign up online or by email, 3) by fax or 4) in person. Space-A locations and their contact information can be found here.

See this FAQ for additional guidance.

3. Show Up at your Departing Station

Now that you are signed up, you’ll have to show up at your departing station in order to be manifested for a flight. When and where you depart from will be determined by predicted departures — phoning the terminal is a good way to learn about possible destinations.

When you arrive, check in at the passenger (Pax) desk. Declare yourself “Present” for the next 24 hours and let the Pax representative know that you would like to be included in the Roll Call for any flights going to your desired destination.

See this FAQ for help with preparation and documentation.

4. Remain Present for “Show-Time” and “Roll Call”

After you have arrived, you must remain physically present at the terminal and be travel-ready — you must have your dependents, luggage, proper paperwork in-hand and car parked — for the “show time” and “roll call” of the particular flight you’d like to be manifested on.

Prospective passengers will be manifested during the roll call based on priority of category and sign-up date/time. If you make the “roll call,” you’ll be able to board the flight and you’ll be on your way.

Additional Resources

The Space-A world is a bit of a zoo, and it’s easy to become confused or overwhelmed by the whole process and deluge of details. Below are additional resources with more information and helpful advice:

Photos courtesy marksontok