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?
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.
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:
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.
See this FAQ for additional guidance.
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.
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.
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: