Why You Should Fly SpaceA with the Military

SpaceA Travel can get you to your destination for free or at minimal cost. Skip online searches and visit the Passenger Terminal at many US military installations. Check for available SpaceA flights to your destination. This privilege is for service members and dependents.

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This is Why You Should Fly SpaceA

SpaceA Travel can get you to your destination for free or at a minimal cost. Instead of searching online or visiting local travel agencies, head to the Passenger Terminal at many US military installations. See if an available SpaceA flight is going to or near your desired destination. This travel option is a privilege, not an entitlement, for uniformed service members and their dependents. Here are the basics of SpaceA travel.

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Table of Contents

  1. This is Why You Should Fly SpaceA
  2. Why You Should Fly SpaceA
  3. The Command Sponsorship Letter
  4. A Brief Explanation of SpaceA Categories
  5. How to Register for SpaceA
  6. SpaceA Destinations
  7. Major Hubs for SpaceA Travel
  8. What You Need to Know About SpaceA Travel
  9. At the Terminal
  10. Flight Information
  11. SpaceA for the Long Haul
  12. On a SpaceA Plane
  13. Baggage
  14. Like it? Pin it!

Why You Should Fly SpaceA

Space Available (SpaceA) flights offer free or discounted airfare for uniformed service members and their dependents. Once all duty passengers and cargo are accommodated, eligible passengers can fill unused seats on DoD-owned or controlled aircraft. Most SpaceA flights are provided by the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command (AMC), and SpaceA seats are usually free, though there is a tax for AMC’s Patriot Express flights.

For more information, visit the Air Mobility Command Travel Site.

SpaceA is Not Guaranteed

SpaceA should not be your first choice if you must be somewhere by a specific time. There is no guaranteed movement within your desired timeframe. The primary purpose of military aircraft is to perform military missions, not transport passengers. You’ll hear both good and bad experiences about military hops.

Have a Backup Plan

Always have a backup plan. Your flight might get canceled or end up at a different destination. Amber Francisco learned this lesson hard but was grateful she had planned for the worst.

More Time Than Money

SpaceA travel might be right for you if you have more time than money. It’s a great way to see the world, but think of it as the “slow boat to China” rather than the Concorde. Passengers on emergency leave and uniformed service members on orders must be on holiday or pass status to register for SpaceA travel. They must remain on leave or pass status while awaiting travel and for the entire travel period.

Timing is Everything

Traveling SpaceA is about timing, flexibility, destination, and your assigned category. Travelers are assigned a category at the time of travel and compete for seats based on registration date and time. You can stand by for any available flight to all the destinations you signed up for.

The Command Sponsorship Letter

Begin by acquiring a Command Sponsorship letter from your military spouse’s Company Commander. This letter is valid for one round trip and outlines your travel specifications, dictating which category you’ll belong to. The following documents are required for all travelers:

  1. Military ID cards
  2. Passports
  3. Social security numbers
  4. Emergency contact information at the final destination

A Brief Explanation of SpaceA Categories

  1. Category I – Emergency Leave
  2. Category II – Environmental Morale Leave
  3. Category IIIa – Ordinary Leave (or traveling with family)
  4. Category IIIb – Unaccompanied dependents of the deployed service member (<365 days)
  5. Category IV – Unaccompanied dependents of the deployed service member (>365 days)
  6. Category V – Military dependent (non-deployed spouse)
  7. Category VI – Retirees, reservists

Your category determines your priority for SpaceA travel.

How to Register for SpaceA

You can register at each Passenger Terminal via email, fax, or online. You can also visit www.takeahop.org to register for five departure airports and up to five countries simultaneously. Travelers remain on the registry for 60 days or during their leave orders or authorization, whichever occurs first.

SpaceA Destinations

Some destinations are harder to reach via SpaceA. Flights to the US, Germany, and Italy are frequent, but flights to South America or Australia may have longer waits. SpaceA flights take off daily from several hubs, including Mildenhall (UK), Ramstein and Spangdahlem (Germany), and Aviano (Italy). You might need to visit several terminals to pursue a SpaceA seat.

Major Hubs for SpaceA Travel

BWI has many scheduled flights and attracts flyers from up and down the East Coast. Other major hubs include Dover (DE), McGuire (NJ), Andrews AFB (MD), Norfolk (VA), and Charlotte (NC). Register for as many hubs as possible to find a flight.

What You Need to Know About SpaceA Travel

Tip #1

Avoid travel dates around major holidays like Independence Day and Christmas. Summer and school closings are also popular. Expect delays and plan to travel a few weeks before or after to avoid heavy traffic.

Erica never got out.

Tip #2

For detailed flight information, contact specific SpaceA Gateways. Most terminals have recorded flight schedules. Monitor these recordings to get a feel for possible destinations. The time given is “showtime,” not flight time.

Before 9/11, SpaceA information was available over the phone or on the web. Now, information regarding commercial flights at BWI is usually the only info available over the phone. All other trips are via military aircraft and are not open to the general public, with details available only a few days before departure.

At the Terminal

Once you arrive at the terminal, take all documents to the Passenger Service Desk to sign in. Make sure to show up before the roll call. Roll call for SpaceA flights occurs just before boarding and determines who gets a seat. Late passengers get rescheduled to the end of their initially assigned category. The same penalty occurs if you leave the terminal.

Tip #3

Ensure your car is legally parked in long-term parking, you have all your luggage, and you return your rental if needed. This is considered “travel-ready.” If you fail to comply, you will not be manifested.

SpaceA seats are identified as early as 2-3 hours and as late as 30 minutes before departure and are subject to constant change. Each terminal maintains a SpaceA register, organized alphabetically by priority, and the date and time of registration are updated daily.

Flight Information

All flight information can be found on overhead monitors. It includes call numbers, destinations, aircraft types, and seats available. Terminals are equipped like their civilian counterparts, often with lounges, play areas, free Wi-Fi, food kiosks, or franchises like Subway. Most terminals also have a USO office providing internet access, phone cards, and coffee. Information changes quickly, so be ready to react rapidly.

SpaceA for the Long Haul

Bring snacks, reading material, and electronic devices. You’ll need them for the flight and waiting periods in the terminal. Terminal personnel are generally courteous but may be short on details. Stay calm and remember that the mission of any flight takes priority over accommodating SpaceA travelers.

Tip #4

Passengers are never allowed on SpaceA flights containing weaponry or a fallen soldier. Occasionally, a flight will come into the terminal with available seats until its cargo is determined.

On a SpaceA Plane

Once on the plane, be prepared for minimalist conditions. Sometimes, the seating can be anything from fold-down jump seats to standard airline seats bolted to the floor. Be prepared for the flight to be extra hot or cold. Always bring a jacket or blanket for each passenger. Bathrooms only offer the bare necessities, typically without running water. Sanitized wipes are usually available.

Tip #5

For safety reasons, do not wear open-toed or high-heeled shoes like C5s or C17s on military aircraft. Military aircraft don’t have many creature comforts. Baggage limits vary. Don’t worry about overpacking. Sleeping bags and blow-up mattresses are common carry-ons. You can stretch out once you reach cruising altitude.

Tip #6

You can charge your laptop or iPod in the electrical outlets along the cabin walls. My oldest son flew back to Germany, swinging in a hammock between connex containers.

Tip #7

You can bring your own food or purchase box lunches for about $4. Each meal contains a sandwich, chips, soda/juice, water, a candy bar, and condiments. AMC also contracts charters with commercial carriers. These flights require a small head tax, ranging from $15-30 per person per leg. These flights offer everyday conveniences such as in-flight movies and complimentary hot meals and snacks.


Each passenger may check two pieces of baggage weighing up to 70 pounds and 62 linear inches. Family members may pool their baggage allowances. Hand-carried baggage must fit under the seat or in the overhead compartment if available. Your allowed baggage weight depends on the aircraft type and other restrictions. To be a successful SpaceA traveler, you must relax and be patient. Think of it as an adventure. Be open to changes in your itinerary. Your attitude and a bit of luck will make all the difference!

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14 thoughts on “Why You Should Fly SpaceA with the Military

  1. Aren’t these only open to military personnel? They can be a way to get around if one has time to spare.

  2. I intend to fly space A out of Osan to Singapore, Japan and Hawaii over the next year. I got a lot of time and flexibility; so I figured– why not?

    1. Yup, its a great option to see the world on a discount. It frees up mo new to spend on other things like great food and wine, hotels and activities.

  3. I learn something new everyday. And today I learned about taking a flight on a military plane. I didn’t even know there was such an option. The plane looks intimidating and exciting.

  4. You always learn something new every day. This is a such a great option for travel as it is cost effective and safe! (of course, if you qualify) Great article, it was very informative!

  5. Interesting stuff! I didn’t know you could fly on military flights on non-service business. I don’t believe we have this in Canada; though I could be wrong. When I was in the Navy, they flew us through commercial airlines.

    I think your post will help lots of service members and their families; thanks for sharing such a detailed account.

  6. My husband was in the Navy for 6 years and while we wanted to use Space A flights, there wasn’t enough information for us to be able to actually do it. This post is very informational and will help a lot of military members and their families. Thanks!

  7. This is great info! I always wondered how it was to hop a military flight. Sounds like an adventure. Thanks for sharing!

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