As you read my blog, you will learn that in addition to saving time I’m also big on being better prepared. I’ve learned through my past mistakes that being ill prepared can be frustrating, and personally makes me feel like an idiot! I mean, this is what I do for a living… I should have my (put expletive here) straight! Preparation and expectation management is a huge factor when flying Space A. Here’s what you need to know about Space A requirements, so can see if traveling Space A is right for you:
First you need a passport. Sounds pretty obvious, but this is a must to travel internationally. You will also need to have an active DOD card. Children under 10 will need their passport, and DOD #’s available. Children over 10 will need their DOD card in addition to the passport. Retirees should have their ID card updated with DOD number. Active duty needs to have signed leave forms. This is crucial, or you’ll be denied. Unaccompanied dependents need to have a command sponsored letter. You can read more about each letter, depending on your situation.
Familiarize yourself with categories
The easiest way to explain this is the lower the category, the highter priority you have. These categories are 1-6. Cat I is for Emergency, unfunded travel. Cat II is EML (Active Duty and dependents) Cat III is for Active duty ordinary leave, TDY, house hunting and for dependents of deployed soldiers who have been gone for more than 365 days. Cat IV is for Unaccompanied dependents on EML, or whose sponsor has been deployed 30 to 364 days. Cat V is for unaccompanied command sponsored and non command sponsored depends of active duty, Permissive TDY. Cat VI: is for retirees and dependents and reserve. Many others fit in these categories, such as Medal of Honor Members, DOD teachers, students, ROTC, etc. You can read more about your category on Spacea.Net.
Sign Up Process
Active duty can sign up when leave starts. Not when it is approved. So at midnight, sign up! Retirees obviously can sign up whenever they wish. The earlier you sign up the better number you will have on the list at Roll Call. So sign up as soon as you can! There is a standard AMC form to sign up that you can email the terminal (save the email) or go to the terminal Facebook page and ask how to sign up. I personally, love the Facebook pages for AMC. The agents are so helpful with questions, and you can see the 72 Hour forecasted flight schedules.
Present, Roll Call & Showtime
“Present” is when you show your documentation at the counter and they will mark you present so you can compete for a seat on the flight. You can do this 24 hours prior, or up to an hour prior to “Roll Call”. The desk agent will tell you the time to come back for Roll Call, and make sure that you are not late. “Show Time” is exactly as it sounds, they are starting to get ready for the Roll Call process. During our “Show Time” a numerated list was displayed on a screen with full names (prior to Roll Call) showing where passengers were in relation to competing for a seat. “Roll Call” is when your name is called to be manifested on the list. You must be at the terminal at this time, and if you are not physically there, you must go through the process again.
Check out the AMC Facebook page
If you want added assurance, go to the AMC terminal Facebook page where you want to fly in/out of. They will forecast the 72 hour flight schedule on the page, and show you the history of previous flights, the number of allotted seats, seats used and the lowest categories who got on the flight. If it says CAT VI was lowest category, you know that most everyone got on who competed for the flight.
Patriot Express vs. Cargo Flights
Patriot flights are routine flights that are operated by commercial aircraft. A meal is served, and alcohol is available for purchase. I’ve found that the flight crew really takes care of service members on Patriot Flights! Cargo flights are as you can may imagine. Basically, an aircraft with jump seats. Blow up beds can be rolled out for sleeping, and box lunches are available for purchase. I consider these flights more “roughing it”, and require more planning on what to pack (dressing in layers, additional power strips for charging electronics, etc..). But don’t let that discourage you!
You must be flexible when utilizing this service. Remember, you are only paying a small head tax or federal inspection fee! With patience, flexibility and organization, you will find it easy to enjoy this incredible perk offered to the military community.
Good luck on your Space A journey. Leave me comments here if you have questions or concerns! Suggestions are highly appreciated!