Short for “space available” travel, Space-A travel (commonly referred to as MAC) is a convenient way for members and officers of the U.S. Uniformed Services to get from point A to point B. When you exercise your privilege to fly in this way, you’ll be joining a military flight with extra available seats, which is different from a commercial flight in a few important ways.
First of all, military flights are planned and coordinated according to a master schedule that does not prioritize the travel plans of Space-A travelers, meaning that flight times can be subject to change a few days or even hours before the flight. In fact, for security reasons, specific flight times and locations usually aren’t released until 72 hours prior to the flight itself, which means that Space-A travel requires some flexibility.
The second important difference from commercial travel? Space-A travel tends to be free. Yes, you heard us — free! Some overseas flights necessitate a negligible surcharge (somewhere in the range of $8.00, according to MilitarySpouse), but the vast majority of Space-A flights come free of cost for eligible travelers.
Who is Eligible For Space-A Travel?
As mentioned above, Space-A travel is available to active duty and retired members of the U.S. Uniformed Services and their dependents. Though there are some cases in which dependents can fly without their sponsor (a service member or retiree who is fully eligible for Space-A travel), for the most part, dependents will need to be accompanied by a sponsor. Additionally, National Guard members and reservists may find that some restrictions apply to their use of this benefit.
How To Sign Up For Space A-Travel
All Space-A flights must be booked through a military terminal, and although it’s possible to register upon arrival at the airport, we recommend that you do so ahead of time. You can sign up 60 days in advance, and you can request more than one destination when you do so. When you sign up, your name will be placed on a list alongside your category of travel. That list will be used on the day of the flight to assign Space-A seats on a first come, first served basis. If multiple travelers in the same category are competing for a limited quantity of seats, whoever has been waiting for the seat for the longest will receive it — which is why we recommend that you register 60 days in advance if at all possible.
Because most Space-A flights are made public just a few days before they’re scheduled, you’ll need a way to quickly and reliably check for flights to and from certain locations. Fortunately, SpaceA.net features a comprehensive list of Space-A social media accounts that contain down-to-the-minute updates on available flights, takeoff locations, and more. If you can’t find a Facebook page for your local passenger terminal, it’s possible to call most terminals directly to inquire about and sign up for upcoming flights.
What are the different categories of travel?
Again, your ability to secure a seat on a Space-A flight depends on the urgency of your travel plans, which is ultimately determined by the military. Category I has the highest priority, while Category VI has the lowest priority. Here’s a brief category breakdown:
- Category I — Active-duty service members and dependents traveling on emergency leave.
- Category II — Service members and dependents traveling on environment and morale leave (includes command-sponsored family members stationed outside the continental United States).
- Category III — Service members and dependents traveling on ordinary leave or reenlistment leave status, and unaccompanied dependents of service members deployed for 365 consecutive days or more.
- Category IV — Unaccompanied dependents on environmental morale leave orders and eligible dependents of service members deployed 30 consecutive days or more.
- Category V — Students whose sponsor is stationed in Alaska or Hawaii, and students enrolled in a trade school within the continental United States when the sponsor is stationed overseas.
- Category VI — Retirees and their accompanying dependents. This category also includes National Guard and reserve members who are traveling within the CONUS, Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. territories.
Don’t Forget Your Papers!
To prove your eligibility to fly on Space A flights, here’s what you’ll need to bring with you:
- Your military ID
- A copy of your leave orders for emergency, environmental morale or ordinary leave passengers
- Unaccompanied dependents of service members who are deployed for 120 days or more need to provide a letter of eligibility from the service member’s commanding officer.
- A passport and appropriate visas for overseas travel
- National Guard and reserve members will need to fill out DD Form 1853: Verification of Reserve Status for Travel Eligibility
- One last tip — should you arrive at the airport in uniform, remember that you’ll need to show proof of leave or pass status to successfully sign up for a flight.
Now that you have all of the information you need, go ahead and contact your local passenger terminal: bargain flights to your dream destinations await you!
An important note: Government Vacation Rewards does not book Space-A travel. But if you’re worried about your backup plan in case a Space-A flight is rescheduled, we’ve got you covered. Members have access to our vast search engine for booking commercial flights, hotels, rental cars and more. So, even if you find yourself in need of a commercial flight ticket on the way back from a Space-A trip, we’ve got your back!