Three cheers for Space-A! Some disabled veterans including myself will be able to fly Space-A, Category 6, on military aircraft when space is available. Space-A is super cheap travel for select individuals including retirees and now certain disabled veterans.

Here is what veterans need to know about Space-A travel, today:

  • Getting on a Space-A flight is never guaranteed
  • Veterans must have a permanent and total disability rating
  • Prepare to pay a nominal amount that may include a meal fee
  • You can bring two pieces of luggage up to 70 pounds total
  • Terminals publish upcoming flights and seating on Facebook
  • Flights registration can be accomplished using email
  • Travel generally includes flights to the continental United States and Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.

Back in the day, you had to travel to the terminal and wait in line for a spot. Today, the military uses its website, an email newsletter, and Facebook to keep flyers updated. You can sign up using an email sign-up sheet.

What Happened To Allow Access To Disabled Vets

Congress recently passed legislation that allows many disabled veterans to save on travel by flying Space-A on military aircraft like retirees.

The legislation was included in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. It allows disabled veterans with permanent and total service-connected disability ratings from Veterans Affairs to travel on available military aircraft.

The disabled veterans eligible for Space-A travel will be assigned Category 6. Yes, this is the lowest priority available, which is what retirees and their dependents generally use. Unlike retirees, it does not look like these veterans will be able to bring dependents.

Space-A flights originate from military bases and some commercial airports. These airports including Seattle-Tacoma International and Baltimore-Washington Marshall International.

The US Air Force manages the program through its Air Mobility Command. Veterans can register for flights via email as noted above. Each terminal has a Facebook page that reportedly publishes upcoming flights and seats available.

You can also sign up using the old school AMC Form 140.

My Own Space-A Experience

When I was on active duty, I flew Space-A a few times.

My most memorable Space-A experience was back in 2000 flying from McChord AFB to Charleston AFB to Dover AFB to Ramstein AB, Germany to visit a girl while I was on terminal leave.

From McChord to Dover on a C-17, I did not have a jacket and remember being very, very cold. But, the flight was very, very cheap.

I was able to get back into England from Frankfurt, Germany without a passport using only my terminal leave paperwork (that was not filled out right) and my military ID.

The distracted customs agency at Heathrow eventually let me in after looking very confused. Of course, that was the pre-9/11 world, back when men were men and giants roamed the earth.

My then girlfriend of two months picked me up from the airport after my two weeks of terminal leave in Portland living the dream trying out my green thumb.

The next day, back in England, my girlfriend came back from work early and fell over onto the bed wearing her BDUs. The rest of the conversation went something like this.

“The doctor called. I’m pregnant… Now what?”

“I guess we should get married.”

And, the rest is history.

Your Own Story?

Now that the option has opened up to disabled veterans, I plan on trying to jump on one of those flights to catch a whiff of old JP-8 or whatever they use these days.

Once I get to where I’m going, I don’t anticipate my arrival anywhere will have quite the same “pop,” so to speak, as it did in 2000.

On this lighter subject, do any of you have a Space-A story?

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27 Comments

  1. I think this new policy should include spouses…disabled permanent total should not be traveling alone. A 3-star ADM told me that when writing policy ensure to do your research because bad policy is hard to change. This policy needs an amendment

    • One of the perks of serving as a CAREER Soldier is to have access to military bases and or services. Use of the PX/NEX; Space A travel; medical (as necessary/available); base facilities and/or recreational among other services and perks.

      Recently, there was congressional chatter that would make available, all of the resources a career and retired veteran has EARNED, to ANY veteran with ANY level of disability. Non-career or retired military veterans get access to medical and vicational rehabilitation (HOWEVER FLAWED).

      Space A is a well off perk that should not be handed out “just because”. If a 100% disabled veteran is authorized SPACE A it should end there. I do agree, that depending on the disabled veteran, a spouse ONLY clause should be implemented so that theyvtravel with their disabled veteran…..

      • Because only “CAREER” solders “EARN” more than any other veteran. Sound like some of the VA raters. Your disability has EARNED you more because you served 20 year to my 6. I didn’t think it was a matter of EARNED. I believe everyone was paid what they earned.

      • Your statement holds no water because a soldier/sailor/airman that was medically “Retired” is entitled to the same benefits as a “Career” service member regardless of their time in service. As a Medically retired and 100% S/C DV .I was eligible for Hops as retired but not 100%S/C. As a VSO I had been fighting for this benefit for years and the argument was “Well AMC personnel aren’t able to provide for medical issues with 100%S/C disabled veterans. I would respond that Disabled dependents of active duty personnel are eligible to travel Space A, Disabled dependents of Retirees are eligible, and Disabled Retirees are eligible (without regard to S/C or not).
        The KEYS here are 1. It is a start, the door has been cracked, but the fact is that this is for UNACCOMPANIED 100%S/C DV’s 2. This is for CONUS ONLY, which pretty much eliminates most travel destinations that are cost prohibited travel destinations.

  2. Guess I’ll go get my Military ID after all. Retired with nothing but time I wouldn’t mind. How about spouses. Are they included as are military and retirees?

  3. In all fairness, I know nothing about Space-A travel but this. I remember being cautioned, way back in the day (like Ben said, back when men were men and giants roamed the earth.) about it being a very cold and rough flight AND to be prepared to find my own way back if the need arises! That last one… that kept me from ever using it for any reason.

    Several months ago Seymore posted on this exact subject and my wheels began running varied scenarios. There are too many opportunities for things to go from uncomfortable to disaster if one plans to use these flights for hard fought for medical purposes, which sound thinking leads me to believe was the intent behind the change. We all know how half-baked VA decisions end up leaving Joe Average thinking we’re sliding clean on all things in our lives, while VA workers manage to slip-in the gotcha’s.

    I think if one uses Space-A for pleasure and you’ve got no issue with the possible delays, then carry on! But, for medical needs, I’d think very long and hard and likely vote no way. Oh and another caution, if commercial travel is covered for medical reasons right now, anyone care to reason if that will be the next thing to hit the chopping block because of Space-A having been granted?

  4. I hitched a short ride from Osan, ROK to Yokota air base. Sat there for 2 days waiting for a flight. Caught a C-141 hauling Huey chopper blades from Nam to Travis. 3 weeks later I went back to Travis, caught another Space-A back to Korea just in time for roll call. Had a ball with just $20 in my pockets.

    • Nowdays It’s probably not safe for me to travel alone that far without my wife along. Maybe they’ll change it.

  5. I honestly never made it on the planes because *always* was BUMPED by someone that outranked me and they do that…down to the date of service…so I rode one of the early prototyes of now-VA Crow….being strapped to the back of a very large mutant crow is no treat and all those damn circles they fly in….much prefer a cargo plane.
    Just be aware that space available gets down to rank and date of service unless exceptions are being made for disabled veterans.
    I have a feeling only the funny hatter VSO’s will be utilizing this benefit to spread their piggy philosophy in claiming new members hot out of DoD lines….wait for it….

  6. Thanks for agreeing with me on the spouse only clause…its important to keep the spouses connected they have paid their dues as well.

  7. I was in Landstuhl, right by Ramstein AFB for four years. Flew in a C-5 from Ramstein to Dover AFB, or Seymour Johnson AFB, then back again three times while I was over there. Each time to go deer hunting in Wisconsin on leave. Could usually catch a flight at Ramstein the same day I signed up and by the time I got back to Dover, I was at the top of the list. Could fly from Philly to Milwaukee for like $40 back then. Saved a lot of $$$, probably never would have never went if it wasn’t for it…

  8. Never used it before, don’t plan on using it now or in the future! “Space-A” may have been great decades ago. Only I have a sneaky suspicion it’s changed for the worse now!

    On a side note;
    President Trump will be addressing the nation tonight, 8 January 2019, at 9 pm est on many news stations!
    I wonder if he’ll say anything about the VA and Veterans!?!

    • If he does, it will be about the HUUUUUGGE improvements that we now have thanks to Perlmutter and crew. But Perlmutter will not be mentioned by name.

  9. Whats the fuss? I have been flying Space A for the last 10 years. And the policy now also states that IF a higher ranking NCO or Officer needs that space then you are booted no mater what Congress says as active duty get priority. And there is NO frills on this, you sit in a net seat, there is no sound baffling so its loud as hell and they provide you earplugs. You wear a jacket because they dont heat the area you are in to a comfortable level. You dont get any meals so you had better bring your own. And the worse thing is you have a chained down port-a-potty for the whole plane which can get filled rather quickly if someone gets airsick.

    Now on the other hand as long as you are going to where the plane is making the stops, you can fly one way anywhere in the world for between $10 and $20 each way. But there is no assured return trip so you need to make sure that your plane will have a return trip or the place you are going will.

    And once you get there, ask for “space available”. Usually they will have some empty BAQ rooms and you can get one of them for between 20 and 30 a night. Again though if any active duty come in and need a place to stay then you have to leave as they get priority. Pretty sweet set up and allowed me to see and visit all 50 states in less then 6 years, and that includes Alaska and Hawaii!

  10. I left Thailand on Oct 16, 1974 on a 141 to Clark. I didn’t get home until Oct 31. My ETS processing in Oakland was 30 hours. I was “space A” out of Clark. After the third day of getting bumped by those of higher rank or other service affiliations (fucking zoomies – me being Army), not being given quarters of any kind, I said fuck it and went to Manila and hung out for a few days. Some zoomie dick chewed my ass because I didn’t check in every day. I finally got him to admit that I wouldn’t have gotten a flight anyway. The dicks still wouldn’t give me a bed even though Clark was a shell of its recent self. So, I crashed at the first thing that looked like housing – which happened to be BOQ. I got away with that for a couple of days because the zoomies finally realized that a Specialist 6 insignia is enlisted. So, now I’m being fucked with by zoomie SPs threatening me with all kinds of shit. Still no flights – so, I went exploring and found a place near Subic called Hidden Beach where the air was clear and the only thing that disturbed me was some kind of palm tree rat the size of a Corgi. I rented something hooch-like on the beach for a couple days and went back to Clark, and the same zoomie prick was apoplectic that I didn’t show up every day. Still, I would have been bumped, but he didn’t like being told to go fuck himself. So, some other Zoomie officer LE type wants to bring me up on some ill defined charges. Problem was, I was Army – mondo paperwork for that lazy mofo. I had an idea – charge me with whatever and send me to Oakland for prosecution. He thought that was a good idea. I was on the next flight out – no escort, no cuffs, no paper. Zoomie dicks.

    So, ya, glad I don’t qualify for fucking Space A, eh? And if I did – no way.

    In other news, it looks like we bounced back to the old format. IT is a pain – glad I’m just a visitor.

  11. I used Space A, in 1988. I was a Lance Corporal in The Marine Corps, (E-3) I was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. Flew home to San Antonio, Texas, after a stop in LA and Pheonix. AZ. Went home for 30 days. I did have leave order in hand so on my way back I bumbed off an Army Major who had no orders, he tried to make a stink about it but was told i had orders to stand aside. Stopped off in Hawaii for 2 days, i was single slept on the floor in the air port. Had a great time.

  12. I was a Loadmaster on C-141s. Many, many times, I’ve carried Space A pax from one point to another and thoroughly enjoyed the interaction with the variety of people that were on my aircraft.
    And I tried my best to “find” more room for more people trying to get out from where they’re at. Remember the folding red “troop seats”? As long as I could anchor it down, provide a seatbelt and O2 mask, we had another seat. And stories of being approached by people, on leave, if I was in the pax terminal…desperation, indeed.
    It all hit “reality”, when on leave myself, of getting into my flight suit and going to the Ops Command Post, to hitch a ride with a Travis Crew to get me back to McChord, after getting bumped for 3 days at McGuire. Never again.
    Now, being 100% T&P, I couldn’t even dream of, physically, flying Space A. Expecially without a caretaker.
    You all can have my seat. Nice gesture, though.

  13. My experience using Space-A was good. I used it to fly a round trip to Angeles City, Philippines from Okinawa, Japan. It was a C-141 and the accommodations were crude, but it was exciting for a 20-year-old. The only scary thing about the flight was when I boarded the plane there were airmen, at least five, holding machine guns. I thought OMG what did I get myself into. Come to find out the back of the airplane was filled with these blocks (maybe 12×12 or larger) that were the payroll for Subic Bay and all the other military facilities in the Philippines. That was a lot of money stacked inside that plane. An experience I will always remember.

    Peace out

  14. I was in the Air Force and worked the freight side of the terminal. As my time in the job evolved, I eventually became an Air Transportation manager also working the passenger side of the house from time to time. Either way, I knew everyone in Passenger Service so it helped immensely when I hopped on flights.

    For years I hopped flights to see the world versus going home on leave. It made a dramatic impact on my life and the freedom to travel on a whim sticks with me to this day as my husband refers to me as the gypsy of the family.

    Some of the places I hopped flights to were Germany, Turkey, England, Spain, Azores, Hawaii, Guam, Philippines, Japan multiple times, Alaska, Canada, Korea and dozens of hops stateside. Most of my stays were in on-base billetting which is so much cheaper than hotels off base.

    Most of my trips included shopping, bar hopping as I was young, and i certainly danced around the entire world. Music knows no language barrier so i instantly fit in wherever i went.

    Im glad this space A opportunity has come to fruition. I’ll hopefully be able to go back to the Philippines now. It was my favorite country of them all. The dollar goes a long way there, most of their citizens speak English, the beaches are gorgeous, and this time i hope to travel their country more instead of spending every night dancing until dawn

  15. Used spaceA once, a C-141 from Howard AFB (canal zone) to Charlotte, NC. Cold, very cold, no blankets, did get an Air Force box lunch, cold cut sandwiches and an apple,that tasted pretty dam good, after eating c rations and lurps. The best part of the ride for me was being able to climb up the ladder from the cargo area and into the cockpit to smoke, the view was incredible, couldn’t smoke in the cargo area. A great benefit for the 100% disabled veteran, if your able to use it.

  16. What flavor of champagne do they serve, Ben? I prefer Epernay region but I could survive for 5 hours on a good Sonoma knockoff. How much does it cost to upgrade to first class? This sounds good. I’m guessing they’re waaaay cheaper than Delta.

  17. I think it’s an outstanding gesture of gratitude and as a Disabled 100%’r I am very grateful for the change. But there are a lot of fellas worse off who really need their CG on such trips, so that is a serious teak that needs to be corrected. We should also, every damn one of us, be championing each other and remember that 98% of this nation did not boot up or suit up, We did, I am grateful but feel deserving as should you all. Thanks for the great news!
    Bayonet!

  18. Good ol’ Space A! Took a flight from Schofield, bound for Travis AFB once, with the kiddo in tow. My first and only Space A, actually… and I’m already a cat in the bath when it comes to flying. So ya, it’s loud, clangy, COLD but free!!!
    But THEN…then!!
    … a crew member comes out to inform us that the route is changing because the landing gear test run failed and we may have to egress… but Travis’s strip isn’t long enough for that… So we’ll be landing in Spokane, WA instead. They explained the process, what to expect and how to position ourselves. Then two of the flight crew come out and needed our 6 year old and myself to move out of our seats so that they can unbolt them to access the landing gear to work on it. I’m convinced we’re going up in a spinning ball of flames as soon as the plane belly flops onto the asphalt, my hubs is COMpletely nonchalant, like this shit is NORMAL~ I’m oscillating between trying not to piss my pants, bargaining with God and cussing my husband in my head, while trying to maintain a completely cheery and calm disposition in front of my tiny, trusting, about to burn alive beautiful, brown-eyed daughter… while watching these dudes in jumpsuits bang and cuss at metal parts. I die a little inside as preparation for what I’m sure is to come… As it turns out though, my bargaining paid off and those men were agents of GOD himself and they got the gear working properly again. Only we were already closer to Spokane than San Jose… So we touched down in Washington, at 3 am in February, where the temp was a brisk -7°F…. and every single on post service was long closed… they’d called in people to land the plane… but no one had any idea what to do with us. Here we are, coming from Hawaii, headed to San Jose, with light jogging jackets and flips flops, in the most hauntingly gorgeous, sparklingly beautiful icy wonderland, with a 6 year old asthmatic who is AMAZED by all the sparkles and also exhausted and wheezing… with literally no place to go. Sitting outside the now closed terminal because, let me tell you, those people were PISSED they had to drag their asses into work at 2 am and had no shits to give for the Space A stowaways. My husband hoofed it something like 2 miles to where someone told us was a 24 hr Shopette and tried to make some calls. Couldn’t reach a soul. Turns out the kid working the cash register was friends with the kid of somebody important on post, can’t remember his title now… my brain was shutting down by this point… and that sweet kid called and woke up his buddy, who woke up his Colonel(??) father, who made some calls (BLESS HIS EXISTENCE!!) and got someone into a van to come pick us up and into the base hotel to check us in. When the van arrived, they found me in layers of clothes from our suitcase, with the kid curled up inside the suitcase, in a makeshift bunny nest of clothing, trying to keep her turning into a statue. I remember the heat BURNED when we got in the van. I remember the hotel room was like the Taj Majal and the hot bathtub was pure bliss. I laugh now, but that was the one day of my life that I’m legitimately surprised we all survived. I haven’t stepped toe on a Space A since. Or any flight for that matter, except one back home~ and the one for our PCS… even then, I legitimately tried to convince my husband to book passage on a ship???
    So ya, he has a P&T rating now but I’ll NOT be concerned about not having the privilege of hopping on a flight with him anytime soon! Lol!!

  19. Sorry, I had to laugh at that memory for a minute… On a more serious note, even though I’ll not be flying again anytime soon, it really would be considerate if a spouse, or at least a vet’s designated caregiver, could travel along. I know my hubs needs me around much of the time and being that the VA recognizes this, it would be cool if this policy change reflected this not uncommon need of many of our 100% disabled vets.

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