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Reservists should learn basics before flying space-A flights.

The ability to fly to destinations all over the country for little or no cost is a significant benefit for Air Force Reservists.

At the same time, space-available travel on military aircraft can be frustrating for those Reservists who try to use it without knowing how the program works.

Space-A travel is not guaranteed. Military members traveling on official duty and cargo get first priority before any seats are made available to space-A travelers.

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"It's all about the mission," said Staff Sgt. Adeline Belardo, a traditional Reservist who serves as an air transportation specialist with the 88th Aerial Port Squadron at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. "The mission has to come first."

Though the mission comes first, Reservists do not necessarily come second when it comes to space-A.

Once seats on a flight are made available for space-A travel, they are assigned according to a priority based on categories and registration time. Traditional Reservists who are not on active-duty orders fall into category six--the category with the lowest priority--along with retirees and their dependents. Despite being assigned to a low-priority category, Reservists can still take advantage of space-A travel if they are patient and learn how to set themselves up for success.

Reservists should request a Department of Defense Form 1853, Authentication of Reserve Status for Travel Eligibility, from their unit commander as soon as possible if they expect to fly space-A within the next 60 days. Once Reservists have this form, they should register with the space-A system by calling the passenger terminal they plan to use. Since space-A seats are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis within each category, registering before other travelers in the same category can mean the difference between getting a seat and waiting around the terminal for several hours or days.

Travelers who are operating on a strict timeframe and are unwilling to experience significant delays should probably not consider space-A travel.

"If you don't have patience, don't fly space-A," said Mark Jones, an air transportation specialist from the 305th Aerial Port Squadron at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

The time of year is an important factor when attempting to travel by space-A. Since an active-duty service member can walk into a terminal at the last minute with a family of four and bump a group of Reservists from potential space-A seats, it is essential that Reservists avoid times when family vacations are more likely.

"Don't travel when school is out, and don't travel during major holidays," Mr. Jones said.

To increase their chances of getting to their destination, Reservists might have to get creative with the space-A travel system. Though a particular terminal might not offer many flights to the destination, it might offer flights to another terminal, which offers more flights to the destination.

For example, take a space-A traveler who is trying to reach Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. If the closest passenger terminal only offers flights there once per week, then the traveler should also register to fly space-A to another base--such as Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., or Travis AFB, Calif., both of which offer more frequent flights to Elmendorf.

"That's where the term 'hop' came from," Mr. Jones said. It refers to space-A travelers "hopping" all over the map to reach their final destination.

Airmen can learn about space-A opportunities by calling the passenger terminal at their departure location. Flight information for the next 72 hours is usually available. Flexibility is important because flight schedules frequently change from their original time, Mr. Jones said.

Key points for Reservists flying space-A

* Reserve and National Guard members may only fly within the United States and its territories unless they are on active-duty orders.

* Family members of Reserve or National Guard members are not authorized to fly unless the members are serving on active orders of 120 days or more. Family members must fly with their sponsor unless the member is deployed and the family members hold a command sponsor letter.

* Space-A travelers may check two pieces of luggage that do not exceed 70 pounds and 62 linear inches each. One carry-on that fits under a seat is authorized per passenger.

* Travelers should wear conservative civilian attire. Open-toed shoes and heels are prohibited.

* Gray-area retirees who are waiting to receive non-regular retirement pay when they turn age 60 must adhere to the same space-A rules that apply to Reservists who are not on active orders.

* Upon reaching age 60, Reserve retirees gain the full space-A benefits of active-duty military retirees, meaning they are able to fly overseas with ID card-holding dependents.

(Sergeant Jones is assigned to the 514th Air Mobility Wing public affairs office at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.)

Staff Sgt. Shawn J. Jones
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Title Annotation:SPACE AVAILABLE
Author:Jones, Shawn J.
Publication:Citizen Airman
Date:Apr 1, 2011
Words:781
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