Avoid stress, mishaps during holiday Space-A travel

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- The Air Mobility Command passenger terminal here offers traveling advice for Saber Airmen and their families during the holiday season.

The 726th Air Mobility Squadron here and the 721st Aerial Port Squadron at Ramstein Air Base are two terminals in Germany that can provide flights on a space-available basis. Space-A travel is free travel aboard Defense Department owned or controlled aircraft and occurs when aircraft are not fully booked with passengers traveling under orders.

During the holiday season, Space-A traveling can stress passengers, said Jennifer Urbani, 726th AMS transportation assistant. However, the most important piece of advice is to be patient. There may be larger crowds of travelers, inclement weather conditions and a decreased amount of flights leaving Spangdahlem.

"Last year, we had some people who I felt horrible for," she said. "They were stuck here for about a week, because we simply could not fly out -- flights weren't landing, because there was too much ice and snow on the ground."

Flexibility and patience is the key to Space-A travel, she continued. The passenger service agents will do everything they can to get passengers on flights.

"As long as the mission allows," she said, "we'll try to get the people out."

Tips

Urbani said Airmen can follow the below tips to prevent some of the stress incurred during the travel process:

- Sign up for departures as early as possible. Active-duty military members must be on approved-leave status before signing up for travel. Family members traveling without a military sponsor must have a signed command-sponsorship letter. Templates for this letter can be obtained from the 726th AMS Passenger Terminal.
- Continuously call the passenger terminal to verify show times and flight status. Flight arrivals and departures are tentatively scheduled in 72-hour blocks. Flights may be canceled at any time.
- Show up earlier than the posted flight check-in or roll call to correct any issues that may arise.
- Dress warmly and in layers. Traveling aboard some military aircraft may be colder than commercial aircraft travel.
- Be able to pay for commercial airlift back to Germany if Space-A travel isn't an option for the return flight. Also, plan funds for excess lodging or food costs caused by flight delays.
- Military passenger terminals are bound by the same U.S. Transportation Security Administration rules and regulations as commercial airlines. Be aware of this when packing.
- Don't exceed weight limits as some commercial continuation flights may charge additional fees for overweight luggage.

Flight Categories

Flight categories create a space-available travel order of precedence, Urbani said. Seating capability is dependent upon the passenger's category. A passenger with a lower category number has higher priority for travel.

Each category has its own unique requirements:

- Category 1: Military, DoD civilian or dependent on non-funded emergency leave.
- Category 2: Environmental morale leave, with or without family members.
- Category 3: Ordinary leave, convalescent leave and permissive leave for house hunting. In addition, this category is for family travel where the sponsor is deployed for 365 days.
- Category 4: DoD Education Activity teachers and EML travel for family members without their sponsor. Also, this category is for family travel when the sponsor is deployed for at least 120 days.
- Category 5: Unaccompanied overseas stationed command-sponsored family members, permissive temporary duty and student travel.
- Category 6: Retired military member travel.

Urbani urges passengers to be patient and understanding if the travel order of precedence causes seating capability changes.

Signing Up

"As soon as you can, sign up at all possible points of departure," Urbani said about the terminals here or in Ramstein. "The longer you're signed up for, the better."

Space-A travel is a waiting list, she explained. The longer a passenger waits on the list, the higher the chance of making the flight.

To sign up electronically for the 726th AMS Passenger Terminal, email spacea@spangdahlem.af.mil. For the passenger service agents to reserve seats, the email must contain the first and last name of all passengers, the sponsor's rank and service, the category of travel, the desired destination, and each passengers' passport and social security number. If the customer is not comfortable emailing the passport and social security numbers, agents can accept that information upon the customer's arrival for the flight.

End Result

Airmen and their families change station to Germany away from their stateside friends and family, Urbani said. However, the Air Force provides this free service to service members, DoD civilians, retirees and families as a means to go home and see their family.

"Spending the holidays away from family is hard," she said. "But, the Air Force stands behind military members, spouses and [family members.]"

Space-A travel may not be for everyone, but Urbani said there are four main points that all travelrs should know.

"Be early, be patient, be flexible and have a backup plan," she said simply.

For the passenger service counter, call DSN 452-8866 or 06565-61-8866. For the flight recording, which has the most current information on upcoming flights within a 72-hour window, call DSN 452-8860 or 06565-61-8860. Customers may also visit http://www.spangdahlem.af.mil/units/726thairmobilitysquadronpassengerterminal.asp or http://www.amc.af.mil/amctravel for more information.