March 26, 2014


I've had a few people ask me about my experience with Space-A, I'll do my best to describe it, but there is a lot of information to share, so please bear with me. For my non-military friends, Space-A is the space available on a military air craft. Basically, the space-required folks (i.e. those making their way to their deployment site, or families that are moving a.k.a. PCSing, etc.) have reserved their spots, the leftovers can go to military I.D. holders who are eligible to fly. Does that make sense?

Signing up: As I understand it, you can sign up 60 days in advance of the day you are hoping to leave. I was hoping to leave February 10, I could've signed up as early as December 12. I signed up at the beginning of January. The sooner you sign up, the better your chances of making it on the flight. You can sign up in person or via email. I chose to email my sign-up, so I could print it out and have proof of my date of sign up. I had heard horror stories of people signing up well in advance, and the passenger terminal not being able to access their records. If you can't provide proof, you have to sign-up all over again, but you're at the bottom of your category (more on that in a second).

Flights: Many of the passenger terminals that participate in Space-A use Facebook to inform passengers when and where the flights are leaving. Here's the tricky part-because of security reasons, the passenger terminals only share flight information 72 hours in advance. I signed up to leave Ramstein on February 10, but that didn't mean there was a flight leaving that day, it just lets the terminal know you're interested in traveling around that time.

Roll Call: Now that you know the day you're trying to fly out, you've gotten yourself all packed up and ready to go. You need to show up to the passenger terminal an hour before Roll Call to get signed in saying you are present and ready to travel. Roll Call is where you find out whether or not you've made the flight. If they call your name, you are officially on that flight, have a safe trip! If not, you can wait to see if anyone didn't show up, but more than likely you'll have to try again another day.

Categories: Your category determines your priority for the flight. This is really just a broad description, but you get the gist of it. It breaks down like this:
  • Category I: Emergency leave
  • Category II: Active duty and accompanied dependents (for PCSing)
  • Category III: Active duty and accompanied dependents (for vacation). Dependents of active  duty service members who are deployed for more than 6 months
  • Category IV: Dependents of active duty service members who are deployed for 6 months or less (this is where I landed)
  • Category V: Unaccompanied dependents of active duty (if Josh were here, and I decided to go back to the states for a week, this is the category I'd fall under)
  • Category VI: Retirees and their dependents

When I was in Maryland with my aunt and uncle, I waited almost a whole week for a flight to go from Baltimore to Ramstein. I'm lucky to have amazing family in the area. The day I was trying to make a flight, there were three flights headed toward Ramstein. The first one had a roll call at 12:30 a.m., the next one at 1:30 p.m., and the last at 9:45 p.m., we decided to try for the first one, and had to be there at 11:30 p.m. Baltimore provides a screen that shows you where you line up, what category you are, and how many travelers you have with you. There were 63 seats available. I would've just waited (the last flight of the three had 300 seats available), because this one was a long shot, but I figured who would come to this one, it's so late. Apparently everyone had that thought. There were a lot of folks trying to make this flight.

Just like when I signed up for my trip to the states, I signed up to get back to Ramstein about a month in advance, and because of that I was at the top of my category. When my name was added to the roster, I was number 33. Aunt Margie, who stayed with me the whole time and counted it out and it looked like I was in the clear, but we still had 30 minutes before roll call started. In that 30 minutes, I went from 33 to 45. When they started roll call, the last number they called was 33. If they could've just done the roll call when I got there, I would've made the flight. I was starting to get upset, my aunt went out of her way to take me to the air port, stayed with me, just in case, helped me with a very cranky and tired little boy (Cole hadn't napped that day and was still awake and at this point it was going on 1:30), and she still had to go to work the next morning.

I went to the counter to ask one of the workers if it was worth coming to the next roll call (there were only 42 seats available on that one), and he said to wait, there were a lot of people who didn't come up and they were getting ready for round 2 of roll call. So we waited. This time, they only called a few at a time. It was agony. My name was the second to last to be called. I was so excited, but then found out that if any of those people were to come before 2:30, Cole and I would be bumped. Luckily, 2:30 came and went and we were officially on the flight.

Space-A is an amazing benefit of the military. Cole and I traveled from Ramstein to BWI and back for $105 total. That's just unheard of with commercial flights, but you also have the possibility that you will be waiting around for a while too. It's a gamble, but if you have to time to give, it is definitely worth it!

If you want more information about Space-A, click here.

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