Lackland Air Force Base, Texas –
Traffic is picking up at the Lackland Passenger Terminal as a growing number of military families take advantage of Space Available flights heading to various locations stateside and overseas.
Even with heightened security, utilizing the free Space A program is easier than fighting crowds at the airports, said Tech. Sgt. Louie Guzman, passenger service NCO in charge. "Although we don't necessarily fly to the exotic locations around the world, we do offer flights into Europe and into the Pacific area," he said.
Albert Neal, a former Airman who retired from the Air Force in 1974 and resides in Boerne, has traveled extensively with his wife using Space A travel including such places as Alaska, Europe, Panama, Hawaii and Spain.
"We've done this quite a bit, and it is really a good deal," said Mr. Neal. "You have to be patient and you have to have a lot of time, but it works."
Under the program, eligible passengers can fill unused seats on Department of Defense-owned or contracted aircraft once all the duty passengers have been accommodated.
Space A flights at Lackland are offered on the 433rd Airlift Wing C-5s stationed here, so all departing flights return to Lackland. Currently for July, flights are scheduled to Dover AFB, Ramstein AB, March AFB, Hickam AFB and Elmendorf AFB.
Monthly schedules can be picked up in person with a valid military ID card at the Lackland Passenger Terminal located at KellyUSA Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The standard line for Space A travel is all times and destinations are subject to change without prior notice, cautioned Sergeant Guzman. If there are delays or cancellations, it falls on the member to get a leave extension or have funds available to return to duty.
Since Space A passengers travel only after all duty passengers and air cargo have been accommodated, there is no guarantee that a flight will have enough seats for every potential customer.
That was the case a couple of years ago when Martha Prewitt and her husband Charlie took a flight to Hawaii. They had intended to stay a week but when they couldn't return as scheduled they adjusted their plans and chose to remain one month.
We were gone for 30 days and all we spent was $1,000. We stayed at the base, we ate on the base a lot and we bought gas for the rental car on the base, said Mrs. Prewitt. The flight over there and back cost $7 for the meals.
Space A travel is a privilege afforded to all active-duty members and their family, Reserves, National Guard, ROTC and retirees. Family members for the most part must travel with their sponsor but there are exceptions if the military family is stationed overseas.
Space A passengers must sign up with the departure passenger terminal either on line or in person. When you register, you are assigned a category of travel. Selection for travel is based on your assigned category and the date/time of your sign-up, which is valid for 60 days or for the duration of your leave orders.
Travelers are allowed two bags each and one carry-on bag. The same rules that apply to commercial flights regarding carrying liquids and powders onboard also hold true for Space A passengers.
However, unlike the commercial airlines, there are no flight attendants and you will not get a window seat since there aren't any in C-5s. Also, be prepared to face the rear of the plane instead of the front. For safety reasons, the 73 seats in the military aircraft do not face the pilot area.
For more information about Space A travel, call the Lackland Passenger Terminal at 925-0953 or log on to www.spacea.info.