JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- It may not be the best idea for those on a strict time schedule, but if you have the time and a little patience, a free flight to Europe, Asia or Hawaii might just be worth it.
Space Available, or Space "A" travel, affords active, retired and Reserve military personnel, along with active-duty family members, travel to destinations throughout the world - free of charge.
The process is relativly simple.
"We get a schedule in three days prior to a flight," explained Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) (AW) Harold Tyler, passenger terminal leading chief petty officer. "Any military member, either active-duty or retired, can call in to check the schedule and sign up by coming into the terminal here or faxing in a Space Available (A) form. Check-in time is two hours before a flight. If we have room for them, we'll take them."
While it does sound like a pretty good deal, there are some things you need to remember when traveling Space "A." There is a priority list with specific categories as to who gets to fly first.
Active-duty military members and their families on orders, and servicemembers on emergency leave travel first, followed by active-duty, families and civilians on Environmental and Morale Leave (EML) and DoD teachers during the school year.
Category three is for active-duty members on regular leave, house-hunting orders and those on special liberty for three to four days. Category four includes family members traveling without a sponsor on EML and DoD teachers during summer break. Category five is for those on no-cost TAD orders, family members with a visitor's pass and those traveling on regular leave without a sponsor. Retirees and Reservists fall into the last category.
"We do have many retirees traveling through here. They fall into the last category, because many of them have time to spare and can afford to get bumped," Tyler added.
Another guideline to follow when flying Space "A" is to pack light. Passengers are only authorized to check two pieces of baggage weighing no more than 70 pounds and measuring no more than 62 linear inches. Carry-on items are authorized provided they fit under the seat or overhead. These allowances vary on specific aircraft, so it's important to check the requirements before reporting to the terminal.
Uniforms are no longer required for military flights. "We prefer our passengers to be in appropriate civilian clothing," said Tyler. One recent change is that family members are now allowed to fly within the United States. "In the past, family members coming into terminals from overseas were required to disembark and take commercial flights. That rule has changed; they can now use military flights in the States," Tyler stated.
If traveling Space "A" is something you're interested in, Tyler has a few words of advice. "Plan ahead and have money and time available to fly Space "A". That's exactly what Space "A" means. If we have room for you, we can take you. If you have time and patience, most likely, we can get you where you want to go, but you should always have other alternatives, just in case," he said.
To check on flights flying in and out of NAS Jacksonville, call the Air Terminal at 542-3825/3956/8165.
For related news, visit the Naval Air Station Jacksonville Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/nasjax.