Flying Free on Military Aircraft
C-5 Galaxy at Travis AFB. Photo by Travis Passenger Terminal Facebook.
I have become aware that there are various horror stories surrounding Space-A travel, and that a lot of eligible folks have never used this valuable benefit. Sometimes folks have little or no knowledge of their Space-A benefit. Other times the fear of the unknown applies.
I consider myself an expert on flying Space A. I have some 5,000 flying hours as a loadmaster and love to travel. If I haven’t been there I’d like to go. If I have been there I’d probably like to return. I teach a class, “Flying Free on Military Planes” two or three times a year at Club Ed, our local adult education facility. When asked how much I would need to be paid and I responded, “I’m eaten up with it, just charge ten dollars and don’t pay me anything.” They charged $15 and I see that they are charging $21 for the class that is scheduled in late July.
What advice do I have to offer? Have a current passport. We are at the bottom of the priority list, various categories of active duty folks go ahead of us. Active duty families often take leave and fly in summer when school is out. You might want to consider waiting till September for your first Space-A trip. Always pack a swim suit and thermals (when I was a loadmaster stationed at Norton AFB in southern California, we had an overnight flight to Florida and I had my swim trunks. Then, when the Marines were blown up in Beirut, we spent the next night in Goose Bay, Laborador, in the deep snows of November).
I stay signed up all the time. Use takeahop.com to sign up. Be aware that Australia requires a visa to enter. You will not be manifested on a flight to Australia if you don’t have one. I have a credit card with USAA and they reimburse ATM charges. Don’t be unduly concerned about not taking something that you might need, you can purchase most anything you might need at your arrival. I suggest that folks not worry about lodging, usually (even frequently), lodging is available at your landing spot and folks there will let you know. And occasionally you might find yourself sitting all night in the air terminal or the lodging lounge.
A sense of humor can be helpful. Talk/visit with other Space A travelers, you are likely to learn helpful information. My joke is that I consider myself a relatively intelligent lad and based upon my experience and intellect, when arriving at a passenger terminal, I view the various options and decide which flight to take. And I screw up every time! I read Colonel Marv Feldman’s article in the April 2011 issue of R&R Travel News™ regarding participating in ESL for a week and how he received free food and lodging at a resort. Two days later my application was in!
I have done this in Spain, Germany, and Poland. I am committed to a week in late November in the Bucharest area and a week in the Budapest area in early December. I know of three companies that do this: Google Vaughantown and Diverbo, both companies located in Madrid, and Angloville.com located in Warsaw. Vaughantown and Diverbo are first rate. I found that Angloville seemed to do it on the cheap. They are nice folks, but their offerings are not quite so elegant.
Gary Ramsey, 1Lt, USAF (Ret) firstname.lastname@example.org