One of the coolest benefits of being a military retiree (besides the pension) is the opportunity to fly space-available on military planes. Also known as “Space-A,” “taking a hop,” or “MAC flying,” it’s a great way to get free flights to destinations all over the world. Most flights, a.k.a. “missions,” are from one U.S. military base to another, but you will see occasional flights to civilian airports.
Quick Start Guide
If you’re new to Space-A or haven’t used it as a retiree, start with this guide for a full primer on what exactly Space-A flying is and how it works.
Flying Space-A is best when you have time, flexibility, and a sense of adventure. The biggest challenge for active duty travelers is the unpredictable nature of Space-A flying. Passenger terminals publish flight schedules only 72 hours in advance, and you won’t know until the last minute if you have a seat. But the aspects of Space-A flying that make it inconvenient for active duty on leave make it the perfect option for retirees who have a lot of flexibility.
5 Reasons Why Military Retirees Should Fly Space-A
Wondering if Space-A travel is right for you? Take a look at these 5 reasons why flying Space-A is a great way for military retirees to travel.
You can stay at your destination as long as you want.
Have you ever gone somewhere and loved it so much that you would have stayed longer, if only you didn’t have to catch your flight home? When flying Space-A, you can stay as long as you like! You have no monetary commitment to a particular flight, so you can extend (or shorten) your stay at will.
Flying space-A also takes the guesswork out of planning your itinerary. Never been to Germany and not sure how much time you need? No problem! Just fly space-A to Ramstein, explore until you’ve had your fill, then take a hop back to the U.S. or to another country in Europe.
There is no risk of losing money if your plans change or you need to cancel your trip.
Because you are not paying for flights in advance, you have no money at risk. You do not have to purchase trip cancellation insurance to cover flights. (When flying Space-A, I don’t recommend making any nonrefundable travel arrangements, such as hotel stays or cruises, based on your expected arrival date).
Flying Space-A encourages you to be spontaneous.
If you have the right attitude and treat Space-A as an adventure, you can enjoy wherever you happen to land. Being spontaneous could mean going to the passenger terminal and getting on the first mission that has seats. It could also mean deciding to enjoy a week in Hawaii when you get “stuck” there on your way to Japan rather than going to the terminal every day to compete for a flight to Yokota Air Base. The best travel adventures happen when you don’t stick to a plan!
You can enjoy the other facilities on the military bases.
Landing at military bases means you are in a perfect position to take advantage of other facilities and activities on the base. How about a SCUBA trip in Okinawa? A pontoon boat rental in Florida? Or a flamenco performance in Spain? Those are just a sample of the things you can do through the bases’ Morale, Welfare, & Recreation (MWR) activity.
Also, don’t forget that many military bases are in prime locations around the U.S. and abroad. They have beaches, golf, hiking, and many other recreational activities you might seek in a civilian resort. Fortunately, the military facilities are significantly less expensive.
You meet great people.
One of the best things about flying Space-A is meeting other military travelers. Whether you’re still active in the military community, or you’ve become disconnected over the years, MAC flying will remind you of how helpful and supportive our community can be. Other Space-A travelers are happy to share advice, help you with your bags, or give you a ride in their rental car. As any traveler knows, the people you meet along the way are a big part of your experience; flying Space-A is no exception.
Hope to see you on the Space-A circuit soon!
Guest Post Author:
This guest post was written by Stephanie Montague, the founder of Poppin’ Smoke, a website designed to encourage military retirees to use their military benefits for travel. Stephanie and her husband have been traveling the world since he retired from the Army in 2015, and they currently reside in Japan. Visit Poppin’ Smoke to learn everything you need to plan your next Space-A travel!
McCulley, Ronald B. says
Is 100% disabled eligable for Space A travel?
Julie Chickery says
Unfortunately only if you are retired (or medically retired).
Julie Chickery says
Update: The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act now allows veterans with a permanent and total service-connected Department of Veterans Affairs disability rating to travel space available on military aircraft.
el colby says
I’m planning our FIRST Space A travel to Ramstein, departing from and returning to BWI.
We must book flights to and from our home to BWI.
If we arrive at BWI Nov 16 at 3:00 pm, is this enough time to qualify for a departure in the next few days?
And, if we want to arrive at BWI for our flight home on Dec 4 at noon, is this enough time to qualify for a flight from Ramstein a day or two prior?
My new husband is a Cat 6 retiree, and I’m an Army brat, so I want to plan efficiently yet be flexible if there are glitches.
Thank you so much!
Julie Chickery says
I’m not really an expert on Space-A travel, but my friend over at Poppinsmoke.com who wrote this article for our website is. I’d head over to her website, or Facebook page, Poppin Smoke and ask there for the best answer.