Space Available Travel

It has been a few weeks without a post, but not from lack of traveling. Brock and I caught a Space Available flight to the US just in time to say goodbye to my Great Grandmother. We ended up staying in the states for a few weeks to visit family and friends and safely returned to Germany early this week.

I feel like the whole time we were home I had to keep explaining how we got there, so here it goes. 

Space Available seats are seats on military cargo flights. There are no reservations and no purchased tickets. Instead, qualified passengers sign up for a destination country and remain on the list for up to 30 days. Passengers are assigned categories (one through six) based on their circumstance. Emergency situations are category one, family members flying without their sponsor (the servicemember) are category 5, and retired servicemembers are category 6.

Flights are posted by the passenger terminal 72 hours in advance with estimated seats available. The day you want to try to catch a flight you go to the terminal, get marked present, and then wait for roll call. At roll call names are called for the destination by category starting with one and working down the list. The passengers listed in each category are called in order of when they signed up, i.e the person in the category being called signed up first. Once all the seats are filled roll call is over. If you made the flight congrats! If not, you remain on the list and can try again.

So now that you know the process, here is our travel story. When I heard the news I called the Ramstein Passenger Terminal and asked how the list was looking to get to the states for category 5. She said quite bluntly that it was a long list and if I had an emergency I should call the Red Cross to get my status upgraded, so we did and were upgraded to category one. The Red Cross office on post set up our case and then forwarded it to the Red Cross in the states who called the funeral home and verified the information I had provided. I got a call 2 hours later saying “go to the terminal, your status is upgraded and you can get on the next flight home”.

The second part of our travel is that since Fil was not coming with us I needed a letter from his commander granting us permission to travel. The next day, at 4 am, papers in hand we were on our way to Ramstein to be marked present. An hour later we were first to be called at roll call, checked our suitcase, and went upstairs to the USO to wait for security to open. This was the best part of Brock’s day! He got to play with lots of toys and a few other children waiting for the flight to Dover.

Two hours later security opened for our flight, and we went through like you would at any airport. Shoes and belts off, liquids out of the carry-on bag, and walked id and ticket in hand through the metal detector. Immediately after our names were verified on the boarding list, we boarded busses and were driven to the C-5 cargo plane. We climbed the stairs outside the plane and stepped right in and filled the unassigned seats.

C-5’s are huge. I mean huge. The cargo hull can carry tanks, tractor trailers, or just lots of cargo. They also have a compartment for transporting passengers that had normal, but old, airline seats. This compartment did not have windows, did not have temperature control, but did have a few lights and a bathroom. Some other planes do not have this passenger room and the seats are cargo net style along the wall of the main cargo hull so we were lucky to have a fairly comfortable free flight.

The flight was loud, and a bit cold, but I knew it would be so I had Brock bundled up. He did pretty good. The flight was during the day so he napped on and off but wanted to get up and run around. After landing in Dover we drove up to NJ and spent the next few weeks visiting family and friends.

For our return we did not have our emergency category spot so we were marked on the category 5 list. When it was time to go we drove to the McGuire Passenger Terminal on Joint Base McGuire-Lakhurst-Dix and waited for roll call. We just made it on with about 10 names being called after ours. My mom waited with us and I think she was amused with the very military style roll call process. Returning we were on the same type of plane, but it was overnight and Brock slept almost the whole way. We landed the next morning and reunited with Fil after our 3 week trip.

We made it home just in time. This week we are going to the Netherlands! Fil is competing in the World Predator Classic Kayak Open in Hellevoetsluis and well that seems like a good enough reason for me to go to the North Sea! Our next post will be about our visit to the sea and hopefully good news about Fil’s success fishing.

I am so glad we made it home, and so thankful for the free flight! Flying Space Available was definitely an experience and hopefully we can use the benefit again but for vacation travel. I packed light so it was easy for me to manage with our luggage while wearing Brock and also gave me room to full my suitcase with all the shopping I did at home. It took Brock a few days to get back in our current time zone but he is finally back on track. He is almost walking on his own now, but still holds on. I am sure that by his birthday he will be running around.

The summer is here and we are ready to explore!

3 thoughts on “Space Available Travel

  1. What an experience, Jen! So glad you were able to get home so quickly. I have never done a space A flight before but you can’t beat a free flight! Have an awesome time in the Netherlands! Good luck, Fil! Can’t wait to hear all about it! 🙂

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  2. What a whirlwind trip, and I learned something new about flying via cargo but free. Free is always good. Wish Fil good luck and of course take photos. Hug Brock and hope he is now sleeping in his own bed all night. Can’t wait to hear about the next adventure.

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  3. Jen, So glad you were able to make it home for the funeral. I am sorry for your loss. Wow! What an experience flying cargo! You are experiencing so much!! Good for you, Fil, and Brock!

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