What’s The Deal With Space-A?

Should You Bring The Kitchen Sink?

CONTRIBUTED BY MEREDITH NOVARIO

Because what if I get it in my head that I’d like to meet Joe in Thailand with my little munchkins in tow. Do I need to be talked off this ledge?

Give me the inside scoop. What tricks, tips and tales do you have up your sleeve?

42 COMMENTS

  1. Next summer I need to come back to the states to finish my last course in my master’s program. I assumed I could use space A though I know I could be stuck for a little while.

    My questions are this…

    I will be near the D.C./Baltimore area. Do any flights come close to there?

    As a dependent of the DoD, do I even qualify?

    What exactly is EML and what are the requirements/restrictions (certain number of times, types of leave, etc.). Explain it to me.

  2. We are looking to take a Space A to the Philippines to visit my friend and celebrate our anniversary. We know how to go about signing up and getting there but we don’t know how to get back. The people who work at the terminal don’t have any clue. They told us to call their terminal there in the Philippines…really?! So does anyone know how we go about getting back from there? We tried to ask one guy and he said they don’t do flights from Clark International Airport to Oki much so we asked if we’ll have to go through Hawaii or Guam first and he didn’t seem to know… really need to find this out and how likely we are to get back in time before his leave ends.
    Please help!

    Thanks!!!

  3. What about “PACKING” for Space-A flts???
    We’re (hopefully) flying to Hawaii (Hickam) this Thursday, and I was wondering about packing my shampoos, conditioners, lotions, etc. Do they allow you to pack these items (regardless of weight/size) in your suitcases, or is it as strict as it is flying commercial in the U.S.?

  4. My 18 yr old stepson will be flying to the states (alone) after graduation to visit his mother. Once he arrives in Seattle, he’ll need to take a commercial flight to VA- if he can’t get a hop. Does anyone know how far the airport is from the base?

  5. Joelle gives great advice. Always print out your copy of the actual signup. Some bases don’t always type all of the signups into their system. I’ve never had any problems hand-carrying and then showing the signup requests from Takeahop.com.

  6. I used takeahop.com as well and it worked great. But what everyone tells you to do is PRINT OUT the email when you send it because if for some reason it does not “arrive” at the appropriate base you have a record of sending it. Usually they will take that and adjust your time/date.

  7. Over the years I’ve taken my twice annual EML flights back to Hawaii. Usually in February and September. No real problem getting out of Kadena. The main problem is from Hawaii to Okinawa. Seems there’s less flights from Hickam direct to Kadena than the other way. Was especially true when there was the lock down after the incidents on Okinawa. No planes went to Okinawa for a couple weeks.

  8. I found a space-a website ( http://www.takeahop.com ) about a year ago and boy, do I really like their method of signing up for space-available travel. It’s a free website with most of the normal space-a locations already listed.

    I’m a CAT VI and I’ve used it for three trips between the U.S. and Europe and everything worked perfectly. (I also see that it’s also recommended by spacea.net, spacea.info, and pepperd.com). Just thought I’d spread the word on it to anyone who hasn’t heard of it yet.

  9. Dasha…I’m pretty sure you’re good as long as you get your passport stamped for re-entry and return within a year. Housing makes it mandatory though that you sign over a power of attorney to someone on the island while you are gone to care for your residence. These are the only two things I’ve heard so far about leaving for extended periods. I’m sure there are others here who can chime in to give some excellent advice:) Oh and if you’re planning on being gone longer than 1 month, you have to let (someone?) who handles COLA know b/c I guess if you go to certain places they’ll only give you one months worth and then they cut you off. I’m not sure if this is only when you go to the states or not but I know a friend who had an issue with having to repay COLA b/c they didn’t know they weren’t supposed to be receiving it. So,def.check into that before heading off the island:)

  10. Daughter and I are getting ready to space-A to the Philippines: anyone know the regulations on how long we can be gone? We’d like to stay as long as possible but don’t want to lose our house here on base, or violate any SOFA rules governing travel. HELP!

  11. Hi, I am not sure if you got the answer, Shandi. Yes, it is possible to visit Okinawa as long as you are traveling with AD sponsor and everyone travelling including AD sponsor to carry a US passport or necessary visa for foreign passport holders. Hope this helps.

  12. Ya know, it used to be that only people stationed OCONUS could travel between CONUS/OCONUS, but I think that may have changed. So basically, I have no idea. 🙂 Sorry!

  13. Hi, I was wondering if it’s possible for my AD husband and our kids and myself could get a hop over to Oki where his mother lives? Not sure if we’d even qualify but we haven’t seen her in 5 years now. Any kind of info would be greatly appreciated, thanks!! By the way, we miss Okinawa! 🙂 very jealous of all of you 😉

  14. Thanks, Joelle. I had seen the peppard one a long time ago but completely forgotten about it! Hopefully, I can get there somehow even if I have to go to india en route ha ha…I can just see the kids with delhi belly…

  15. Joelle and/or Jim,
    do you know of any new was to get to the UK? I still want to go this summer but no one seems to know how…I looked at commercial flights and they are something like $3,000 a piece, way out of my budget and I am sure most peoples…With myself and 2 kids going I need to find a way HELP! I haven’t been back since 2004 and it’s time to go and visit with the kids…

  16. Check out the article in the Stars and Stripes. I liked this quote “There will be no Patriot Express mission this week as they continue to work out the details with the new carrier,” Graham said. “We hope to have the Patriot back up and running next week.”

    Not that it helps with all the people on Spring Break who had to cancel! Anyway, here is the link to the S&S article:
    http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=53938

  17. Can anyone offer insight about the Patriot Express going bankrupt? Got our (now, non refundable) “Bullet Train” package figured, but never figured on this…..

  18. Received this at my work e-mail:

    The Patriot Express Arrival on 05 April and Departure on 06 April has
    been
    cancelled. At this time, we are awaiting information concerning
    passenger
    travel for passengers holding reservations on this flight. If you have
    any
    questions, please contact us at 634-0153 or 634-0994

    The Travel Entitlements Briefing scheduled on 05 April at 11:00am is
    currently postponed until we receive further information concerning
    Patriot
    Express passenger travel. If you have any questions, please contact the
    Kadena AMC Passenger Terminal at 634-0153 or 634-0994

  19. Good information here!

    Does anyone have any idea how often the Patriot gets delayed? We are trying to fly out of here next Saturday, and even have a connecting flight already booked, but I am very nervous about possible delays out of Kadena/Yokota.

  20. Joelle,

    My two small children and I just got back from emergency leave in the States, and we flew space A (for the first time) on the Patriot Express. We got EML orders from my husband’s command and were then upgraded to category 1 travel due to a Red Cross message. Thus, we were the first ones to be called to fly space A, and there were 60 seats available. At that time I submitted a request from the kiosk in Kadena’s terminal that said that I’d like to travel back from Seattle (this is an important step, as when you check in for roll call in Seattle to try to get back to Oki, you are grouped by category and then, within the category, by date of sign-up). Just this past weekend we made the attempt for the Patriot Express. We were category 4 this time, so I was pretty nervous, but there were 85 seats available and everyone who wanted to get on the flight did so (there were even a couple of empty seats).

    To more directly answer your question, we only went through the space A roll call and so forth in the originating airport, so it seemed like once you got on the flight in Kadena, you were set to get to Seattle (and vice versa).

    I’d recommend travel at this time of year, if you can stand the weather in the States (in the midwest, we did have some concerns about airport delays due to a bad ice and snowstorm) – we traveled the first week of February and the first week of March, and with all of the children in school (no holidays, no spring breaks, etc.), it was relatively easy to get on both flights, which was a relief!

    Also, if you ever have to fly home for emergency leave and your sponsor isn’t coming with you, know that your category changes from category 1 on the way to the States to category 4 or 5 on the way back to Oki, so it could be more difficult to get back (though it wasn’t for me).

  21. That was actually me, Jim — sorry — I flew out of Rheinmein in 2004 — haven’t been there since. It’s still possible to get to England and Germany, just evidently not as I listed it.

    BTW, we’re going to try the Patriot Express to Seattle in a few weeks. Anybody managed to get on the flight to Yokota and NOT onto Seattle? I didn’t know if a seat on the first flight guaranteed one onto the next?

  22. Re Pamela’s post above, the info is outdated.

    The weekly flight to the East coast (Baltimore – BWI) from Mildenhall/Lakenheath ceased to exist quite a while ago.

    In addition, the Rheinmein (Germany) info is dated as that location closed a long time ago.

  23. Dana,

    EML orders are relatively easy. Its just a matter of getting your Admin folks to fill them out and having your supervisor sign them. In the whole scheme of things the AF doesn’t have a clue who is authorized to sign the orders. They just want to see the document.

    Also, here’s a good site to sign up for the different Air Bases you could possibly travel through.

    http://www.takeahop.com/signup/form.htm

    I would recommend calling each Base to make sure your on their list.

  24. Thanks for the help. I called IPAC and they said that we did need the stamp. Otherwise it is assumed we are here as a tourist and not to live and aren’t suppose to stay over 30 days (I believe that is how long they said). Any travel off Japan needs the re-entry stamp before departure

  25. IPAC(6450865) on Camp Foster provides reentery stamps one year at a time. 0700-1630 are hours. From Gate 4(Spot gate) turn left at the Car Care center/Thrift shop road(THE ROAD BEFORE THE GAS STATION/COMMISSARY ROAD). Go up the hill and it is on the left.

  26. When flying commercial, we’ve always been told to get our passports stamped. There isn’t alot of information out there about this issue. I kind of found out haphazardly through a friend who just said “remember to get your passport stamped!” That was a lesson learned.

    I get my family’s passports stamped through the AMC Terminal on Kadena every time we travel, but have heard that you can get a stamp that is good for one year somewhere on Camp Foster. Perhaps someone out there knows more about this?

  27. Does anyone know about flying off island for vacation (going to the states for christmas) if you are suppose to get your passport stamped for re-entry or if that is only for flying space-a?

  28. I thought it was difficult to get EML orders. Am I wrong? From what I am reading it sounds relatively easy. Someone please explain, thanks!

  29. Again, great comments! This is slightly off the original post, but I second the New Sanno… I highly recommend it. Often times, their website indicates that they’re booked on the weekends, but we showed up on a Friday and were able to book another night at the front desk (we had back up plans with friends at Yokota AFB just in case). In fact, our friend from Yokota tagged along with us for the day and also got a room the same day so she didn’t have to return to Yokota late at night.
    Another tip if you’re flying locally in Japan but not taking Space A due to time constraints is to fly Skymark Airlines (www.skymark.co.jp/en/index.html). It felt like the equivalent of Southwest Airlines with comparable prices on domestic airfare from Naha to Haneda or Kobe. Plus once you figure out the availability of various fares, you can just purchase online, in English!
    My apologies for the randomness of my comments. But thanks again for the Space A remarks, I am feeling optimistic about our travels next month.

  30. A lot of great advice here!

    I second kellyerace’s recommendation for Dirk Pepperd’s Message Board….it’s a really great source of information. My 3-year old son and I just flew Space-A to the States at the beginning of June. We tried to get on the Seattle flight twice….no luck due to the high PCS season (not surprised, but I had to at least try!). After observing the flight schedule/type of aircrafts for a few weeks, we decided to jump on a flight ending up in Memphis (via Guam, Hawaii, and Travis)…..very daring, I know. I might have been able to get a flight with less connections if I would have waited a few days, but I was nervous as school was about to get out for the summer. Also, traveling with a toddler, I wanted to fly on a certain type of plane because I had heard it had “normal” seats and bathrooms. It took us four days to arrive in Memphis, but as I kept telling myself, this is FREE. Well, almost free, as we spent money for hotel rooms in Guam and Hawaii. I would definitely recommend carrying the phone numbers for the local military lodges with you, so you can call at the last minute to make a reservation. Also, as Lucia said above, be prepared for delays…more than likely, the plane will need maintenance at some point. Overall, it wasn’t that bad of an experience. I was planning on going back to Travis to attempt to Space-A back to Okinawa. However, we ended up getting a really good one-way military rate with Northwest Airlines, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to fly back commerical.

    We did have a really good experience flying Space-A (Patriot Express) to Yokota (mainland Japan) last Fall. Once a week, it travels from here to Yokota to Seattle. Then, it does the reverse trip a week later. The lodge at Yokota (can’t remember the name?) has a free (or very cheap) daily shuttle to The New Sanno Hotel in Tokyo….about one hour ride. We spent the week at The New Sanno (extremely nice military hotel), took the shuttle back to Yokota, and caught the Patriot Express back to Kadena. It ended up being a very nice trip for not much money.

    The New Sanno webiste:
    http://www.thenewsanno.com/

    OK, I think that is all. Sorry for such a long post….

  31. Hiya.

    I just flew Space-A for the first time to the States this past February. I’m a dependent and traveled alone under EML orders as a Category 2. Immediately after I got the orders (a week or two before I wanted to leave), I signed up on the waiting list under every possible base that I might have to fly into, both going to the States and back (Guam, Alaska, Seattle, etc.) so that I’d have lots of options and be at the top of the list (under Category 2) for all of them.

    Getting to the States, as a Category 2, was easy. I just checked in at Kadena the morning of the flight, and took the Patriot Express to Seattle. Then I had to take a commercial flight to the East coast because while I can fly Space-A from OCONUS to CONUS,once in CONUS, my free ride stops. Does that make any sense?

    Anyway, coming home was not so easy. I had heard Seattle was very difficult to leave out of, so opted to try my luck at Travis AFB instead, which always has lots of flights to Hawaii and from Hawaii to Okinawa. (I forget how Hawaii fits into the whole CONUS/OCONUS scheme of things, but when I called the staff there, they’d told me that any stops I made were okay as long as they were on the way home. So, I just went with that.)

    I got to Hawaii okay, but in Hawaii I got stuck. I was traveling alone as Category 2 in February and I was there for almost a week. Every day there were supposed to be 2 or three flights, but they kept getting cancelled. From what I’ve heard, the pilots often decide to have “mechanical problems” when in Hawaii. My one friend just asks the crew when getting off the plane how long she should plan to be stuck there. She has kids and would just bring sleeping bags and sleep in the terminal. (The terminal there has a USO, a little shopette, computer area, playground, etc. It’s pretty nice.)

    What I did though was, once I found out I made a flight, made reservations at the base lodging at wherever I was supposed to land, just in case I got stuck there. (Do this even if you are just supposed to have a “layover”)This came in very handy when stuck in Hawaii.

    To get frequently updated flight information all over the world, as well as information on lodging and transportation once you reach your destination, check out this website: Dirk Pepperd’s Space-A Message Board. http://www.pepperd.com

    It was invaluable to me throughout the journey.

    Good luck!

  32. We lived in England until this spring. There is a weekly flight to the East coast (Baltimore – BWI) from Mildenhall/Lakenheath which is about an hour north of London. They have other flights to the US, but that weekly one is a bit like the consistent Saturday flight to Seattle from here. But it would be a really long haul getting to the east coast from here and then on if you were all on Space-A. You’d have to have a lot of time on your hands.

    Ramstein & Rheinmein (Germany) have lots of flights in and out of the States and other European spots. But again, you’re looking at probably 5 flights (at least) between here and there… lots of waiting… but free! 🙂

  33. Does anyone know if there are flights to England from Oki? I was hoping to visit my family in the summer from there…or even germany or something close!?

  34. We did space-a a lot from Hawai’i to California about 3-5 years ago. At that time (you’ll have to double check me on all this) as soon as you have your leave chit in hand (if active duty) you can get on the wait list for a flight. So we would often have my husband take off work a day or two before we hoped to leave just to push us up higher on the wait list than those who had arrived at the terminal that morning.

    As mentioned before, as soon as you arrive at your destination (Travis AFB in our case) you can sign in on the wait list for your return flight. So generally, you can get to the top of the list by the time you return (if you are on vacation for a couple of weeks).

    When we were flying as a family (category 3) we never had any problems getting on the flights — only had problems with planes that would cancel (which happened a lot there). HOWEVER, the times I tried to fly without him (and without the afore mentioned EML orders) it was truly a nightmare. I think you fly as category 4 or 5 if you are a dependent… that’s just one level above the retirees, which basically means that EVERYONE gets to go before you. This can be very frustrating when you’ve been sitting there for hours and a guy runs in the front door and gets on a flight ahead of you! When dependents fly alone you can get on the list 30-60 days out. But my understanding is that it is fairly easy to get the EML orders once or twice a year here and I think that puts you in category 2 which is just below the emergency leave people — which means you have a great chance of flying. I think it even puts you ahead of families flying together. So it’s definitely something I’ll do here.

    Besides the recorded flight info, you can also see the incoming/outgoing flights on one of the tv stations — Ch 17 I think. I sometimes sit and watch it just to see the regularity of various flights. From here there seem to be a LOT to Hickam AFB in Hawai’i and of course there is the regular Saturday Patriot flight to Seattle. I think that might have different regulations, but I haven’t gotten a chance to check on that yet — would love if anyone had info on that.

    One last bit of advice. If your kids aren’t in school yet, I would HIGHLY suggest flying at NON-school vacation times. I once sat for 7 days in Germany trying to get on a flight to the States in the middle of August. I was flying with my step-daughter as category 5 and we were in the terminal daily by about 3am and would sit and sit and sit and never make a flight out. Finally had to buy VERY expensive tickets at the last minute to get home.

    Just so you know, you must wear close toed shoes on the flights (or that used to be true) and you usually only pay about $4 for the in-flight meal — that’s it. There are strict regulations on the weight of your suitcases, so check ahead on that.

    Hope this EPISTLE helps! 🙂

  35. Thanks for all your comments, everyone. I don’t believe there is a class for Space A. They have a Q & A sheet available at the terminal, that’s about it. Due to security reasons, flight info is not available via internet. You can call 634-2159 for recorded flight info.
    My 15-month old son and I will be flying Space A to the States for the first time on EML (environmental and morale leave) orders in 3 weeks while my husband is deployed. Once you have your the EML form completed, you can sign up for Space A up to 30-60 days in advance of when you’d like to travel. And when you leave, you can sign up for your return flight back. Since I haven’t gone yet, maybe there are others out there who have more to tell… so please, do tell! Thanks!

    • Hi,

      How did your space A flight go? I want to try this winter around Jan-Feb time frame on EML orders as well. Any info would be great!

      Thanks!

  36. Thanks so much for that info & the links, Lucia. I haven’t done space a yet, but have heard the same; no guarantees you won’t get stuck somewhere. Almost all stories I’ve heard have spoken of a good ride there but a long ride home, or vice versa. I like to talk to my neighbor’s hubby about it as he’s a pilot – it’s definitely a good idea to get the scoop from the pilot friends as Lucia mentioned. They or their families have almost definitely done the space a thing from here.

    I’m curious if anyone else has experience to share on this too, seems like a good way to try.

  37. Patience and Flexibility!!!! We did it once to Guam and for a free flight it is great, not to mention the adventure of it all, but we spent a LOT of time waiting for a flight that was delayed many hours and actually ended up landing with an engine on fire. I attended a class about how to use Space A travel while in Okinawa (is that class still available through Kadnena?). There are some very specific steps that I have now forgotten regarding registration for the flight. Contact Kadena air terminal and they can give you more info. Another handy thing is to get the scoop from pilot friends who can give you a heads up about upcoming flights to attractive spots. If traveling with kids, I would recommend being prepared with lots of snacks and the possibility of being stranded someplace (flights cancelled or plane has problems, etc). Also, be sure to find out what type of plane is being used. Some of the planes don’t have bathrooms. Some don’t have seats, just cargo nets, etc. It seems like flights to Korea, mainland Japan, and Guam are generally pretty easy to get on, but flights to Hawaii or farther might be a little more difficult. Good luck and hope you get some more concrete advice.

    Here are a few sites that might be helpful:
    http://www.militaryhops.com/
    http://www.spacea.net/faq.html
    http://www.baseops.net/spaceatravel/

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