Space-A Basics

Space-A Basics

The Space-Available travel program is a travel benefit that allows authorized passengers to occupy DoD aircraft seats that are surplus after all space-required passengers and cargo have been accommodated. Space-A travel is allowed on a non-mission interference basis only. Space-available travel is a privilege (not an entitlement) available to Uniformed Services members and their dependents. The majority of Space-A flights are offered by the Air Force's Air Mobility Command (AMC) or the Navy and Space-A seats are normally free (there is a tax charged for AMC's Patriot Express flights). The most common destinations are in many parts of the USA (including Hawaii and Alaska), Germany, England, Spain, Italy, Japan, and South Korea. Less frequent destinations (some very rare) could include South and Central America, Africa, and Australia. Usually, the best time to obtain a seat(s) is when dependent children are in school. For more details, read on!

Basically, your travel status "category" is your priority. There are six categories (CAT-I thru CAT-VI). CAT-I is highest priority (first to get offered a Space-A seat) and CAT VI is the lowest Category (last to get offered a Space-A seat after CAT I thru CAT V). A GENERIC explanation of each category is:

  • CAT I: Emergency Leave Unfunded Travel

NOTE: Any Space-a passenger (including retirees) "may be" (no guarantees) upgraded by the local installation Commander (often delegated to the Chief of the Passenger Service) to no higher than the bottom of CAT-I for leave under emergency conditions (unfunded) or extreme humanitarian reasons when validated by competent and formal authority such as American Red Cross notification, unit Commander’s memo, doctor’s letter, or other evidence. Emergency upgrade period for initial departure is usually limited to one week. Passengers will maintain the origin station upgrade until they reach the emergency destination; on return, passengers will return to their original Category.

  • CAT II: EML (Active Duty and their accompanied dependents)
  • CAT III: Active Duty Ordinary Leave (including Terminal Leave) and accompanied dependents,, House Hunting Permissive TDY, Medal of Honor Holders, dependents of deployed service members whose sponsor is deployed 365 consecutive days or more (selected behind active duty members regardless of date/time of sign up)
  • CAT IV: Unaccompanied Dependents on EML or dependents whose sponsor is deployed between (and including) 30 to 364 consecutive days and DoDDS Teachers on EML During Summer
  • CAT V: Unaccompanied Command Sponsored and Non-Command Sponsored Dependents of Active Duty, Permissive TDY (Non house Hunting), Students
  • CAT VI: Retired and their accompanied Dependents, Reserve, ROTC, NUPOC, and CEC

If you are a dependent (sponsor stationed in CONUS and not deployed) then you are not eligible for UNACCOMPANIED Space-A Travel (except overseas for emeregncy) and therefore no Space-A Category). If you're not clear what category you are in you can find a more complete explanation of each category in DoDI 4515.13, Section 4, Table 3.

According to the regs, you can mark yourself "Present?" at anytime "within" 24 hours (some terminals that offer Virtual Roll Calls are 20 hours) prior to a Space-A Roll Call.  The time you get marked "Present" is not a factor in the Space-A selection process so around an hour prior to Roll Call is usually sufficient time to get settled before a Roll Call.  To mark yourself "Present" you need to arrive at the terminal with all travel documents (including your passengers) and proceed to the Passenger Service Desk and they will mark you "present."  Once marked "Present" you'll be added to the Present List and then can compete for seats at the Space-A Roll Call for flights heading to your desired destination.  If unsuccessful and your name falls off the "Present" List you'll need to get marked "present" again.  Some locations purge their "Present" List at midnight so make sure you inquire about their local policy.

NOTE:  November 2016:  AMC no longer allows passengers to mark themselves "Present" remotely The test locations were Kadena, Charleston, McGuire, Spangdahlem, and Ramstein.   Virtual Roll Call is still available at certain locations.

  • CONUS = The 48 CONtiguous States and the District of Columbia or "the lower 48, as they're affectionately known to the Alaskans."
  • OCONUS = Outside Continental United States
  • Overseas = Any country or place beyond the CONUS. Alaska, Hawaii and the U.S. territories are considered overseas under the Space-A Regulation.

Some folks use the terms OCONUS and Overseas interchangeably but the above are the official definitions.

A COMMAND-SPONSORED Dependent is a Dependent residing with a member at an OCONUS location at which an accompanied-by-dependents tour is authorized, the member is authorized to serve that tour, and who is authorized by the appropriate authority to be at the member's Permanent Duty Station. If you are stationed in the CONUS with your sponsor then you are NOT a command sponsored dependent. If your sponsor gets "deployed" OCONUS then that does NOT make you a command sponsored dependent. Here is a sample Command Sponsor Letter. A Non-COMMAND-SPONSORED Dependent is a dependent prohibited from traveling to overseas commands at Government expense. In other words, you are not on your sponsor's PCS orders to an OCONUS location (e.g. Korea). Here is a sample Non-Command Sponsor Letter.

  • EML is Environmental Morale Leave. In certain OVERSEAS locations, living conditions are such that leave must be taken in a more suitable geographic and cultural environment to accomplish its stated purpose. EML provides a means of expeditious travel for members (and Command-Sponsored Dependents) from an EML location to a suitable EML destination. Designation of an EML location cannot be based on adverse economic or cultural conditions alone. EML is not intended to compensate sponsors and their families for the high cost of living overseas, language barrier, or cultural differences. DODI 1327.06 is the DoD reg the governs EML.
  • The Pacific Command EML Program Document contains a list of authorized locations and here is the Pacific Command EML form used: USPACOM FORM 505/3 EF (07-10).
  • The European Command EML Program Document contains a list of authorized locations and here is the European Command EML form used: EU FORM 1501.01. As of 2017, CONUS may no longer be an approved destination for Unfunded EML.  See this announcement and check the current EUCOM regulations or your assigned command to verify EML eligibility.
  • Unfunded EML qualifies the sponsor (and accompanied dependents) for Space-A Cat-II (sponsor) or Cat-IV (unaccompanied dependents) and is only valid to and from the first authorized EML destination (e.g. CONUS) actually reached. Space-A travel beyond the first authorized EML destination (e.g. from western CONUS to eastern CONUS) to subsequent destinations would be as a Cat-III (Active Duty alone or with dependents). Unaccompanied dependents traveling as CAT-IV cannot travel within CONUS (unless manifested on continuing missions within CONUS as outlined under the FAQ "Eligibility" section). Return to the original EML location from the authorized EML destination is in the original EML Category (CAT-II or CAT-IV). The traveler can signup for Space-A on or after the EML start/effective date (listed on their EML form).
  • Government Civilians (e.g. DoD Teachers) and their dependents stationed at certain overseas locations might be authorized EML and travel Space-A to authorized EML destinations as outlined in the documents above.
  • WARNING:  Some locations (e.g. Osan) may require a Command Sponsored Space-A Letter IN ADDITION to the EML Form for unaccompanied dependents so it behooves you to have both.

That's Air Mobility Command's name for its commercial charter flights. Other nicknames/Acronyms for the Patriot Express are Pat-eX, PE, rotator or "Freedonm Bird" (to some old-timers).    AMC contracts a certain number of seats on charters with commercial carriers because it is an economical, efficient way of moving large numbers of personnel where they need to go. Charter seats not filled by official fliers are assigned for a small fee (Head Tax and Inspection Fees) to Space-Available travelers. The process for signing up for Space-A travel is the same as other military flights. Patriot Express flights have the usual commercial airline amenities. The flights are at least equal to the commercial economy class and, in some cases, a bit better. For instance, travelers on some flights can expect hot towels, free movies and headsets, and more leg room than found on most commercial airlines. West coast Patriot Express flights depart and arrive via Seattle-Tacoma International (SeaTac) Airport to Kadena, Yokota, Iwakuni and Misawa (also Yokota-Singapore).

East coast Patriot Express departures depart and arrive via Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) Airport and Norfolk NAS to Europe (Germany, Italy, Azores, Greece and Spain). For further information on the Patriot Express, read through the AMC Patriot Express Brochure. Note: The Patriot Express was reduced several years ago and as a result Atlanta IAP, Los Angeles, Rhein-Main AB, and RAF Mildenhall are no longer used as Patriot Express departure points. See the Patriot Express News Articles for more info on the history. Don't despair fellow Space-A travelers, even though Patriot Express flights have been reduced opportunities for space-A travel still exist on military aircraft to/from the usual military bases.

  • Some Passenger Terminals (the good ones) publish, post and keep current a fact sheet called an "AMCGRAM." The AMCGRAM provides helpful info about that particular location such terminal hours, long-term parking instructions, contact numbers for local lodging, rental cars and other amenities

"Show Time" is the time prior to scheduled aircraft departure that the terminal Passenger Service reps may start the roll call for manifesting (assigning Space-A seats). "Show Time" is usually 2 to 3 hours prior to departure. At, or sometime after the "Show Time", the Pax reps will do a "Roll Call" for the flight. "Show Times" can, and often do, change and may occur earlier than advertised so arrive early at the terminal!! NOTE 1: You must declare yourself "Present" (in person) to the passenger service reps at the terminal "within" 24 hours prior to the roll call of the flight you'd like to be manifested on. This is also a good time to verify your signup date/time is properly entered into the system. Declaring yourself "Present" lets the Pax reps know the number of people "actively" seeking a flight. When you declare yourself "Present" you are merely telling the Pax Reps that you have physically arrived at the terminal and you would like your name included in all the roll calls for your destination in the next 24 hours. Shortly before the show time, the Pax reps will post a list of those "Present" showing you exactly where you stand in the pecking order for that flight. If you fail to mark yourself "Present" and you physically show up for a roll call then you'll have to wait until all other Space-Available passengers marked present at the beginning of the roll call have been afforded the opportunity to compete for the open seats. If seats remain, the Pax reps will begin a new roll call starting with Category-I and then you will have a shot at remaining seats. NOTE 2: The above process may or may not be followed at ALL terminals. According to the reg, all space-available passengers competing for a seat must be ""marked present"" (in the computer system) at the beginning of roll call. Therefore, you need to check-in with the Passenger Service Reps at upon arrival at the terminal to declare yourself "Present" prior to a roll call on the day on the day of travel. Best advice is to show up an hour or two before a flight's show time and ensure you are "marked present."

  • The phrases "Roll Call" and "Show Time" are often used interchangeably because "Roll Call" can occur at "Show Time." A "Roll Call" for a flight can occur at, or sometime after, "Show Time." "Roll Call" is a phrase used to signify the beginning of the process in which eligible passengers in each category are selected by date and time of sign-up. ALL Space-Available passengers competing for a seat must be listed on the "Present List" and, expect for a Virtual Roll Call (VRC) be physically present at the beginning of the "Roll Call." The standard goal for AMC flights is to have the Roll Call no earlier than 2 hours and 20 minutes prior to scheduled departure time. Category-I, Space-Available passengers will be considered for any flight currently being processed even if the Space-Available roll call has already begun (roll call time passed) regardless of the current category being selected.
  • To start the "Roll Call", the PSA starts "calling" each Space-A category on the "Present List" beginning with Category I (Cat-I) and works down the list to CAT-VI until all available seats are filled. All Cat-1 personnel present will be manifested, then all Cat-2, then all Cat-3 and so on through Cat-6. Within each Category the seats are filled based on your date/time signup priority. If you are not present when your name is called, you will be passed over and seats offered to next on the list.
  • Some KEY POINTS regarding the Roll Call Process:
    1. Space-A passengers shall not be removed for other Space-A passengers.
    2. If the category/date/time of a Space-Available passenger has been passed, that passenger must wait until all other Space-Available passengers present at the beginning of the roll call have been afforded the opportunity to compete for the open seats. If seats remain and time permits, the PSA will begin a new Roll Call.
    3. If a mission changes destination, the roll call will be started over.
    4. If additional seats are released for a mission after the "Roll Call" is finished, the Space-Available call will continue where it previously ended. However, if the PSA had to pass over a family due to insufficient seat release to accommodate them and additional seats become available, then families that were passed over will have an opportunity to take these seats and then the Space-Available "Roll Call" will resume where it previously left off.
    5. Category I, Space-A passengers shall be considered for any flight currently being processed even if the Space-A roll call has already begun (roll call start time passed) regardless of the current category being selected.
    6. If anytime during the Space-A roll call, Space-R walk-in travelers present themselves to the PSC counter and seats are available, they must be given a seat ahead of any Space-A category (1-6) traveler(s).
  • Passengers must be travel ready at the time of "Roll Call"
  • "Virtual" Roll Call" (VRC):  "Virtual" Roll Call means you go on a list and do not have to be present for the physical roll call (you still need to physically go to the terminal to mark yourself "Present."   See for more details.

A VRC is just a process developed that allows you to be considered for seats virtually (e.g. at home, lodging, BX, Burger King....) without physically attending the traditional Roll Call in the terminal.  It may not be offered at all locations or on all missions.  If VRC is offered then it will be listed as such on the schedule.  The basic steps (slight variations may be implemented at different locations) are:

1. "Within" (not exactly "at") 20 hours before a Roll Call you need to go by the terminal and mark yourself "Present" to compete for any upcoming VRCs.

2.  Go home, take a nap, pack, jog or whatever and wait for the "Roll Call Notification" email.  You should receive that email approximately 45-60 minutes prior to Roll Call. If you don't receive the email then either the terminal does not have your correct email address or there's a network problem (on their end or your end).  The terminal is not responsible for network problems on either end - that's a risk you accept by using VRC.  If you don't respond (typically within 30 minutes) then you're eliminated from the VRC.

3. If you make the cut then you'll receive a "Flight Selection Notification" including instructions to "Check-in" and make a bee line for the terminal (needless to say you should already be "travel ready" (bags packed and a plan to get to the terminal in time)).  If you don't make the cut then you won't receive this email!

4. If you don't make the cut then you should receive a "Non-Selection Notification" email.  Try again just like a normal Roll Call.

5. NOTE:  AMC is not be responsible for personal Email or Internet connectivity issues. Failure to respond to the VRC email notification will result in a non-selection for the VRC Roll Call. If you have not received a VRC notification Email 45 minutes prior to your desired VRC Roll Call then you need to call or stop by the Passenger Terminal to ensure you are competing for your desired flight's Roll Call.

  • The following locations offer VRC (as of October 2016): 
    • CONUS:  Charleston.   Mcguire no longer offers VRC.
    • Overseas:  Hickam, Kadena, Osan, Spangdahlem, Yokota

Here is the AMC Virtual Roll Call Brochure


If you're selected for a flight, you're "manifested" on that flight - in other words, you made the cut and have a seat (pending being bumped for cargo if needed) to the flight's destination. You cannot be manifested round-trip back to your originating location.

"Manifested through" an en route location means that you would not have to compete for seats with other passengers at an en route location. For example, consider a mission traveling from Jackson, MS though Andrews AFB (where it will RON) and then continue on to Ramstein AB the following day. If you are only manifested as far as Andrews AFB then you would have to re-compete for seats to get manifested on that same mission/plane for travel onward to Ramstein AB. However, if the folks at Jackson "manifest you "through" Andrews to Ramstein AB then your seat on that mission is reserved (subject to bumping of course) through to Ramstein and you would NOT have to re-compete with passengers desiring to join that mission at Andrews. You cannot be "manifested through" round-trip back to your originating location.  Finally, don't make the mistake of thinking that declaring your "Final Destination" means that you'll be "manifested through" to your "Final Destination."

Airport Codes Link to decipher airport codes OCONUS Outside The Continental United States
AMC Air Mobility Command (MAC was old term) OSA Operational Support Airlift
AFI Air Force Instruction (i.e. regulation) PAX Passengers
BEQ Bachelor Enlisted Quarters PAT-EX or PE Patriot Express
BOQ Bachelor Officer's Quarters PSA Passenger Service Agent
CBQ Combined Bachelors Quarters PSC Passenger Service Counter
CONUS Continental United States PSR Passenger Service Representative
DAV Disabled Veteran    
DoDEA Department of Defense Education Activity RAF Royal Air Force
DTG Date-Time-Group RON Remain Overnight
EML Environmental Morale Leave TDY Temporary Duty
FBO Fixed Base Operator TLF Temporary Lodging Facility
HOP Slang for a Space-A Flight VWP Visa Waiver Program
"L" or "Local" Local time used at that location  VOQ  
Visiting Officer's Quarters
MAC Military Air Command (AMC is new term)  Zulu  Common Time Zone (used for signup)
MEDEVAC Medical Evacuation    
NAS Naval Air Station  VOQ  Visiting Officer's Quarters
NAVAIR NAVAIRNaval Air Systems Command