A while ago I wrote up a detailed post for Space A in Korea but I missed a few important questions everyone should ask before they take Space A.
IMPORTANT! This blog is NOT a replacement for speaking to the knowledgeable and helpful staff at the Osan AB Passenger Terminal. If you are flying out from Korea or somewhere else in the world, you need to find your nearest AMC Terminal and give them a message or a call. This blog is only a guide to help you get started.
I will not go into detail about the Osan AMC Passenger terminal here. Please read my Space A Korea blog post from January. It is extremely in-depth and after you finish reading this you can get more details there.
School is out and everyone is looking to get away from the Korean heat and and visit family and friends back home. You’ve heard of Space A, right? Who doesn’t want a free airplane ride back to the United States. Ever heard of if it sounds too good to be true? I’m not saying Space A isn’t useful but it might be better for your wallet and your sanity to pay out of pocket.
Ask yourself these questions before considering Space A from Korea:
Have you budgeted for the costs of Space A?
Space A itself can have small fees like a head tax for each person entering or leaving the United States, it’s $18 per person last I checked. But many people see the free plane ride and forget that the trip itself can have many other costs because of Space A.
Space A is not like regular airlines where you get a ticket in advance and show up on the departure date to get right on the plane. Space A means “space available” and the only ones getting a free ride on the plane are the passengers that have the highest priority before the plane fills up. Each day a flight goes out, Space A passengers sit in the terminal (all paperwork, signing up and checking in should be completed already) and hope to be called to check-in and board the plane. During heavy travel times, like summer vacation and PCS season, Space A passengers have to return to the terminal every time a flight is up in hopes of getting a spot.
Space A passengers must be ready to pay for extra nights in a hotel, taxis, car rentals, eating out and miscellaneous comforts to keep the family busy while waiting days for a flight.
When I took Space A in September from Osan, the plane was practically empty and it was very easy to get a spot to Japan but the flight continuing to Seattle was booked up. During heavy travel times, be prepared to wait days for a space to open up. The longer you wait, the higher your priority for a seat.
Tip: If you are flying Unaccompanied, you can sign up for Space A 60 days BEFORE you want to fly out which improves your priority dramatically. Read more on my Space A blog post.
What is your final destination?
If you are flying to Japan or the west coast then Space A is probably for you. Space A flights from the Osan passenger terminal will first stop in Yokota or Misawa, Japan. If you want a dream vacation at the base of Mt. Fuji or in Tokyo then Space A is for you. Other, less regular, destinations are Alaska, Hawaii and Gaum.
For those going to the west coast in the lower 48, Space A will work out well since Seattle, and oftentimes Travis AFB, are the regular destinations of most flights. Don’t forget to budget in a rental car for your trip.
Very rarely does Space A from Korea go to New Jersey or Texas. When Space A travelers enter the United States, they must disembark the plane and make their own way to their final destination. Space A travel for Conus to Conus (state to state) travel is NOT allowed. To clarify: When you land in the lower 48 (Travis AFB or Seattle) you must get off the plane and make your own way to your final destination. This means buying commercial plane tickets, renting a car, paying for restaurant meals or maybe needing to stay in a hotel.
When budgeting for a trip to the east coast, I found plane tickets from Incheon to Baltimore to cost around $1200 and tickets from Seattle to Baltimore were $1000. With kids in tow I opted to buy commercial plane tickets because I had no idea if I would end up spending the savings I made from Space A on hotels instead while waiting for Space A flights to open up. For the peace of mind and to avoid extra costs from hotels and rental cars, commercial tickets may be best.
Do you know your category? Are you planning to fly during a PCS season, summer vacation or during an American holiday?
Your category and how early you sign up in the Space A system is going to determine how easy it will be to get a flight. If you are flying in an off-season, getting a flight will be even easier. The Sea-Tac AMC Passenger Terminal posts a yearly Space A trend in their photos section showing which month is best (the more seats released to Space A, the better) for flying. Note: This graph is for seats released in SEA-TAC AMC Passenger Terminal and may not reflect trends for the Osan Passenger Terminal. It’s best to contact the Osan terminal and ask them what is the best month to fly Space A.
Ask yourself these questions for determining your Space A category:
Those with a higher category will get seats before those below them. Within a category, those who have been waiting longer for a seat (signed up with Space A earlier) will have priority over others of the same category.
- Are you a service member, dependent, teacher, retiree or DoD civilian?
- As dependents, are you visiting your sponsor from the US?
- As dependents, are you traveling with your sponsor or are you going unaccompanied?
- Are you command sponsored or non-command sponsored?
- Are you using Space A for recreation or an emergency?
Have you used your EML yet?
Environmental Morale Leave is the same as regular leave. All it is is an extra form signed by your commander confirming that you can use EML. Guess what it does! It bumps you up one category in Space A. That’s it! It exists for the sole purpose of helping dependents, soldiers and civilians get a break from Korea through Space A. Ask your AMC passenger terminal for more information and read more about it on my Space A Korea post.
Do you have all of your paperwork?
It should be a no-brainer but the paperwork for Space A, EML, dependent letters etc can be confusing and frustrating. I thought I was doing everything right and less than a few days before flying Space A I realized I was missing half of the paperwork. Double check with the AMC terminal a week before your flight. Actually, check again a few days before. You don’t want to mess it up.
I am still confused on Space A!
That’s ok, it’s not easy to do. If after reading this you think Space A is still for you then you need to call your AMC Passenger terminal. You can ask friends and social media until you are blue in the face but the wonderful personnel at the Osan AMC terminal are the only ones who can really help.
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