Using Space-A: Wait or Go Commercial?

Space-available passengers board a C-17 at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, bound for Andersen AFB, Guam. (U.S. Air Force/Cohen A. Young)
Space-available passengers board a C-17 at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, bound for Andersen AFB, Guam. (U.S. Air Force/Cohen A. Young)

This post was originally published on PCSgrades.com.

Military Space Available travel, commonly referred to as Space-A, is a wonderful way to travel. It's definitely not for everyone, though. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. You risk becoming stranded and have to make a decision: Do you continue to wait for a 'free' flight or do you just give up and go commercial?

This post is to give you information to help you make that decision, but the ultimate choice is going to be yours, and yours alone.

Wait or Go Commercial?

An important thing you should know is, if you are in a hurry, then you really should not be taking Space-A. Since the mission always comes first with the military, Space-A schedules can and do change on a whim.

That makes Space-A travel pretty much unpredictable, and being in a hurry is not a good situation for that kind of travel. Also, the number of passengers for a Space-A flight can change drastically from one day to another or even within a few minutes. If you have a low priority, well, that just makes things worse.

Related: Space-A Travel Rules and Regulations

There really is no standard, one size fits all answer for whether you should wait or not, but there are several factors involved with your decision.

The Decision

Some people, mostly retirees, are in no hurry. They have the money and time to wait, and will just hang around for whenever a flight is going where they want.

Another factor that may sway your decision whether to wait or go commercial is if you have family and/or friends in the area of the terminal. That makes a big difference. If you can stay with them, spend less and just wait it out, that's an ideal situation. That is assuming you are a welcomed guest!

Do the Math

A lot of people traveling with a companion make a rule that if the cost of waiting surpasses the cost of one commercial ticket, then it's time to go commercial and forget about Space-A for this trip. That seems like a pretty good rule. You may get out quickly after that, but you might just be throwing more money down a big hole.

Keep Moving

A mistake that some make that could cost time is waiting for the perfect flight. The perfect flight rarely happens.

There is an unwritten rule concerning Space-A travel: "Keep Moving." Keep moving in the general direction that you want to go. Consider an alternate destination if your original plans are not working out. Smart Space-A travelers always have an alternate plan or two.

Related: Space-A Travel Insider Tips

If coming from overseas to the U.S., then your goal should be to get to the U.S., anywhere in the U.S. If you want to go to South Carolina and you have waited several days already, then take that flight to New Jersey. You may get an inexpensive flight from there to South Carolina. You can also choose an alternate travel method taking a train or bus from Jersey.

Embrace the Suck

To enjoy Space-A travel to the utmost, you need to embrace the delays or setbacks. Make an adventure out of it. Stressing about it is useless and most likely will do more harm than good.

So the answer to the question, "How long should I wait for a Space-A flight before going commercial"? Well, it's whatever you are comfortable with in terms of time and money.

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