Saturday, August 3, 2013

Flying Space-A

Since I am on active duty in the Army, and I was taking a lot of leave in between moving out of my house in Georgia and moving in to my new apartment in Baltimore, I decided to try out this Space Available program the Armed Forces have.

Quite basically, the Army (and AF, Navy, etc) move around a lot of people, going to and from Europe and the Middle East and Asia. They also move around a lot of equipment. For these missions, they have a mix of contracted commercial flights and cargo planes. Whenever these flights have empty seats on them, other service members who are not on official travel orders are allowed to request these seats for personal travel, basically for free (or a small tax).

Summer, of course, is a high season for military travel. People are moving to new assignments overseas before school starts again, and families are trying to travel during summer block leave times. There are fewer available seats for personal travel, and more people competing for them.

But, in order to save the $1000+ on a plane ticket, my friend D. and I decided to try our chances. Right after the Williamsburg Rev3 race, we headed to Baltimore, where one of the main Space-A terminals is at BWI airport. Flight schedules are posted about 72 hours out, so we knew that Saturday night a flight with 100 seats had left, clearing out a lot of the people waiting for flights. Lucky us! We got to the airport Monday morning around 11, and signed in, then settled in to wait.

After two smaller flights left out in the afternoon, we were both holding out for one last flight, leaving at 10:30 Monday night for Ramstein, Germany. The initial roll call for the flight was at 7pm, and we were still far down the list. They did announce that more seats would likely open up before the flight left! We looked around, and saw that a lot of families with kids had already  left for the night, which bumped us up on the list. We grabbed some Starbucks, and decided to wait. At about 10, they did the secondary roll call, and we both made it on the flight! Huzzah!

Oreo waiting in BWI
The flight was a contracted commercial flight, and was filled with a mix of soldiers going on to Afghanistan or Turkey, families PCSing to Germany or Italy, and about 80 of us on personal travel. I got stuck in row on a middle seat of the middle row. Not ideal, but it was an overnight flight. We got two meals, dinner and breakfast, and two movies. Thankfully, though, I slept through most of the flight. We touched down in Germany bright and early, breezed through customs with our single bags, and went to grab some coffee and euros before heading to the train station.

Next stop, Paris!

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