Obviously, it’s been a minute since we flew to Hawaii in December, but it’s one of those trips that will stick with us for a long time. I’ve flown Space A with the kids solo while Ryan was deployed before, but this was our first time flying as a full family together. We’ve had our fair share of travels as a family. From South Korea to South Africa, Canada, across the US, and everything in between (literally), we’ve pretty much done it. But you know what? We love flying Space A with kids, and we’re sharing a little bit about why we enjoy it and why it works for us.
Why We Love Flying Space A with Kids
Let’s be honest. Travel with kids is never easy. Commercial airfare with kids – especially though Covid times – was extra tricky with the additional safety measures like mask wear, staying six feet apart, and needing to provide additional documentation. Space A isn’t particularly easy, but once you learn how fly Space A, it’s such a fantastic tool for military families.
I’ve always said that to fly Space A, you have to plan not to fly because there are honestly no guarantees. That, however, is where the hardships end for us in terms of flying Space A with kids. Overall, the entire process of flying Space A once checked in and confirmed (because that’s the hard part, honestly), is so much simpler with kids. There aren’t crazy terminal changes. There aren’t usually tons of people flying with you and, overall, the crew with whom you fly are just more personable overall.
What it’s Like Flying Space A
When you fly Space A, there are actually a few ways you might fly. First, you might end up on a Patriot Express flight flying in “space available.” These flights transport military families and soldiers to and from CONUS/OCONUS duty stations, and there are sometimes a few extra seats. These mimic traditional commercial flights…but minus all the nice amenities. Second, you could be on a loaded cargo plane. These flights are usually transporting goods to/from duty stations, all neatly crated up. If there’s space available (I think you get it now), they sometimes open up some jump seats for passengers.
Or, there might just be a random mission flight from one station to another. Maybe it’s heading to pick up goods. Maybe it’s just heading back to its home base. If there’s space available, sometimes you get lucky enough for them to manifest a few empty seats for you to hop on board. The latter two ways are the ways we’ve flown Space A with kids.
How We Flew Space A with Kids
When the kids and I flew from JBLM to Stewart ANG in New York in 2019, we flew in an empty C-17. You can read about our first experience flying Space A here. When we went to Hawaii in December, however, we flew a little differently. This time, we flew in a C-17 that was transporting goods from Osan AFB to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. This plane was loaded with gear, so we had less room to move around, but plenty enough to be comfortable.
When we flew back from Hawaii, we flew Space A from Pearl Harbor-Hickam again, but this time, we flew to Kadena AFB in Okinawa, Japan. We weren’t able to find a flight directly to Osan in the timeframe we wanted, so we decided to get to a base in Asia, then fly commercial from there, and it worked out great. This time though, we had the unique experience of flying back in a KC-135 – a refueling plane – that was loaded with some gear, but it was a totally unique experience.
The captain and crew of the KC-135 were absolutely amazing, and they told us that they very rarely get to carry passengers at all – let alone kids, so it was a fun experience for them. For them?! They actually let the boys sit in the cockpit for takeoff with headsets and everything. The boys were in awe, and apparently they couldn’t stop sharing their joy and enthusiasm over the headsets, earning more than one chuckle from crew. It didn’t stop there though. They then took the boys down to the refueling pods where they got to lie down, learn how it all worked, and experience flying in the bottom of the plane. Ryan and I both took a peek, too, and it was wild! They even pulled down an extra stowable cot often used for crew chiefs, and they let us sleep on it.
The Bottom Line
Flying Space A is always a bit of a gamble. If you have to be somewhere at a certain time, don’t fly Space A. It’s not guaranteed. If you are flexible, open for adventure, and ready for some fun, Space A might be for you! I love that when we fly Space A with the kids, we’ve been able to move around each time. It’s loud enough of that you can’t hear the kids if they’re having a meltdown, which honestly rarely happens. I also love that we flew to Hawaii for free. Our trip back cost us a total of $1,000, simply because we had to fly from Okinawa to South Korea via commercial. If you weigh that against the $8,000 roundtrip otherwise though? Priceless. Learn more about how to fly Space A here.
Tell me – would you ever fly Space A if you could?