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Much of the anxiety of space-available travel can be eliminated with the proper paperwork and by following a few tips.

Active-duty military members and Department of Defense civilians may sign up for space-A travel once their leave begins by faxing or e-mailing official leave papers to the Air Mobility Command passenger terminal at departure locations, including for the return trip. Dependents may sign up anytime they’re eligible to travel.

Sign-up is good until the last day of leave, or, for dependents and retired military personnel, 60 days.

Passengers don’t sign up for a particular flight, but for a destination, such as Naples.

Call the passenger terminal for approximate flight departures. A service agent will usually know the schedule about two to three days out, though some flights are routine, such as the C-9’s nonurgent, aeromedical-evacuation missions. The schedule can change at the last minute, and unexpected flights may be added, so call as late as feasible for an early-morning show.

The day of the flight, check in at the passenger terminal service desk. Passengers must be present at roll call, when a service agent will name who is manifested — or selected for a seat on the flight. Seats are doled out based on travel-status category, and within each category, date and time signup. There are six categories: individuals on emergency leave get first dibs, while retired military members and active-duty reservists are last priority.

At roll call, usually two to three hours before flight departure, passengers must present all required documentation, including leave orders, a current and valid identification card, and passport.

Command-sponsored dependents must have the original letter of command sponsorship signed by the sponsor’s commander.

Only so many seats are released, a number that usually depends on how much room is left after accounting for cargo weight and duty — or required — passengers.

And that number can change minutes before boarding, bumping passengers from a flight in the last travel status category.

When calling about a particular flight, ask about baggage limit. On most flights, passengers are authorized two checked bags of 70 pounds each, but it can vary.

Open-toed shoes are not allowed on military aircraft.

It’s a good idea to research Space-A before traveling. Some options: the “Worldwide Space-A Travel Handbook” (www.spaceatravel.com), which lists, among other things, scheduled flights and most common destinations of unscheduled flights at AMC terminals around the world.

It’s advised to avoid space-A travel around school holidays, when teachers, families and students all vie for seats back to the States.

Summer can be very busy for another reason: There are more travelers on the AMC passenger channel missions during the permanent-change-of-station season, many taking the commercially contracted Patriot Express to and from the United States.

Three helpful Web sites are:

http://amcpublic.scott.af.mil/spacea/spacea.htm

http://spacea.info/faq.html#Acronyms

http://www.glue.umd.edu/~oard/spacea/faq.txt

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