After more than two years of a COVID-19 pandemic-induced pause on Space Available travel, Defense officials have brought back the benefit.

Space-A allows eligible travelers to fly on military or military-contracted aircraft at little or no cost — if space allows.

Defense officials issued a memo to the services and to U.S. Transportation Command on Friday, lifting all restrictions. The limitations were placed on Space-A travel on March 21, 2020, to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

This reopening allows Space-A travel on military and DoD-contracted aircraft for uniformed service members, retirees, dependents and reservists to travel within the continental U.S. and outside the continental U.S.

Travel and COVID-19 requirements change frequently and depend on the country of travel. Medical screening protocols may still apply for travelers going overseas. Those traveling to a foreign country should check for any testing requirements within the Electronic Foreign Clearance Guide.

Although a federal judge has struck down the mask mandate for airplane travel, TRANSCOM has directed that the mask requirement will continue, until a policy change is received from defense officials, according to the Air Mobility Command website.

AMC-operated air terminals, units and passenger terminals were to start accepting eligible Space-A travelers effective Friday, and units should continue to train and take other actions to build capability, according to a memo from Air Mobility Command officials.

Units and passenger terminals are directed to take necessary actions based on assessment of capabilities, to restore full servicing by May 13.

Travelers always should be flexible, as there is no guarantee a seat will be available going to or from a destination. DoD regulations set the requirements for which passengers have priority.

For more information, including locations of Space-A terminals, visit https://www.amc.af.mil/AMC-Travel-Site/. Information is also available at militaryonesource.mil.

In related news, temporary Patriot Express flights will begin operating out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, from May 16 to Sept. 30, AMC officials have announced.

These additional government contracted flights are in response to increased airlift requirements to support U.S. Forces Japan and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, officials said.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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