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Lessons Learned from Flying Space-A Across the World

5 April 2019 by
In February 2019, we embarked on a journey to fly Space-A across the world. We had lived in Japan for the past 2.5 years and wanted a change. So, next stop: Europe!
Our goal was simple: fly Space-A from Japan all the way there. It didn’t matter where in Europe we landed, because we planned to take commercial transportation from that point forward. Our only rule was that we weren’t going to “cheat” on the way by flying commercial before arriving in Europe.
Yes, we made it! Here are the lessons learned from this trip.
Summary of Our Journey
We left our home in Fukuoka, Japan the third week of February and visited family in Nagoya, which is about 90 minutes southwest of Tokyo. From there, we took the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo and spent a few days at the New Sanno, a luxury hotel run by the United States Navy. Finally, we took the Yokota Force Support Services (FSS) shuttle bus to the Kanto Lodge at Yokota Air Base ($8/person).

Our arrival at Yokota on Thursday, 2/28 was the first official day of our journey.

We spent 8 nights at Yokota waiting for flights. During that time, we competed unsuccessfully for two flights. On several occasions, flights we planned to compete for were rescheduled or canceled.

We eventually departed Yokota around noon local time on Saturday, 3/9 and from that point forward, everything fell into place.
  • We flew to Travis AFB and arrived in the early morning, still 3/9 local time.
  • We were the only Space-A passengers for a 1940 Roll Call to JB McGuire the same day and arrived in New Jersey early the next morning (Sunday, 3/10).
  • We spent the day at the USO in the terminal, then caught a hop to Spangdahlem AB (Germany) that afternoon.
  • We arrived in Germany around 0700 local time on Monday, 3/11.

We flew KC-135s all the way, courtesy of the New Jersey Air National Guard.

From the time we arrived at Yokota to our arrival in Germany, we spent 11 days and a total of $770 on lodging. Our only ground transportation expense was a $10 taxi at Yokota. We estimate that we saved between $800 and $1,600 on one-way airfare.

Lessons Learned

We are experienced Space-A travelers and had already flown Space-A to and from Europe, Hawaii, Japan, and destinations within the continental United States (CONUS). But, as is always the case with Space-A travel, you learn something new every time, and this voyage was no exception!

1. Yokota AB is a good place to get stuck.
When waiting for a Space-A flight, your expenses will vary widely depending on where you are. Air Force Inns have not yet privatized and only raised rates by $10/night in 2019, so the Kanto Lodge at Yokota is relatively inexpensive (under $80/night). Our room was a one-bedroom apartment with a full kitchen and free laundry down the hall.
You won’t spend a lot of money on ground transportation while at Yokota. The Kanto Lodge has a courtesy shuttle to move you to and from the terminal when checking in or out. Yokota also has a base shuttle that stops at the passenger terminal, the Kanto Lodge, and several other locations on the base. You can easily walk to the main fitness center, the PX/commissary, and the Shoppette. Local restaurants are 20-30 minutes on foot.

Retirees and active duty stationed outside of Japan are eligible to use all base facilities and eat in the DFAC.

All things considered, spending a week at Yokota was fine with us and gave us the opportunity to enjoy a few more meals in the country that had been our home since August 2016.

2. Always compete for the flight.
No matter how unlikely it seems that you will get a seat, try anyway.
About the author:
Hi, I’m Stephanie! In 2015 my husband retired from the Army and we took a year off to travel. I quit my job, and we set off on an adventure to break from our routine and explore the world. Military resources and Space A travel were a major part of our strategy for making our voyage affordable. The other part – immersing ourselves in the local economy – not only saved money, but gave us unique experiences we never would have shared if we followed the tourist circuit or stayed exclusively on military bases.

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