Disabled Veterans Now Eligible To Catch A Free Ride On Military Flights

Disabled Veterans Now Eligible To Catch A Free Ride On Military Flights

(U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

Fully-disabled veterans are now able to travel on military aircraft at no cost, when extra space is available.

The measure, which is included in the recently signed 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, expands on the military's Space-Available Travel program that provides no-cost air travel among military installations. The program had previously only been open to active duty, Reserve and retired troops.

[MESSAGE FROM MOAA: Have you used the Space-Available Travel Program? Tell us about your experience by emailing writer Amanda Dolasinski at amandad@moaa.org.]

While it's a deal, bear in mind there are risks when traveling in the military's “Space A” program. Military personnel get priority and there is always a chance of being bumped off a flight.

Last year, Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Fla.-R., vice chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, introduced a bill that would give seating to veterans with a 100 percent disability rating.

“The brave men and women who served our country and returned home injured, have already paid a big price on our behalf,” Bilirakis said, when he introduced the measure. “If there is space available for travel on a military aircraft, there is no reason our veterans who are 100 percent disabled shouldn't be on that flight. I will continue to stand up for our nation's heroes to ensure they are treated with the dignity they have earned and deserve.”

The Defense Department established the program to provide transportation on military aircraft operated by the Air Force's Air Mobility Command on a space-available basis to servicemembers and veterans. As part of the program, passengers can travel in the contiguous United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa.

Ahead of travel, passengers are required to fill out a request and send it to the desired passenger terminal.

According to recent data from 2011, about 8.4 million people were eligible for the program.

Yet, just 2.3 percent of people eligible for the program requested seats from about 77 percent of space available seating, according to the U.S. Air Force and Government Accountability Office.

Amanda Dolasinski is MOAA's staff writer. She can be reached at amandad@moaa.org. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMOAA.