Want to tour U.S. or Europe: Dover ‘hops’ could get you there

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Dover Air Force Base's Air Passenger Terminal moves space-available travelers to several U.S. and European destinations daily.

The travel is space available; cargo or other mission requirements will be met prior to the 436th Aerial Port Squadron Air Passenger Terminal releasing seats for passengers.

"I think Space-A is a significant benefit to military members," said Staff Sgt. Kim Salley. "I caught a Space-A flight from Ramstein, Germany to Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., and visited family there. I was nervous about Space-A, but think that the whole process was easy."

Sergeant Salley, who's a weapons loader team chief stationed at Lakenheath Air Base, England, had never used Space-A travel before this trip. She was in transition here waiting for her flight back to Ramstein.

"I think it was easy for me because I was traveling alone and only needed one ticket," she said. "If I were a family of four or five, the competition for that many seats would be harder than it was to only get one."

Although Sergeant Salley was traveling alone and only required one space-available ticket, several other passengers who received seats on the same Ramstein flight were traveling with families.

"Sure, there are uncertainties of Space-A travel," said Army Sgt. Armando Melendez, a signal operator stationed at U.S. Army Garrison Heidelberg, Germany. "I have heard stories of people trying to travel with large families in the peak summer season and getting stranded."

The Soldier continued that planning ahead is the key for large families. February and March are normally slower for Space-A travel and easier to get seats for his family of four.

"For us, the free flight for four is worth planning extra leave and possibly waiting in the terminals," he said. "Basically, the Air Force flew us here from San Antonio. Now, they are flying us to Ramstein, and the whole trip is free!"

Though the Melendez family was excited that they benefited from the free air travel, they also expressed that they were amazed by how friendly the Dover APT staff was and how prepared the facility is for children.

"The 'Kids Room' was a life saver for us," said Martha Melendez, wife of Sergeant Melendez. "The kids just play and occupy themselves. At commercial airports there isn't anything like this, younger kids are often bored and sometimes fussing and crying. Here, my husband and I can relax and the kids can play. It is really a great stress reducer."

The kid's room is a brightly-colored area, with walls adorned with murals depicting Disney characters, highlighted with books, movies and play toys for the children. The room was an addition to the terminal and was decorated in 2006 by donations provided to the terminal by the Walt Disney Company, said Capt. Michael Wall, 436th APS Passenger Services Flight commander.

Though Disney donated the decoration funds, the USO staff coordinated the voluntarily painting efforts, he said.

Donations like the kid's room decorations have significantly benefited Team Dover's passenger terminal. Donations and the volunteer staff are very important to operations, said Captain Wall.

"We currently have 12 regular volunteers," said the captain. "These folks are amazing. Most have worked here 10 or more years and literally know everything. They have networked valuable contacts at other passenger terminal locations and are really a great source of continuity."

There is always at least one military member working at the Passenger Service Counter, he continued. However, in the busy summer months, when most of the Airmen are out on the flightline or building pallets, the customer-service operations hinge on the dedicated volunteers.

"Sometimes the terminal gets jam packed with travelers," said Captain Wall. "The volunteers have gotten us out of these jams time-and-time again."

Airman 1st Class John Boyd, 436th APS passenger service agent, agrees with his supervisor on the vitality of the volunteer staff. He stated that the USO is an all-volunteer operation and also stressed the need for motivated volunteers at the terminal's information counter.

"The information counter is the meat and potatoes of our operation," said Airman Boyd. "Passengers come to the information counter several times a day. We try to keep them all informed and provide any assistance we can to meet their needs; we strive to keep them happy."

Servicemembers around the globe take advantage of space available flights. Dover is home to the largest aerial port servicing the continental U.S. and much of Europe. When planning a trip or vacation, it could be beneficial to check with the passenger terminal. Who knows, they may already be heading in the same direction and may have some 'space available.'