If you want to fly Space-A to Asia, the Air Mobility Command (AMC) terminal at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (“Seattle” or “SeaTac”) is one of the best places to start your journey.
Also called the “AMC Seattle Gateway,” this military passenger terminal truly is a gateway to the Pacific. It has multiple missions per week to Japan and Korea, plus a bi-weekly mission to Guam.
The terminal’s location in a civilian airport makes it easy for Space-A travelers to fly commercial from other parts of the country to begin their Space-A adventure.
If you haven’t flown Space-A recently, read this Quickstart Guide to Military Space-A Flights first for a primer on how it works. Then, read on to learn everything you need to know about flying Space-A from Seattle.
1. The AMC terminal in Seattle has flights to and from Japan, Korea, and Guam.
Flights service Yokota AB, Iwakuni MCAS, and Misawa AB in mainland Japan. They also fly via Kadena AB in Okinawa. Missions to Korea are to/from Osan AB.
The Seattle AMC terminal also has a mission that stops at Andersen AFB in Guam on the way to/from Kadena. Note that Guam is the only destination to which 100% disabled veterans who are not retired from the military can fly (per DoDI 4515.13, Table 3 these veterans are not eligible to fly Space-A to foreign countries).
All flights via SeaTac are Patriot Express missions, and they do not fly to any other locations than the bases listed above.
View the monthly and 72-hour flight schedules on the AMC Seattle web page.
2. The AMC Seattle Gateway is located in the main terminal of SeaTac next to Hawaiian Airlines.
The ticketing counter is on Level 5 (Concourse/Check-In). This is where you mark present for a flight and where Roll Call is conducted.
The ticketing Counter is only open during flight processing hours.
3. You must mark yourself present at least 15 minutes before Roll Call.
You should arrive 2 – 3 hours prior to Roll Call to mark yourself present. You may have to wait in line and/or fill out paperwork, and if you can’t complete those steps in time, you will miss your opportunity to compete for the flight.
Keep in mind that you must be “travel-ready” to mark yourself present. That means you and any dependents traveling with you are in the terminal with your luggage and all required documentation.
4. You must pay the head tax with a credit or debit card.
Space-A travelers pay a small per-person head tax to fly on the Patriot Express from Seattle. The AMC terminal does not accept cash for this payment.
5. All Space-A flights via Seattle board and disembark using a jetway.
You will board the aircraft at SeaTac just as you would for a commercial flight.
For passengers with mobility challenges who want to fly Space-A to Asia, the Seattle Patriot Express missions are the best option.
6. When arriving at SeaTac from Japan or Korea, you will go through International Arrivals with commercial travelers.
When you get off the plane, you will walk to baggage claim, and then proceed through passport control.
7. SeaTac has a large USO located on the Mezzanine Level of the main terminal.
The SeaTac USO is outside the secure area above the Southwest Airlines ticket counter. It is well-stocked with snacks, plenty of comfortable seating, a bunk room, luggage storage, and numerous TVs. It also has free WiFi and computers.
Please note that active duty travelers and their families have priority use of the USO. If it is full when a Patriot Express mission is departing or has just arrived, the USO may close to other categories of travelers.
The USO also has vouchers for a discounted rate at SureStay Hotel by Best Western, which is close to the airport.
8. The only lodging options near SeaTac are civilian hotels.
With the nearest military bases at least a 40-minute drive away, your best bet is to stay in a civilian hotel. You have dozens of choices near the airport.
If you stop by the USO, pick up a voucher for SureStay Hotel by Best Western, as noted above. You should also get the discount without the voucher if you show valid military ID and mention the USO at the reception.
Here are four other hotels near the airport that are highly-rated, offer free breakfast, and have an airport shuttle.
9. Ground transportation options at Seattle airport include light rail, shuttles, and buses.
Seattle’s Link Light Rails travels between the airport and downtown Seattle. Visit their website for a list of stops and instructions on how to use the system.
The Seattle airport website lists various other ground transportation options.
When parking at SeaTac, you can pre-book to save money compared to the “drive up” rates. Visit Seattle airport’s website for more information and current rates. If you plan to park at the airport for more than 30 days, you must book your parking in advance.
10. The closest military bases with Space-A flights are JB Lewis-McChord and NAS Whidbey Island.
If you don’t get a seat on one of the Patriot Express missions at SeaTac, two other military bases in the area have regular Space-A flights.
JB Lewis-McChord (JBLM) is about 40 – 60 minutes by car, depending on traffic (a huge factor in the Seattle area). This shuttle service will get you to a location in Tacoma, about 11 miles from the JBLM passenger terminal, but you will need to find other transportation the rest of the way.
If you take a taxi/Uber to JBLM and show your ID card at the gate, the driver can enter the base to drop you off. JBLM’s website has more detailed information about base access.
View JBLM’s 72-hour flight schedule on their AMC page.
NAS Whidbey Island (NASWI) is a 2 – 3 hour drive. This shuttle service runs between SeaTac and Whidbey Island. It is the only shuttle service that can access the base.
NASWI posts their flight schedules on their Facebook page.
Ready to Fly Space-A from Seattle?
In preparation for your trip, remember to review the details of how Space-A works so you’re familiar with the process and know how to boost your chances of getting a seat.
Also, if you’ve never flown Space-A on the Patriot Express (aka “the rotator”), here’s what you need to know.
Finally, don’t forget your passport and any other documentation you need!
Cover photo: Josh Fields from Pexels via Canva.