Air Mobility Command temporarily suspended most Space-Available travel aboard its military and contracted aircraft, officials said in a press release Sunday.
The suspension was put into effect Saturday in order to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. It will remain in place through May 11, the release said.
Officials are making exceptions for certain Category I, IV, and VI travelers, which includes exemptions for service members and dependents on emergency leave and Wounded Warriors.
“However, travel via Space-Available is never guaranteed and, as always, travel is available only on a space-available basis,” the release reads.
Medical screening protocols still apply for all travelers, the command’s release said, adding that the suspension will reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus between aircrew, screeners and others at passenger terminals.
Space-A is a travel benefit afforded to eligible military personnel, dependents and retirees. The suspension policy was authorized by Ellen Lord, under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.
“Our focus remains on force health protection, and this temporary suspension of Space-A travel represents a sensible course of action to increase force health protection measures, while simultaneously decreasing risk to mission from COVID-19,” Lord said in a statement accompanying the release.
The suspension also follows broader travel restrictions for service members and their families that were issued March 13. The Defense Department halted all domestic travel, including permanent change of station and temporary duty orders, through May 11.
The U.S. government has so far not restricted air travel on civilian carriers.
“I don’t see that right now in the immediate future but remember, we are very open-minded about whatever it takes to preserve the health of the American public,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC News on March 15.
The State Department has advised U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of the outbreak.
State Department officials recommended Americans who are traveling abroad to return to the United States unless they’re prepared to remain overseas for “an indefinite period,” according to a March 19 travel advisory.
Kyle Rempfer was an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.