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Patriot Express restructures

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFPN) -- Fiscal realities and limited use have led U.S. Transportation Command to restructure Patriot Express. Patriot Express is the military's chartered commercial air service for transporting servicemembers on permanent-change-of-station orders and their families to and from overseas locations.

Air Mobility Command, the air component of USTRANSCOM, manages the Patriot Express program on behalf of the Department of Defense.

Since the 1960s, Patriot Express, or a similar program, has provided regular passenger service from the United States to 27 locations in European Command, Central Command and Southern Command areas of operation. The system handles more than 340,000 passengers annually; however, more than two-thirds of the seats on the contracted aircraft are filled by passengers on PCS orders.

The Patriot Express system has four contracted U.S. gateway international airports: Atlanta-Hartsfield, Baltimore-Washington, Los Angeles and Seattle-Tacoma, and four passenger reservation centers, or PRCs, in Germany, Japan, Hawaii and the continental United States.

Beginning next fiscal year through fiscal 2008, the restructure will lead to fewer flights and leave only one gateway, at BWI. Duty passengers will be able to travel on commercial airlines through the General Service Administration's City Pair program.

"Customer trends have led to this restructuring,” said Capt. Billy Webb, chief of AMC passenger operations. “We made our prices comparable to the commercial airlines and launched several customer-service improvements to attract more riders and offset costs. The number of riders did not increase. And even though DOD requires PCSing passengers to use Patriot Express, the department has paid about $67 million more each year than what it would cost for official PCS travel through the City Pair program."

The restructure will not only save the government millions of dollars annually, PCS travelers will gain more flexibility in planning their overseas moves.

"The restructure brings several advantages to those PCSing overseas," Captain Webb said. "Commercial airlines fly into most locations served by Patriot Express, and they fly more frequently, so there are more options in scheduling flights. And, with Patriot Express, travelers need to get to a gateway terminal, which may be far from where they live. Then they have to make the connection with a Patriot Express flight. With the City Pair program, travelers, in many cases, will be able to get direct flights to their new duty location."

All Patriot Express routes, except for those into locations with no commercial service or where there are force protection considerations, will be phased out over a four-year period.

"Phasing out Patriot Express allows military services and contract carriers time to adjust," Captain Webb said.

In fiscal 2005, the Atlanta gateway will close, and Patriot Express flights to Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany, will end. The military will also adjust the frequency and size of flights to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Keflavik, Iceland.

In fiscal 2006, service to Osan and Kunsan air bases, Korea; Kadena AB, Japan; Keflavik, Iceland; and Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, will end. The reservation center at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, and the gateway at Los Angeles International Airport will close. Fiscal 2007 marks the end of service to three American bases in Japan: Yokota and Misawa air bases and the Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni, as well as the Japan passenger reservation center. The Seattle gateway will also close, and AMC's main PRC here will increase its operating hours. In the last phase, slated for fiscal 2008, service to Lajes Field, the Azores; Aviano AB, Italy; Rota, Spain; and Sigonella, Sicily, will end, the PRC in Germany will close, and AMC's center will begin continuous operations.

The restructure of Patriot Express will mean a reduction in the number of space-available seats, but space-A travel is still available at many AMC passenger terminals on military transports.

"Even though Patriot Express will phase out, opportunities for space-A travel still exist on our own airlift aircraft, although not as frequently," Captain Webb said.

Information on space-A travel is available at http://public.amc.af.mil/SPACEA/spacea.htm. The GSA has Travel and City Pair program information on their services link at www.gsa.gov. (Courtesy of AMC News Service)

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