New Pacific Patriot Express routes connect Korea, expand Japan services|
Posted 2/10/2010 Updated 2/10/2010
by Capt. Amy Cooper
Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs
2/10/2010 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR HICKAM, Hawaii -- Pacific-based Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines will soon have more options available for traveling to and from the United States beginning this April, with the re-routing of current Patriot Express flights and the addition of a third weekly flight.
Included in the new routes is the return of Patriot Express flights connecting the U.S. West Coast to the Korean peninsula.
Patriot Express flights are operated by commercial airlines contracted by the Department of Defense to provide transportation for military members, dependents and civil service employees. The Pacific Patriot Express routes originate and terminate at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Wash.
"(Pacific-based) Wing commanders requested Patriot Express," said Yvonne Frazier, Pacific Air Forces traffic management chief. "We then worked with Pacific Command and U.S. Transportation Command, who said, 'we'll see what we can do to help.'"
The availability of the flights in the Pacific theater is much needed, according to PACAF officials.
"The problem with the Pacific is you're dealing with a lot of islands separated by massive distances," said Lt. Col. Katherine Charecky, PACAF distribution policy and vehicles branch chief. "It's not easy and it's expensive to travel."
Patriot Express flights have been available for Japan-based personnel since October, and in April the service will connect Korea-based personnel.
"One of our goals during this whole process was to expand service to Korea," said Larry Lorentzen, USTRANSCOM operations directorate's senior commercial air requirements analyst. USTRANSCOM contracts for commercial transportation on behalf of the Department of Defense.
The new weekly flights to Korea will depart from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and go to Yokota Air Base, Japan; Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea; Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea; and then backtrack through Osan AB and Yokota AB on return to Seattle-Tacoma.
Additionally, one of the pre-existing routes connecting Japan and the U.S. has been re-worked to include a stop at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea. That route will go from Seattle-Tacoma; to Misawa Air Base, Japan; Osan AB, and then follows the same route back to Seattle-Tacoma.
The third route, also connecting Japan-based personnel to the United States, has been changed too. It begins at Seattle-Tacoma and goes to Yokota AB; Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan; Kadena AB; and then backwards to Seattle-Tacoma.
"This is an important travel option for our Navy and Marine customers on mainland Japan," said Mr. Lorentzen.
People who've flown on Pacific Express to Japan previously might notice the new routes no longer stop in Anchorage for gas. Starting in April, the contract carriers will fly the Boeing 767 on these routes.
"These are newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft, so they can fly longer without having to stop and refuel," said Mr. Lorentzen.
Not only does the new aircraft save gas and time, it provides more seating capacity on the flights, he said.
More seating capacity means there's more room for customers.
"(Permanent Change of Station) travelers are our primary market," said Mr. Lorentzen. "They have a 10-day travel window, and by regulation, Patriot Express should be their first course of travel."
Mr. Lorentzen added that if for some reason the Patriot Express route doesn't fit a traveler's needs, he or she should work with their local transportation offices to file a mission impact statement and make other official travel arrangements.
While the service is targeted mainly toward servicemembers and families traveling on PCS moves, it's open to members traveling on temporary duty and eligible for space-available travelers. This is especially beneficial for members and families stationed at Misawa AB and MCAS Iwakuni.
"Traveling to and from Misawa and Iwakuni is a nightmare," said Mrs. Frazier. "You have to go from the international to domestic airport in Tokyo, dragging your bags, kids, etc. Additionally, there are only foreign flag carriers over these routes who offer limited seat pitch and baggage space. It's just more convenient for a family to travel directly into and out of a military base."
Leave travel is not only logistically difficult for servicemembers and their families, it's also "very expensive," Ms. Frazier said.
Flying Patriot Express also alleviates some of the other headaches associated with commercial airline travel due to Transportation Security Administration and airport security regulations, said Colonel Charecky.
Additionally, four-legged family members are able to fly with ease.
"The Patriot Express provides pet spaces, a big plus for our servicemembers since shipping pets can be expensive and difficult, especially during the summer temperature embargos," Ms. Frazier said.
For additional details on the expanded Patriot Express services and space-available travel, members should check with local transportation management offices and passenger service reservation centers.