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Support of Category B Travel Needed to Sustain Airlift

American Forces Press Service

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill., Aug. 11, 1997 – U.S. military leaders must support Category B international charter flights or they may lose critically needed airlift in the future.

That was the warning from Gen. Walter Kross, head of the U.S. Transportation Command and Air Force Air Mobility Command, to a recent gathering of top military leaders. He said 69,000 seats, or nearly 40 percent of Category B capability, went unfilled on five command overseas routes in fiscal 1996. This occurred while large numbers of DoD travelers used other commercial air transportation means to satisfy the same requirements.

To help fight this problem, officials urge all DoD travelers going to and coming from overseas to use Category B travel, even if they need to change their travel time by a day or two to fit the schedules. Organizations also can save scarce travel dollars by using Category B vs. the higher cost of airline tickets, officials said.

Category B travel is commercial, Air Mobility Command-chartered airlift that flies service-directed passengers between the United States and overseas. The missions are contracted in full planeload lots with the Defense Department paying for every seat -- filled or not. Command officials said the Category B system is an incentive that retains charter carriers' commitments to support DoD's peacetime and early contingency airlift surge needs.

A 1994 policy memo directed DoD to use Civil Reserve Air Fleet carriers to the maximum extent possible, and further directed DoD passengers use Air Mobility Command-arranged or operated airlift before the General Services Administration's city pairs. GSA contracts for reduced airfares on scheduled service commercial airlines for both domestic and international travel.

"Despite the emphasis," Kross told the military leaders, "people are using GSA city pairs and other commercial transportation while Cat B seats go empty. The result is the taxpayer pays twice for the same service, once for the Cat B seat that went unfilled and again for the commercial seat fare.

"Another concern," he said, "is if Cat B is not supported, the carriers will reduce their fleets and we will not have sufficient commercial lift to support exercise, contingency and wartime movement requirements."

Command officials said they are implementing initiatives aimed at improving Cat B service. These include realigning stateside commercial passenger operations to better service changing customer needs and working agreements with domestic commercial carriers for the transferring of baggage from origin to destination.

The command is also initiating price reductions on the return leg from both Osan Air Base, Korea, and Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany. By lowering the charges on these two main routes, officials hope to increase Cat B usage while saving taxpayer money.

"The bottom line is this: If we don't use these carriers in peace, they won't be there for us in contingency or war," Kross said.(From an Air Mobility Command release)

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