Patriot Express flights to Andersen Air Force Base have been extended for an additional year. The flight service initially started as a six-month test period but was extended 12 months due to Covid-19 impacts on ridership.
U.S. Transportation Command and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command validated the mission and it will now be programmed into next year’s budget, meaning it will continue until 2022 when it will undergo annual re-evaluation. All flights are evaluated annually to measure necessity and cost-effectiveness for the American taxpayer.
“The Patriot Express has been a big win for morale and resilience for Guam DoD personnel and their families. We exceeded our break-even point despite COVID-19,” said Brig. Gen. Jeremy Sloane, 36th Wing commander. “Space-Required slots gave approximately 4,300 service members and their families the ability to travel safely to and from Seattle.” Space-Required flights provide seats for Department of Defense members and their families on official orders. Additionally, 400 pets have traveled on PE flights during this testing period. While most larger pets traveled in the planes’ cargo hold, space was available in the cabin for additional small pets traveling with families who are moving. This has saved service members an estimated $3,000 per pet to transport.
“As restrictions ease, we expect increased usage of the Patriot Express, allowing for continued availability to transport pets and opportunities for Space-Available travel,” Sloane said. “This gives our Airmen a low-cost option to stay connected with friends and families off-island.” Route alterations are standard practice for PE flights and are not unique to the Covid-19 pandemic. The 618th Air Operations Center sets and adjusts routes to ensure all mission needs are met, which often means that direct service is rare. Beginning in April, the Seattle-Guam route will be paired with a stop at Kadena Air Base, Japan, to ensure mission requirements are met at both locations and the aircraft are utilized to the maximum extent possible.
Service members are not required to quarantine in Washington in order to fly on the PE flight into Guam. However, if a service member or dependent is exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms or tests positive at the Seattle-Tacoma Patriot Express Gateway, the member and accompanying dependents are quarantined until cleared by a competent medical authority to continue travel. Once on Guam, service members and their families are expected to adhere to the Government of Guam and installation restriction of movement and Covid-19 mitigation policies. The flights are scheduled once a month and may increase during peak times. (36th Wing Public Affairs)