Booking airfare/circuitous travel

The next step for us in the NCS process was making airline reservations. There is something called circuitous travel that the service member can apply for in order to fly commercially with their NCS dependents.

Circuitous travel is any deviation from the official route between the losing and gaining duty stations.


Without this, they typically have their travel arranged by the travel office, and will usually be flown to Seattle, then from there will fly on the Patriot Express, aka rotator, to their final destination. With commander approval, NCS family members can get a paid seat on the rotator, and this runs approximately $750. However, if you manage to get circuitous travel approved, you can fly as a family on a commercial flight.

The process for getting circuitous travel approved was fairly straightforward. The service member will go the the travel office, where they will draft a Memorandum for Record (MFR), detailing the route they wish to travel to their next duty station, and a cost estimate will be determined, with the reimbursable amount. This memo is then routed up the chain of command for approval. Once approved, it will be added to the official orders. Once we had this approval written into the hard copy of the orders, we went ahead and started searching for airfare.

*Note: the service member will only be reimbursed the actual amount of the ticket and any overage must be paid out of pocket. For example, my husband’s reimbursable amount was approximately $1300, however we only paid $1100 for his ticket (we upgraded to Delta Comfort+). He will only be reimbursed the $1100 and cannot keep the difference. If his cost was over $1300, he would only be reimbursed up to that amount and would have to pay the excess difference out of pocket.

If you have time to watch prices, some good sites to follow are:

  • Skyscanner
  • Hopper
  • Google Flights
  • Kayak

These were the ones I commonly used, and I set alerts to follow prices. We ended up booking with Delta, who offers discounted child fares and military pricing. They also authorize up to 7 checked bags per person with a copy of military orders present.

The only downside to circuitous travel is that, instead of flying straight into Osan AB, commercial flights will fly into Seoul. Fear not, there is a base shuttle that runs from Seoul to Osan for $35 for military member and $15 for NCS families, as well as city buses that run regularly. When we get there I’ll update with information on the route we took.



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