Government Travelers to Get Steep Airfare Discounts with New City Pair Program
Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., gets its fair share of government travelers using the General Services Administration's City Pair Program. Here, a line of passengers wait to enter the security checkpoint before boarding their aircraft at DCA on April 25, 2013. Larry Downing / Reuters
Federal government jobs have great benefits, including the ability to travel for work at mind-boggling airfare discounts.
The General Services Administration just came out with the 2014 rates for its City Pair Program for federal-employee travel, providing up to 59% discounts off commercial airfares, the GSA states.
What’s not to love about it if you work for the Treasury, State, Interior or any other civilian federal departments or agencies?
These airfares, which provide steep discounts even compared with rates that large corporations privately negotiate with airlines, come with “no restrictions,” no change or cancellation fees, no blackout dates, and last-seat availability, the government says.
For example, a one-way ticket on US Airways from Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington to New York’s La Guardia (LGA) that’s available commercially to everyone goes for around $418.
The comparable City Pair rate for US Airways in 2014 on a YCA fare, which means it is unrestricted with last-seat availability) would be $105, a 75% discount.
“The basic category of CPP fare is deeply discounted (more so than any non-government rates) and carry no restrictions beyond applicability specifically to federal employees traveling on government business,” says consultant David Wardell of Technical Reality. “There are other categories that do carry some restrictions, but again the fundamental principle of all CPP fares is that no rates are lower than government rates, with equivalent restrictions.”
Ten major carriers participate in the 2014 City Pair Program, which becomes effective Oct. 1, 2013.
The 2014 program has a significant change when compared with the 2013 version.
The GSA in 2013 didn’t award airlines City Pair contracts for “secondary cities” because commercial rates were cheaper than what the airlines were offering the government.
But, the airlines seemed to have caved on this front, come back, and offered more attractive rates for secondary cities in 2014, after being frozen out on secondary cities in 2013.
“Following the 2013 decision to not award the secondary markets, instead directing federal travelers to the lower commercially-available rates, the airlines came back to GSA with competitive pricing in those markets this year, allowing for travelers to book lowest rates and receive the benefits associated with booking through City Pairs,” the GSA states.
The federal government has been under fire by congressional budget hawks for allegedly excessive spending on travel, and the GSA wants to show that it is keeping a tight watch on government-travel spending by negotiating very competitive rates.
The GSA states that one-way ticket prices in the City Pair Program for 2014 have declined 4% on average, while international fares dropped even more, at 7%.
The 2014 contracts will save the government — and taxpayers — $2.2 billion, the GSA claims, and the program has been expanded to cover more than 6,300 destinations, a 25% jump.