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US General Services Administration posts air travel contracts

Washington DC-based federal agency the US General Services Administration announced the award of its air travel contracts for 2014 which it said will save taxpayers approximately USD 2.2bn a year.

Under GSA´s City Pair programme, airfare rates for the federal government´s official travel are pre-negotiated and offer up to 59% off of commercial airfare for the federal workforce. In addition to offering considerable discounts, the City Pair programme allows the federal government additional flexibility in how it books air travel.

GSA said that it uses a data-driven analytical approach to managing the programme and negotiating with the carriers. The agency said that is driving greater cost savings and performance for the City Pair programme and the overall rates for 2014 are consistently below corporate benchmark rates in all top markets.

In 2014, the City Pair is expanding its reach, increasing available routes by 25% to more than 6,300 destinations. Average one-way ticket prices for domestic flights have dropped 4% and international rates have dropped 7%.

Additionally, non-stop flights have been expanded by 20% to 1,887 routes.

For the upcoming year, the City Pair programme retained all of the same benefits which contribute to greater savings, beyond ticket cost, for government. The program gives federal travelers the flexibility to book one- way, multi-leg, and round-trip airfare at the lowest cost possible, while retaining the ability to adjust or cancel flights at no additional cost to the government.

Another positive trend for federal travelers is that many secondary markets that were not awarded in 2013, because lower commercial fares were readily available, were awarded and will be available in 2014.

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.

Ten major US carriers were awarded contracts, GSA said. When awarding City Pair contracts to airlines, GSA considers a number of criteria, including availability of non-stop service, total number of flights, flight availability, average elapsed flight time, availability of jet service, and price of service.

The programme also offers dual fare markets to provide flexibility for immediate travel and discounted fares for booking flights early. The 2014 rates will become effective October 1, 2013.

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