Airline ticket discount program cost drops

The cost of the federal government's discount airline ticket program will drop more than $100 million in fiscal 2005, adding to the billions of dollars already saved with the negotiated travel program, according to the General Services Administration.

GSA's Federal Supply Service contracts with 13 airlines to provide City Pair contracts. The program gives federal fliers an advantage over commercial travelers with last seat availability, fully refundable tickets and no charge for cancellations or schedule changes. According to GSA, the City Pair program saves an average of 74 percent off the commercial fare price.

The biggest winners for fiscal 2005 include Delta Air Lines, with 1,426 City Pairs, worth about $252 million; United Airlines with 697 City Pairs, worth about $155 million; and American Airlines with 835 City Pairs, worth $144 million.

Fiscal 2005 City Pair contracts total 4,345 -- 3,616 domestic and 729 international -- and are valued at about $819 million. In fiscal 2004 City Pair contracts totaled $920 million, a $157 million decrease from fiscal 2003. The FSS contracts are awarded competitively to U.S. airlines based on average flight time, price offers, type of service, flight distribution and the number of flights available. Because fliers prefer nonstop flights, 96 percent of the markets that offer nonstop service were awarded contracts, totaling 1,674 destinations.

"For fiscal 2005, these contracts are expected to save the government more than $2 billion," said Donna Bennett, commissioner of GSA's Federal Supply Service in a press release. "GSA and its airline partners continue to offer best value solutions that enable federal agencies to better allocate their resources to fulfill their important missions."

An unrestricted fare from Baltimore/Washington International Airport to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport for instance, would cost $249. Unrestricted fares, which are available in all markets, do not have to be purchased in advance and there are no minimum or maximum stay requirements, travel time limits, cancellation charges or blackout periods.

The City Pair program also offers capacity-controlled fares in about 2,300 markets. These are lower than unrestricted fares -- a flight from BWI to Dallas/Fort Worth under the capacity-controlled fare would cost $118 -- but the number of flights and seating are limited.

The following airlines were awarded City Pair contracts for 2005: AirTran Airways, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, American West Airlines, ATA Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Midwest Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and U.S. Airways.

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