GSA announces new discount airfares for 2013

AP file photo

The General Services Administration announced Thursday that it has renegotiated its contracts with airlines offering discounted rates for federal employees flying on business.

The fiscal 2013 City Pairs Program will save an estimated $5.9 billion, GSA said. In addition to cheaper fares, the program allows the federal workforce the flexibility to change, cancel or make last-minute reservations without incurring additional fees.

GSA negotiated with all major U.S. airlines to produce fixed rates for nearly 10,000 flights worldwide, offering federal employees up to 73 percent off commercial prices, the agency said. The fiscal 2013 program will retain all the same benefits as previous years, according to the statement. Spreadsheets of the contracts indicate there will be about 450 fewer flights in fiscal 2013 than in fiscal 2012.

The decrease comes after GSA analyzed secondary and monopoly markets and found that the volume in some markets was not high enough to drive the lowest possible discounted prices for taxpayers, according to the agency. Flights to these locations are regularly available at lower prices commercially, GSA found.

One other change from fiscal 2012 is meant to benefit airlines. The City Pairs Program typically allows employees to make a reservation without paying, but starting in fiscal 2013 they will have to make immediate payments if they make their reservation within 48 hours of their flight, GSA said.

"GSA's mission is to help federal agencies save money, and that includes getting the best price for government travelers," Mary Davie, acting commissioner of GSA's Federal Acquisition Service, said in a statement. "By leveraging the government's buying power, we are able to maximize cost-savings for federal agencies and save taxpayer dollars."

The 2013 rates will go into effect on Oct. 1. The program started in 1980 with only 11 city pairs available.

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