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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How does the program work?
  2. What are the advantages of the program?
  3. Who can use it?
  4. Do I have to use the contract carrier? Won't any airline do?
  5. What makes it the best value? Isn't it just low bid?
  6. How is quality of service evaluated?
  7. Why isn't every award for nonstop service?
  8. Can't GSA make a carrier add nonstop service?
  9. Can I use a contract fare for personal travel? What if the personal travel is being taken in conjunction with official government travel?
  10. Can I combine two contract fares to save money?
  11. What does Last Seat Availability (LSA) mean?
  12. How do I know whether or not there is a contract fare?
  13. Why does the government have to pay a tax? Isn't it exempt from taxes?
  14. What is the FY14 CPP Auto Cancellation Rule?

 

  1.  How does the program work?

    First, GSA concentrates on the government's market share to make the most of the competition available. The government traveler's responsibility is to use the contract carrier. The government's delivery of market share drives the program. So, to ensure the fares stay favorable, we encourage federal travelers to use the contract carrier.

    Second, GSA works with other government agencies to make sure that the federal traveler's needs and concerns are fully met. This ensures that you have a good choice of convenient and timely flights.

    Third, GSA works in partnership with the airline industry and respects their concerns. For example, because the fares are so attractive, the airlines insist that only federal employees traveling on official business be allowed to use them. With a few limited exceptions, no one else can use the government rates. GSA understands and accepts this in order to bring you, the federal traveler, the best value in the sky.
     

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  2.  What are the advantages of the program?

    The City Pair Program provides the following core benefits: 
    • No advance purchases required; No minimum or maximum length of stay required; 
    • Fully refundable tickets and no charge for cancellations or changes; 
    • No capacity controlled YCA fare seating. If there is a coach class seat on the plane, the traveler may purchase it; 
    • No blackout dates; 
    • Locked-in fares to facilitate travel budgeting; 
    • Significant discounts over regular walk-up fares; and 
    • Fares pricing on one-way routes that permits agencies to plan multiple destinations.

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  3.  Who can use it?

    The Airfares (City Pair Program) is so attractive that usage is strictly limited. There are a few exceptions, but in general, only federal or military employees on official travel may use the program with an appropriate form of payment. The preferred form of payment is the government travel charge card or centrally-billed account. The acceptance of GTRs is limited to international travel, travel related expenses, and special circumstances for domestic travel. Special circumstances are defined as acts of God, emergency situations, and when purchasing a domestic ticket in the USA in conjunction with travel that originated overseas.
     

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  4.  Do I have to use the contract carrier? Won't any airline do?

    Federal and military travelers on official business are required to use the contract carrier unless a specific exception applies. This required use is the incentive necessary to obtain airline participation in the Airfares (City Pair Program) and allows the airlines the business volume necessary to offer discounted rates. Choosing not to use the contract carrier because of personal preference, frequent flyer clubs, and more., is a violation of the contract.

    Commercial airfares can be highly volatile, so an exception to the mandatory use requirement allows government travelers to take advantage of any low commercial fares offered by non-contract carriers, if the fares are also offered to the general public. Non-contract fares that are offered only to government travelers (sometimes called "DG" fares) are not included in this exception.

    Also, if the contract carrier for the particular market offers the lower fare, you still must use them, but at the lower fare. Travelers that use this exception would have to abide by the many restrictions that typically go along with lower commercial fares. Restrictions on discounted commercial fares usually include: no refunds, additional change or cancellation fees, minimum or maximum stay requirements or extended calendar blackout periods.

    Additional exceptions to the mandatory use requirement are contained in the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR § 301-10.107) and include:
    • Space on a scheduled contract flight is not available in time to accomplish the purpose of your travel, or use of contract service would require you to incur unnecessary overnight lodging costs, increasing the total cost of the trip; 
    • The contractor's flight schedule is inconsistent with explicit policies of your federal department or agency regarding scheduling travel during normal working hours; 
    • Rail service is available, and such service is cost effective and is consistent with mission requirements; and
    • Smoking is permitted on the contract flight and the nonsmoking section of the aircraft for the contract flight is not acceptable to you.

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  1.  What makes it the best value? Isn't it just low bid?

    Absolutely not. Awards are made after measuring both quality of service and price. This allows an award to be made to a higher priced carrier if that carrier has superior service.
     

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  2.  How is quality of service evaluated?

    A minimum service standard is set for each airline city pair. This minimum applies to the number of flights per day in each direction, a maximum ground time of 90 minutes domestic, and 180 minutes international, and limits on circuit size (how far out of the way the carrier can take the traveler). Service standards change year to year based on service availability.

    To determine best value, a technical evaluation is conducted to evaluate the quality of each offeror's service based on the following considerations:

    Time and Type of Service: This factor looks for flights offered throughout the day. Nonstop service, at convenient times, scores best under this factor.

    Flight Time: This factor looks for the shortest total flight times based on each carrier's routing. Nonstop service scores best under this factor.

    Number and Type of Flights: This factor considers the number of flights offered throughout the day in order to provide the traveler with several choices. Carriers with several nonstop flights score best under this factor.

    Jet Service: This factor gives preference to jets over propeller aircraft. All these factors are weighed against price and a best value decision is made.
     

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  3.  Why isn't every award for nonstop service?

    Even though nonstop service is heavily favored, it is not always available, or the best value. Some of the reasons that connect service is awarded are as follows:

    There is no nonstop carrier for a specific route.

    The nonstop carrier did not offer on the airline city pair. Some carriers have so much traffic on certain routes that the carrier does not want the government business for the route.

    The nonstop carrier did not meet the minimum requirements as outlined in the Request For Proposal (RFO). For example, the nonstop flights might be too late at night to be beneficial for our federal traveler.

    The non-stop carrier has offered an unreasonably high price.

    The connect service carrier has offered a fare so low that it was the best overall value, even considering all the advantages of nonstop service.
     

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  4.  Can't GSA make a carrier add nonstop service?

    No. Even though the Airfares (City Pair Program) is large, with sales well over $1 billion per year, it still represents only about two percent of the airlines business. Unless the commercial traffic warrants it, a carrier will not add a new route or improved service levels (such as nonstop) or larger aircraft for the government.
     

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  5.  Can I use a contract fare for personal travel? What if the personal travel is being taken in conjunction with official government travel?

    No. Use of contract fares is limited to official travel only. If personal travel is being taken in conjunction with official government travel, the contract fares cannot be used for that portion of the trip that is personal.
    Example:

    Travel authorization states the official travel itinerary as:
    From: Atlanta, GA
    To: San Francisco, CA and
    Return to Atlanta, GA
    Airline City Pair one-way contract fare from Atlanta, GA, to San Francisco, CA, is $159 with AirTran Airlines. Round trip totals $318.
    For personal reasons, an employee wants to go to Chicago for several days resulting in the following:
    From: Atlanta, GA
    To: Chicago, IL
    From: Chicago, IL
    To: San Francisco, CA and
    Return to Atlanta, GA

    Since the portion of the itinerary from Atlanta to Chicago and Chicago to San Francisco is for personal reasons, the employee is not entitled to use the airline city pair contract fares for this portion of the trip. Commercial fares are applicable to this portion of the trip. The airline city pair contract fare is only applicable to the portion of the trip from San Francisco, CA, to Atlanta, GA, with Airtran Airlines at $318.

    NOTE: See Section 301-10.8 of the Federal Travel Regulation for the employee's liability when for personal convenience the employee travels by an indirect route or interrupts travel by a direct route.

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  1.  Can I combine two contract fares to save money?

    If there is already a contract fare from origin to the end destination, other contract fares may NOT be combined to circumvent the award already made; however, if there is no contract fare for the route (again, origin to final destination), other contract fares may be combined. In fact, if there is no contract fare, then a combination of contract fares and/or any other available fare may be used so that the price results in the lowest cost alternative to the government and meets the traveler's needs.
     

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  2.  What does Last Seat Availability (LSA) mean?

    We’re setting the record straight on what Last Seat Availability really means. Some travelers perceived LSA as meaning they do not have seat choice. This is not true. Last seat availability means that if any economy seats are available for purchase, government travelers will be guaranteed the CPP standard YCA fare. LSA simply refers to price guarantee and not where they sit on the plane.

    *Last seat availability does not include seat assignment preference, which is addressed via your booking system and at check-in.

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  3.  How do I know whether or not there is a contract fare?

    Contract fares are identifiable because normally the fare designator "YCA" is reflected. The ticket will show a three-letter fare basis code with CA (Contract Award) as part of it.

    Airline City Pair tickets are issued using one of the following fare basis codes: 

    • (1) YCA = Guaranteed GSA economy class Airline City Pair fare. 
    • (2) _CA = Limited capacity, GSA economy class Airline City Pair fare. The first letter of the three-letter fare basis code will vary by airline (e.g., QCA, LCA, etc.).


The only difference between the YCA and _CA is that there are a limited number of seats on the lower _CA Airline City Pair rate. Therefore, travelers should make flight reservations as soon as plans are firm. The traveler can ask the agency Travel Management Center or Commercial Travel Office or check on the Airfares (City Pair Program) website.

For more on _CA fares, see Dual Fares.

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  1.  Why does the government have to pay a tax? Isn't it exempt from taxes?

    The federal government is often exempt from state and local taxes, however, the airline passenger excise tax is a federal tax and the federal government is subject to it. While the base fare and taxes are required to be the same for all of a contract carrier's flights (using the same fare basis) between two cities, the airport and security fees may vary. The fees are based on the number of airports used, even if you do not change planes.

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  1.   What is the FY14 CPP Auto Cancellation Rule?

    See the 48 Hour Cancellation Rule FAQ or for airline information, see FY14 Auto Cancellation Carrier Participation [PDF, 3.12MB] document.
     

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