This past week, GSA announced its 2014 City Pairs for airline travel.
For those not aware, this a task that the much-maligned GSA does a good job at, saving the taxpayer up to $2.2 Billion per year.
The City-Pair program allows a Fed to book a flight at the last-minute at a pre-negotiated airfare, with guaranteed last-seat availability- Even if the last empty seat on the plane is in first class (note that the traveling Fed probably won’t get the First Class seat, someone else will likely get upgraded). Specifically, Fed travelers using GSA City Pairs get:
- No restrictions;
- Last seat availability;
- No change or cancellation fees;
- No blackout periods; and
- Savings to travelers of up to 73 percent off unrestricted commercial fares.
The GSA City Pair program is a good deal for Uncle Sugar (and the taxpayer), even though it is becoming harder and harder to find a last-minute empty airplane seat due to overbooked flights. The only downside to the Fed is that s/he has to fly with whatever carrier was awarded the contract between the two cities (unless s/he chooses to fly from alternate nearby airports).
I did a quick spot check, and GSA City Pairs continues to hold value. For example, you can fly on an unrestricted GSA fare (one-way) from LAX to DC for $247 in FY14, which is DOWN from $285 in FY13.
Here’s a Travel Hack/dirty trick: Non-Feds can use the GSA City Pair search, too. For What? To estimate the best fare you will be able to find between two destinations.
Why is this so? Airlines submit sealed bids on these City Pair routes every year, bidding on each City Pair contract with very educated estimates (down to the penny) of passenger capacity and fuel costs for each route. It’s possible- but unlikely– you’ll be able to beat the capacity-controlled (shown as “- CA”) one-way fare when you look up a GSA fare. You can use the GSA City Pair Web Search Tool.
There’s no smartphone app for the City Pair search, but the web page is rather bandwidth friendly- You can just bookmark the search link to one of your smartphone ‘home’ screens if you really like the GSA search tool.
Read more from the GSA 2014 City Pair press release.
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