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The City Pair Program began in 1980 with 11 City pairs and has grown to over 5,000 city pairs, both domestic and International. The airfares offered under this program are discounted considerably off comparable commercial fares saving the federal government billions of dollars annually. The City Pair Program is administered by the General Services Administration (GSA) for use by all government travelers. The CPP is important to the government and the airlines though it only represents 2% of the airline business. Each year GSA awards contract fares for air fare for travelers on official government travel under the city pair program. These contract awards are based on the best overall value to the government, taking into consideration type, distribution, number of flights, flight time, and price. 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 Federal Travel Regulations, (FTR) requires government travelers to use a contract fare when available, use coach class service unless otherwise authorized, and to use a U.S. Flag Air Carrier. Contract fares must be used unless you have a valid justification. Some of the justifications are:
- There are no seats available on a contract flight, or the flights departure/arrival times do not enable you to incur overnight lodging costs.
- The contract carrier would require travel during non-work hours.
- A non-contract carrier offers a lower fare available to the general public and using it reduces the total cost to the government.
- Rail service is available and is cost effective and meets mission requirements.
- Smoking is permitted on the contract flight. The justification must be entered by the traveler in the Passenger Name Record (PNR) to justify usage of a non-contract fare. This must be approved by the approving official.
The fares for domestic travel include federal, state and local taxes. Passenger charges are added by the local airport authority, fees are established by the GDS, and security fees set by the Department of Homeland Security are not included and are listed separately. All international fares are exclusive of taxes and fees.
One of the most recent and significant change to the CPP is that airlines are allowed to add a fuel surcharge. The Airline may impose a fuel surcharge in accordance with their GSA contract after the surcharge has been active in the commercial market for 14 consecutive days. This change was caused by the rising cost of jet fuel and the need for the airlines to regain come of the cost.
The fares offered by the airlines are one way, allowing for complex trip construction to multiple destinations. There are several advantages to using a contract fare such as:
- No advance purchase required
- No minimum or maximum length stay required
- Tickets are fully refundable
- Last seat availability
- No blackout periods
- Prices in effect for one full year
- No penalties/fees for rebooking, re-ticketing or cancellation
- Capacity fares availability
- Contract business fares available
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.
YCA FARE – The code used to designate unrestricted coach class contract fares for government contract carriers. “CA” means “contract award.”
_CA FARE – A three letter code used to identify capacity controlled coach class contract fares for government contract carriers.
_CB FARE – A three letter code used to identify capacity controlled government contract business class fares.
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.
Airline tickets purchased for the government traveler for authorized travel are considered unused or partially used when the travel is terminated short of the authorized destination, the return portion of the round trip is not used, and travel actually furnished is different or of a lesser value than authorized.
The government traveler must notify his/her agency when refunds are due on an unused or partially used ticket (paper or e-ticket) or no refund will take place. Millions of dollars are lost to the government and taxpayers each year because travelers do not initiate the refund process.
In order to obtain a refund, the traveler is responsible for contacting the travel agent, or the Commercial Travel Office (CTO), or the airlines (if purchased from the airline directly).
By Deva Wilson
“The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect any position of the Government or my agency.”