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In the old days and before the 1978 Airlines Deregulation Act, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) used to decide the fares between any two cities. They decided which airline flew from/to cities and how much they should charge.
Well, the 1978Airline Deregulation Act changed the dynamics and working ways of the airline industry. It allowed airlines to decide where to fly and how much they can charge. Competition was the name of the game.
What was the government reaction to the deregulation act?
In 1980, the government using the sheer volume of business it controls was able to negotiate and establish “government fares or CITY PAIR PROGRAM”. “Fly America Act” requires the use of US flag carriers or US Code Share flights.
These fares were to become the backbone of huge savings for the government and were published under the code of YCA. (Special government Business Class fare was also established to be used under special circumstances). TMC /CTO’s can report all government travels easy now with the use of E-Ticketing. These fares are very low, based on one way and very flexible and fully refundable.
The government also looked into the accommodation of the staff on duty and their use of car rentals & established rules and regulations about their use with additional benefits to government travelers.
The government requires from hotel/car rental companies to provide usage reports to DTMO.
On top of that, the government established Per Diem expenses for TDY allowances published in the FTR. Those rates are reviewed and adjusted by 3 entities:
- GSA for CONUS
- DoD for Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and any other non-foreign location
- The Department of State for OCONUS
Electronic Travel Systems:
Both the Dept. of Defense & GSA decided to invest and establish new electronic systems utilizing the new technology breakthroughs. A new Defense Travel System (DTS) by the DoD for the use of Military personnel and the E-GOV (or ETS) by GSA were developed for use of civilian government employees.
Federal Travelers are required by law to use Travel Management Service (TMS); otherwise they will be responsible for any cost associated with not using the system.
Chapter 301 from the FTR describes the minimum capabilities of the system which basically include the availability of Travel Management Center (TMC) or Commercial Ticket Office (CTO) to perform: Bookings, lodging and car rentals. In addition to basic management reporting system providing for example number of bookings by type of service (carrier, lodging & car rental) and compliance with policy and reasons for non compliance , statistics on origin/destinations, number of lodging nights and where & locations of car rentals used. The last thing is possibility of reconciliation of charges on CBA and refund tracking and processing.
After airlines stopped paying the TMC’s commission, the TMC’s established 2 methods of collecting fees for their work; Transaction Fees (fees on each action they take) or Administration Fees (a lump sum for all their actions say during a month).
The DoD issue an RFP and GSA Travel Services Solutions (TSS) Multiple Award Schedule (MAS). The awarding of services will go to the winners with the experience, professional accreditation and specific capabilities.
The other method of contracting is Full & Open competition for TMC or CTO to conduct Government travel services. Government will issue a task force order sent to 3 schedule contractors for bids. The best one with value and price is usually selected. Also the Government will always put aside some contracts for small businesses. The TSS Schedule RFP means travel agents have 90-120 days to respond to a bid.
Once TMCs/CTOs are functioning then they will be using GDS which are called front office. TMCs/CTOs reporting systems linked to GDS data like: Airline ticketing, Hotel Bookings, Car Rentals, Destinations, Fares and other data like CPP usage, CPP expense, unused tickets to provide full reporting to the government.
Beside GTR (Government Transportation Request), which is being phased out as a method of payment, a new law was introduced in 1998, to mandate the use of charge cards to pay for travel expenses; thus the GSA SmartPay was introduced.
The SmartPay cards are uniquely numbered for recognition as Government issued charge cards. Cards issued to agencies or organizations are called CBA (Centrally Billed Accounts- liability rest with the government) and those issued to individuals are called IBA (Individual Billing Accounts- liability rests with the individual).
Enhancements & benefits of using these cards include: one method of payment, minimize cash advances, Electronic Payments to vendors and Electronic reimbursement to travelers, tracking data, faster transactions, new look with anti-misuse / abuse features & increased security methods such as email supervisor once card is used. Airlines will only issue tickets with Government/military fares against these cards.
Frequent Flyer Program:
Government employees are allowed to accumulate either miles on airlines or points at hotels/cars.
Whoever wants to be a travel manager or a government travel professional must have a ticketing/reservation background and master all the information mentioned above from all the sources that deal with government travel from web training to access to all the government travel rules published. He should have high ethics and communicate clearly and effectively with all government individual travelers and branch managers. Well versed in dealing with the DTS/ETS SYSTEMS for authorization and issuance of vouchers.
By: Metri Altwal