Government Travel Super Saver Fares

» Posted by on Oct 3, 2014 in Airlines, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

My interest in the travel industry began many years ago. My ultimate goal was to find a position within the airline industry. At the time, the industry was going through a tough time so a job with the airlines was not “in the cards” for me. When my circumstances changed and I moved to the Washington, DC area, the opportunity arose for a part-time position with the airlines as a reservations sales agent. I worked for Piedmont/US Airways until the reservations center was closed. I was then employed with United Airlines until I relocated to a different state. This was more of a “fun” job for me; the travel benefit alone at that time was sufficient compensation for me. I was eager to learn everything about the airlines, airline reservation policies and procedures in particular, and it has helped me in many ways.

My current position with the U.S.Postal Service does provide me with another opportunity to work with the airlines as well as travel on occasion. My biggest concern of late is the government fares in the cities that I have traveled to. In November of 2008 I traveled on official business to Traverse City, Michigan. The government rate at that time was approximately $400.00. I received authorization at that time to utilize an economy rate (I still refer to them as Super Saver fares from my airline reservations days!) of $201.00. This fare difference really amazed me even though I know how the industry works; more frequently–traveled and popular destinations have lower rates.

Within the Postal Service, we are able to use restrictive fares with the authorization of our managers. Most managers are cautious about providing this authorization due to that term “nonrefundable.” In most cases it works out when a change just occurs on the return since that fee is generally $50.00 and that is still lower than the government rate. I have had occasion to change my government rate return flight and was surprised at the additional fees that were charged on a “supposedly unrestricted” fare.

I checked the Fare Rules for the major airlines (American, Delta/Northwest; United and U.S. Airways) and all of them had brief explanations of their “Terms and Conditions” as noted below (from U.S. Airways) on the ticket purchase page 

Terms and Conditions

  • Ticket is non-transferable.
  • Ticket is non-refundable.
  • Unused tickets must be cancelled by midnight on the date of departure to retain value.
  • Any change to this reservation (including flight, dates, or cities) is subject to a $150.00 change fee per passenger. The new itinerary will be priced at the lowest available published fare at the time of change, which may result in a fare increase.
  • Ticket expires one year from original date of issue. Unflown value expires one year from original date of issue.
  • Checked baggage fees may apply.
  • Changes to the country of origin are not permitted, except for changes between the United States and U.S. territories.
  • All fares are subject to change until purchased.
  • Airline Ticket Protector purchase is a separate credit card transaction billed by Access America. Any claims and questions will be processed by Access America.

However, when one looks at the detailed explanation, it is amazing how complicated (and long!) the rules and restrictions are. Basically, when a passenger changes/cancels a nonrefundable ticket prior to travel, the amount of the ticket can be used for future travel less a $150 service fee. Depending on the frequency of the government traveler, this could be a difficult situation. Of course there is the option of purchasing Trip Cancellation/Interruption insurance but one can only imagine how complicated the procedures would be for that!

I would propose some kind of new government fare with a Super Saver option. That way, employees traveling on official government business would not have to request a special permission to use that fare. This may work out best in the less-traveled markets. However, I do have a friend who is a government employee with another agency and I discussed this topic with him. This employee traveled fromWashington to Pittsburgh and the government rate was unusually high. Other city pairs that had high government rates were DCA–EWR and DCA–MSP. As my friend explained to me, it was cheaper to fly from Washington to San Jose than Washington to Newark! He also recommended that I check the GSA city pair website ( for city pair information. I have utilized the GSA website in my current position for per diem and mileage rates but have never checked it for any other information. In checking the city pair website, the FY 2010 rate from IAD–PIT was just $195 and from DCA–PIT was $551.00! What a difference.

Travel has been drastically reduced in our organization due to our financial situation. The same thing is occurring in so many other federal offices as well. When you look at these government rates, it is clearly evident that something could be done to reduce the cost of air travel for government employees. During this critical economic situation for government organizations, there are always situations where a personal site visit or meeting is valuable and cannot be overlooked. As you talk with those who traveled before September 11, 2001, most people do not look forward to even traveling by air any longer. I for one still enjoy travel and hope some changes can be made.

Joyce Wahoski, USPS Stamp Development

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