For those of us who travel on Uncle Sam’s dime, we are at the mercy of the GSA’s bidding war for routes between commonly traveled cities. Known as GSA City Pairs, the lowest bidding airline gets all the Government traffic between the two cities. While you don’t have to take the GSA City Pair, you must justify why you are not. If you can find the same fare, and in my experience many airlines will match the GSA fare, there generally is not a problem. If you need to take a more expensive fare, the excuse cannot be because you need to earn miles with another airline so have a good reason!
The bidding this year surprised me a little. My perception is that DL and AA were the low bidders for most routes. Some were really unusual, such as need a flight from DCA to JNU (Juneau, AK)? You would think that AS has a lock on this, but no DL was the winner. They won a lot of the State of Alaska flights in fact. Another surprise was the number of Southwest (WN) city pairs that were long haul. Going from DCA to SFO? WN was the winner. In total eight airlines won at least one route:United, American, Southwest, JetBlue, Delta, Hawaiian, Alaska, and Sun Country.
The Sun Country and Jet Blue are new (to me). Also, remember that the Fly American Act requires the fare be sold by an American airline, but you will commonly find yourself flying one of their code share partners. For mileage earning, note that these code share flights do not always credit to the airline you want. For example, a few years ago I flew a Delta ticketed flight from HNL to ICN (Seoul). The actual carrier (known as metal) was Korean Airlines. Normally, I can credit DL flights to AS, but not for this number flight.
Examine the routes that you think you will fly and this may help you decide which airline to concentrate your miles on in order to get status. For my new assignment in Oct., I expect to be taking a lot of flights to Europe and most of the city pairs from East Coast to Europe were won by AA. Normally, I credit AA flights to AS where I am already a Gold, but I am considering crediting to AA in order to get status and hopefully some upgrades. Check them out for yourself.
Here is a link to the new FY15 GSA City Pair spreadsheet. Note that Column N lists the fare so you can calculate the miles earned if you are flying UA or DL.
Here is a link to the current GSA City Pair site if you want to see the present fares good until 30 Sep.
You should also be aware of the benefits that go with flying a GSA fare:
The benefits of this service include:
- Fares priced on one-way routes, permitting agencies to plan multiple destinations;
- No advance purchase required;
- No minimum or maximum length stay required;
- Fully refundable tickets;
- Last seat availability;
- No blackout periods;
- Stable prices enabling travel budgeting; and
- Dual fares availability.