Another great post from my friend Albert:
Techniques, Tactics, and Procedures (TTPs): Government Tickets and Travel.
Greetings, Fellow Travelers!
BLUF: Whether you use the Defense Travel System (DTS), CONCUR, or another
system for purchasing your USG airline tickets, you still have options to reap outsize
rewards for your work travels.
Today’s TTP is on finding benefits while traveling on government tickets.
Rule #1 for USG-purchased tickets for TDY, TAD, or PCS: if your USG organization
mandates purchases through an officially-sanctioned, USG-provided system, you must
use that system. Contract carriers and city-pair agreements take precedent over your
wants and desires, even when points and miles are concerned.
Rule #2: Do not break any ethical, regulatory, or legal processes when traveling on a
Rule #3: Always follow Rule #1 and Rule #2
Still, by knowing some key features of how tickets are purchase, fare classes, and seat
selection/upgrade rules, you can avoid the middle seat in Row 42!
On 31 July, I flew STR-IAD for my PCS. Delta is the contract carrier between these two
cities. While some—to include SATO—encouraged me to take the nonstop STR-ATL
Delta flight, in my experience, this flight is always full of families, contractors, and Delta
medallion members. Therefore, too much competition for flight benefits.
Prior to checking in with SATO to book my PCS ticket (for my ticket, I was required to
book through SATO), I checked DTS for availability of code share flights on KLM via
Amsterdam. Bought as a Delta ticket, I was able to route STR-AMS-IAD. From STR,
this route is my favorite as I prefer international connections via AMS. It’s one of the
easiest airports in which to transfer.
So already, I was ahead of the game, and with the flight information in hand, SATO
booked my preferred route…all within the rules.
Further, DTS and the other systems, provide you the fare class for the tickets. On this
date, with this route, my preferred flights were in fare class Y. Essentially, as far as
Delta’s computer was concerned, this was a “full-fare economy” ticket, even though the
USG paid only a fraction of what a civilian would pay. Fare class here is important
since Y class tickets earn a 50% bonus for Delta Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM)
based on miles flown. [Note: MQM go towards Delta elite status.]
On my AMS-IAD route, Delta calculated 3,867 mi + 1,934 mi (Y class 50%) for 5,801
Delta MQM. This is a healthy haul of elite miles inching me closer to the next level of
Delta elite status. Am I specifically chasing Delta elite status? Not really, but since
work has taking me to and from STR and IAD at least four times a year, using this
method, I’ve been able to reach Delta Gold status the past few years. Since I’m using
the authorized and mandatory reservation and purchasing system, DTS, to search out Y
fares for work travel, the bonus MQM are perfectly valid. No additional cost to the USG
for these flights.
BONUS TTP #1: if you’re a USG military or civilian member stationed overseas, be
sure to update your home address (e.g., APO, FPO) on all your frequent flier accounts.
Flyers with overseas addresses are waived the spending dollar requirements. Check
your favorite frequent flier programs for further details.
For another example, my first TDY in my new job took me to Wyoming via DEN. The
IAD-DEN flight was purchased in W fare class. While not the highly beneficial Y fare
class, W does offer some benefits for seat selection and upgrades.
Since I’m already United Gold, I was able to move my seat from the back of the
economy cabin into Economy Plus. Sadly, the only seats left were middle seat, never
my favorite option. However, W fares often, with availability, offer discount upgrade
options either with cash or miles. This flight offered a confirmed upgrade to United
Domestic First for $190 one way or 17.5K miles to be waitlisted into First.
I quickly paid the $190 (via my Chase Sapphire Reserve for 3x on travel!) and
confirmed a seat into First Class. There was no availability on the return trip, but as I
personally didn’t pay for the ticket—the USG did—$190 for a 3+ hour flight is money
While a First Class upgrade on the return never went below $631, I just set an Expert
Flyer seat alert for an Economy Plus (E+) aisle or window seat. Anything is better than
a middle seat IMHO. Luckily, a couple of days before my departure, a E+ window seat
became available. I enjoyed leaning on the outer wall to snooze for the 3+ hour flight.
I recommend each traveler set their own “pay threshold” for purchasing an upgrade with
cash or miles. If you have a reasonable max limit, you will always know when to snap
up a great deal or to let one pass.
BONUS TTP #2: sign up for as many airline (and hotel!!) loyalty programs you can
since even with a government ticket, you are free to earn miles and points on
In sum, traveling on a government-procured ticket has many responsibilities to included
ethical, regulatory, and legal. However, even within these rules and with some savvy
travel knowledge, you can reap some of your hard-earned rewards.
Albert Guerrero, USAF, Ret.
“Let’s Travel Farther, Together!”
Follow my travels on Instagram: @albert_traveler