Most government employees and military personnel attending the Forum will travel by air, using the government's GSA City Pairs program. Under this program, commercial passenger airlines bid for government travel by submitting rates between any two pairs of cities. For example, they quote a rate to the government for passengers traveling between Washington, DC and Atlanta; that rate is good for one year from the effective date of the contract. The government traveler has a lot of flexibility compared to industry counter parts--the rate is honored regardless of when a reservation is made, and it applies to any available economy class seat including the last seat available. Airlines are starting to challenge some provisions in the GSA City Pairs contract and are asking for changes. The government has resisted. With full planes on many routes, smaller planes, and less total planes in their fleets, many scheduled flights are filled. Some carriers are considering dropping out of the contract--not bidding in the future. GSA and the government (DOD as the largest user of this contract) should work with the airlines to find solutions to industry issues or risk "killing" the golden goose.
Many Forum attendees will also rent a car while in Charleston. The government rental car agreement is the best in the industry--better than a rental car company's best corporate client agreement. Each of approximately 20 participating car rental companies provides ceiling rates that prevent the government traveler from being "gouged" when demands are high. Each company adjusts rates below the ceiling rate to compete for business. For one daily rate, government travelers receive the loss and damage waiver and maximum liability insurance up to $300,000. Additionally, the government agreement lowers the normal age restriction on rentals from 25 years to 18. These are a few of the benefits.
Travelers require a place to stay. Hotels participate in lodging programs designed for the government traveler offering rates at or below per diem. Programs include Lodging Success Program (LSP), using locally negotiated rates at select locations; the Navy Elite Program, which books Navy Bachelor Quarter (BQ) rooms and, when not available, permits Navy travelers to book commercial lodging; and the FedRooms Program (formerly the Federal Premier Lodging Program), operated as a Business Process Outsource (BPO) by Carlson Wagonlit Travel. The challenge is to bring these programs together under one "umbrella" for the greatest benefit to the majority of travelers, hotels, and government agencies, who would enjoy increased buying power.
Traditionally, government travelers went to their base travel office to make flight, hotel, and rental car arrangements. The Defense Travel System (DTS) has changed the process by implementing a fully integrated, self-booking, electronic, end-to-end financial management system that automates temporary duty travel for the DOD. Professional travel agencies process DTS travel requests electronically, but assist when necessary. The system also provides for submitting the expense report and being paid for authorized expenses incurred during travel. DTS is available to support about 95 percent of all DOD business travel.
Naturally, implementation has posed challenges. I will not recount the many comments except to say that users I have spoken with indicate that the system is not user friendly--it takes a lot of time if you're not familiar with the process. If your supervisor isn't proficient in the system or responsive to your needs, a travel agent may be contacted who may not have the necessary background information for that particular trip. The DTS has addressed many user concerns and has recently released a comprehensive "Reservation Refresh Module" that brings a number of enhancements to the DTS, such as "Book As You Go" and "Flow Controller." On the positive side, it is a great tool for improved travel management, financial reporting, and budgeting.
The purpose of this month's column is to raise awareness about passenger travel issues among supervisors, managers, and organizational leaders. The nature of the industry is changing. Take advantage of the opportunities offered by the NDTA to learn about these changes--the PTSC Committee, professional session at the Forum in Charleston, the DTJ, and industry newsletters. Then share knowledge with those in the industry and stay current on those issues that directly impact your employees. Plan now to attend the Passenger Travel Services professional session during the Forum and get your questions answered.
And finally, continuing on a passenger note, this year for the first time an American flagged cruise line, Norwegian Cruise Line America, will be with us in the exhibit hall to present a luxurious cruise vacation to some lucky Grand Prize Drawing winner. Plan now to join us in Charleston, SC September 15-19, 2007.
Thank you for the great support of our nation. Thank you for your confidence in the Association and the daily contributions each of you make to ensure our success.
LTG Ken Wykle, USA (Ret.)
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|Publication:||Defense Transportation Journal|
|Date:||Aug 1, 2007|
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