B-103315.OM, APR 21, 1980

B-103315.OM: Apr 21, 1980

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Edda Emmanuelli Perez
(202) 512-2853
EmmanuelliPerezE@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

YOUR REQUEST IS BASED ON YOUR BELIEF THAT SIGNIFICANT SAVINGS COULD BE ACHIEVED BY OUR BANGKOK OFFICE THROUGH THE USE OF DISCOUNTED AIRLINE TICKETS ISSUED BY TRAVEL AGENTS. THE UNITED STATES AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (AID) AND THE UNITED STATES EMBASSY IN BANGKOK ARE ALREADY UTILIZING BANGKOK TRAVEL AGENTS. YOU BELIEVE THAT THE USE OF DISCOUNT TICKETS MAY NOT ALLOW FOR OPEN-ENDED RETURN TRIP TICKETS FOR WITHIN COUNTRY WORK AND THAT TRIPS MAY HAVE TO BE MADE WITHOUT THE OPTION OF SHORTENING OR EXTENDING THE VISIT. RESERVATIONS ARE CHANGED. OR MAY HAVE TO STAY IN THE COUNTRY LONGER TO AWAIT A SPECIFIC FLIGHT OR AIRLINE. THE USE OF TRAVEL AGENTS WILL ALSO REQUIRE A CHANGE IN THE METHOD OF BILLING THE GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REQUEST (GTR) FOR THE BANGKOK OFFICE.

B-103315.OM, APR 21, 1980

B-103315-O.M., USE OF TRAVEL AGENTS BY OUR BANGKOK OFFICE

DIRECTOR, ID:

YOU REQUEST AN EXCEPTION FROM OUR REGULATION CONTAINED IN 4 CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS (CFR) 52.3 (1980), WHICH RESTRICTS USE OF TRAVEL AGENTS TO PROCURE OFFICIAL TRAVEL. YOUR REQUEST IS BASED ON YOUR BELIEF THAT SIGNIFICANT SAVINGS COULD BE ACHIEVED BY OUR BANGKOK OFFICE THROUGH THE USE OF DISCOUNTED AIRLINE TICKETS ISSUED BY TRAVEL AGENTS, INSTEAD OF CONTINUING THE EXISTING PROCEDURE OF PURCHASING FULL FARE TICKETS ISSUED BY BRANCH OFFICES AND GENERAL SALES AGENTS FOR AMERICAN FLAG CARRIERS FOR TRAVEL TO LOCATIONS OTHER THAN THE UNITED STATES OR WITHIN THAILAND. YOU ALSO STATE THAT BASED ON OUR DECISION IN 57 COMP.GEN. 644 (1978) AUTHORIZING SUCH ACTION, THE UNITED STATES AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (AID) AND THE UNITED STATES EMBASSY IN BANGKOK ARE ALREADY UTILIZING BANGKOK TRAVEL AGENTS, WHERE POSSIBLE, AND ACHIEVING SAVINGS IN TRAVEL COSTS.

IN YOUR REQUEST, YOU ANTICIPATE SEVERAL PROBLEMS IN UTILIZING DISCOUNTED AIR FARES PECULIAR TO THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE (GAO). FIRST, YOU BELIEVE THAT THE USE OF DISCOUNT TICKETS MAY NOT ALLOW FOR OPEN-ENDED RETURN TRIP TICKETS FOR WITHIN COUNTRY WORK AND THAT TRIPS MAY HAVE TO BE MADE WITHOUT THE OPTION OF SHORTENING OR EXTENDING THE VISIT. RESERVATIONS ARE CHANGED, THE GAO TRAVELER MAY FORFEIT HIS DISCOUNT AND REQUIRE ADDITIONAL FUNDS TO MAKE UP THE DIFFERENCE FOR A FULL FARE, OR MAY HAVE TO STAY IN THE COUNTRY LONGER TO AWAIT A SPECIFIC FLIGHT OR AIRLINE. THIS, IN TURN, MAY RESULT IN A CONFLICT WITH THE FLY-AMERICA ACT BECAUSE AMERICAN-FLAG CARRIERS MAY BE AVAILABLE ON THE NEW DEPARTURE DATE. THE USE OF TRAVEL AGENTS WILL ALSO REQUIRE A CHANGE IN THE METHOD OF BILLING THE GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REQUEST (GTR) FOR THE BANGKOK OFFICE, SINCE THE PURCHASE OF THE DISCOUNT TICKETS WILL REQUIRE A BANGKOK BILLING ADDRESS ON THE GTR AND PAYMENT IN THAI CURRENCY (BAHT).

WE BELIEVE OUR DECISION IN 57 COMP.GEN. 644 PROVIDES THE PRECEDENT TO AUTHORIZE YOU TO PURCHASE OFFICIAL PASSENGER TRAVEL FROM TRAVEL AGENTS WHERE AMERICAN-FLAG CARRIERS CANNOT FURNISH THE TRANSPORTATION AND IT IS ADMINISTRATIVELY DETERMINED THAT SUBSTANTIALLY LOWER AIR FARES ARE OFFERED THROUGH THE TRAVEL AGENTS. SEE, ALSO, 47 COMP.GEN. 204 (1957). EVIDENTLY, WITH REGARD TO AIR TRAVEL, UNLIKE TRAVEL AGENTS IN THE UNITED STATES, TRAVEL AGENTS IN THAILAND MAY SELL TICKETS AT A LOWER RATE THAN THE CARRIERS, SO THAT USE OF TRAVEL AGENTS CAN RESULT IN SAVINGS TO THE TRAVELER. AS WE UNDERSTAND YOUR MEMORANDUM, IT IS YOUR DETERMINATION THAT SUBSTANTIAL SAVINGS WILL ACCRUE TO THE GOVERNMENT IF OFFICIAL PASSENGER TRAVEL IS PURCHASED FROM TRAVEL AGENTS INSTEAD OF FROM THE BRANCH OFFICES AND GENERAL AGENTS OR AMERICAN-FLAG CARRIERS WHICH DO NOT FURNISH ANY PART OF THE ACTUAL TRANSPORTATION.

HOWEVER, THE DECISION IN 57 COMP.GEN. 644 ALSO STATES THAT THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE FLY AMERICA ACT, 40 U.S.C. SEC. 1517 (1976) MUST BE FOLLOWED, WHERE APPLICABLE. CONGRESS GRANTED THE STATE DEPARTMENT AND AID A STATUTORY EXEMPTION FROM THE FLY AMERICA ACT FOR GOVERNMENT FINANCED AIR TRAVEL PERFORMED ON FOREIGN-FLAG AIR CARRIERS BETWEEN TWO PLACES BOTH OF WHICH ARE OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES. SECTION 706 OF THE FOREIGN RELATIONS AUTHORIZATION ACT, FISCAL YEAR 1979, PUB. L. 95-426; SEE 6 FOREIGN AFFAIRS MANUAL FOR IMPLEMENTING REGULATIONS. THIS MAY EXPLAIN WHY STATE AND AID HAVE BEEN ABLE TO UTILIZE THE DISCOUNT FARES MORE READILY WITHOUT CONFLICTING WITH FLY AMERICA REQUIREMENTS. OUR EMPLOYEES WOULD STILL HAVE TO COMPLY WITH FLY AMERICA REQUIREMENTS, SEE, GAO OPERATIONS MANUAL PROCEDURES, VOLUME III 0300 WHICH INCORPORATES THE FEDERAL TRAVEL REGULATIONS 1-3.6(B), AND 4 CFR SEC. 52.2 (1980). THUS, AMERICAN-FLAG CARRIERS GENERALLY MUST BE USED WHERE THOSE CARRIERS CAN PERFORM ALL OR ANY PART OF THE TRANSPORTATION. SEE 57 COMP.GEN. 644.

GIVEN THAT YOU ANTICIPATE SOME DIFFICULTY IN IMPLEMENTING YOUR PROPOSAL TO USE DISCOUNT FARES, WE BELIEVE IT IS ADVISABLE TO ONLY GRANT AN EXCEPTION UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES STATED FOR 1 YEAR. AT THE END OF THAT PERIOD, AFTER YOU HAVE HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO EVALUATE THE MERITS OF YOUR PROGRAM, WE WOULD THEN CONSIDER GRANTING THE BANGKOK OFFICE A PERMANENT EXCEPTION. ALSO, IN THIS WAY, WE BELIEVE OUR INTERNAL POLICY CONCERNING USE OF TRAVEL AGENTS WILL GENERALLY BE CONSISTENT WITH THE PROCEDURES FOR GRANTING EXCEPTIONS FROM 4 CFR 52.3 SET FORTH IN OUR CIRCULAR LETTER ADDRESSED TO ALL FEDERAL AGENCIES DATED AUGUST 20, 1979.