JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —
Beginning Oct. 1, the Defense Travel System is changing. Any authorization that includes air travel must be approved within 72 hours in advance of the trip start date to avoid airline reservation cancellation. This is due to the new policy being instituted by the airlines under the fiscal year 2013 General Services Administration City Pair Program contract.
According to Tracy Kreusler, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph supervisory transportation assistant, "the Defense Travel Management Office said this change is necessary to be in compliance with the new City Pair contract requirements starting next month."
Under the new policy, if an authorizing official does not approve an authorization within 72 hours of departure, the airline reservation will be canceled and the traveler will arrive at the airport without a ticket or a reservation in the airline's system. This applies to all City Pair and non-contract government flights that are either booked through DTS or through a Commercial Travel Office.
"What this means to our travelers is when making official travel plans, it is important both the traveler and the approving official make sure they are performing their required actions in a timely manner," Kreusler said.
Those travelers making travel plans within 72 hours of departure must have their authorization approved within 24 hours of creation to avoid cancellation.
Arriving at the airport without a ticket can impact the mission, travel funds and put unnecessary stress on the traveler. Travelers are not advised to rebook at the airline counter. Often, counter agents are not familiar with GSA's City Pair Program and may book the traveler on a full-price fare at a much higher cost due to the last minute booking. To rebook a flight, travelers should follow their normal travel ticket procurement process.
"The GSA City Pair program provides fully refundable tickets at a predetermined contract rate," Kreusler said. "When travelers arrive at the airport without a ticket, they risk being charged a higher cost fare. Being timely in processing their request in DTS will help to ensure proper cost for official travel."
In the near future, DTS will be modified to automatically send a notification to the traveler before cancellation occurs. Until this change can be implemented, travelers will not receive any notification.
"If you are ever in a situation like this, the best thing to do is call the 24-hour emergency number provided on your travel itinerary," Kreusler said.
In the current fiscal environment, where it is necessary to be conservative with travel budgets, monitoring the statuses of travel documents and ensuring travel authorizations are approved are the best ways to avoid unnecessary costs and stress associated with rebooking travel, Kreusler said.
Tips for travelers
· Monitor the status of travel authorization. If trip authorization hasn't been approved, contact the authorizing official immediately. If your AO is not available, contact the defense travel administrator.
· Ensure your Defense Travel System profile is current. Often, travelers forget to update their profile with new government travel credit card information.
· Check the status of your GTCC. Some organizations deactivate a traveler's GTCC if he/she is not scheduled for any travel.
· Cancel reservations as soon as you know the trip is canceled.
· Take your travel itinerary with you to the airport. If your reservation has been canceled, the itinerary will provide contact information for assistance and details to help you rebook.
Tips for Defense Travel Administrators
· Run the approved status report more frequently to assist travelers and AOs with travel that is "at risk" of cancellation.
· Run traveler status reports to notify agency coordinators which travelers are scheduled for travel to ensure GTCCs are activated.
· Run an accounts information report monthly to verify validity of GTCCs.
Tips for Approving Officials
· Monitor documents awaiting approval.
· Ensure a backup AO is designated.
Tips for Agency Program Coordinators
· Review the accounts information reports and advise DTAs regarding invalid GTCCs.
· Review the approved status report and ensure needed GTCCs are activated.