Federal employees will continue to have discounted travel options when flying for official business, as the General Services Administration announced July 16 that it had awarded its $2.34 billion City Pair contract for fiscal year 2020.

“Year after year, GSA’s ‘Best-in-Class’ City Pair Program helps federal agencies save valuable taxpayer dollars by leveraging the government’s buying power,” said GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner Alan Thomas in a news release. “Through the GSA City Pair Program, we’ll be able to save taxpayers more than $2.71 billion, while still providing travel solutions that help agencies meet their missions.”

Starting Oct. 1, 2019, federal travelers will have the option of eight airlines awarded the FY2020 City Pair contract: United, American, Delta, Southwest, JetBlue, Hawaiian, Alaska and Silver Airways.

The City Pair program was started in 1980 as a means of negotiating lower fares for federal employees on government business and includes benefits, such as flexibility for multiple destinations, no advance purchase required and fully refundable tickets.

According to the GSA news release, the contract is expected to save the federal government next fiscal year with a 51 percent discount on commercial fares.

The rates are similar to the 2019 award of the same contract, but there was a time when the City Pair contract offered even greater percentage savings on commercial rates, such as a 70 percent discount offered by the contract issued for fiscal 2000. That contract also featured nearly double the number of airlines.

But, according to the GSA website, the number of markets offered by the program has increased substantially since its inception in 1980, starting with just 11 and expanding to approximately 12,000 today.