The Feds Flying First, Fuel Dumps Explained, Plinking Office Supply Stores After March 11, and Lufthansa’s New Premium Economy (Bits ‘n Pieces for March 5, 2014)

News and notes from around the interweb:

  • The US federal government spent at least $8.7 million on 1,903 premium cabin trips over 2 years. Though the report is meant to spark outrage, I’m surprised the amounts are so low. Regular readers won’t see me as a defender of the US federal government — but if you believe the government functions involved are appropriate, then premium cabin travel may sometimes be appropriate as well. I certainly don’t begrudge business class to South Africa and Kuwait. (HT: @esoskin)

  • Lufthansa is adding premium economy to its long haul fleet. Seats will have 38 inch pitch (think domestic first class) and a bit over an extra inch of width. Conversions are expected to be complete by early 2015. Passengers will receive plated meals, an extra checked bag, and an amenity kit.

  • While Plink Rewards is losing Staples as an earning partner of March 11, they will pick up Office Depot the next day.

  • Fuel dumps explained (in response to three reader questions I got yesterday).


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. The numbers about Fed premium travel can’t be right given the size of the Federal Government. I have experience with this, and even 1 branch of one Cabinet-level Department probably produces those numbers.

    Still, in my experience, the US Government actually does quite a good job of trying to control air expenditures relative to the private sector. Very, very few employees are entitled to purchase premium travel. Even most US Govt contractors are no longer reimbursed anything more than the YCA contract fare. Those contractors may still choose to fly their employees business class, but in most cases it is the contractor who covers the difference.

  2. Gary: I am a US diplomat who has been posted overseas to both Beijing and Jakarta, and we do NOT get business class even when moving our entire family from the US to the other side of the world with all of our possessions – and we are expected to show up to work the very next day ready to begin a new life and new two to four year assignment. It is almost impossible to get business class authorized in the State Department unless you’re an ambassador or have serious health conditions that mandate it.

  3. @Daniel M – yes, I do realize that business class under 14 hours is really tough to get, I guess my point was that I don’t have a problem with a more generous premium cabin policy than exists. So it’s not at all shocking to me that there’s business class tickets being purchased, as the story seems to want to gin up.

  4. @Gary. Thanks for clarifying. I will note that even over 14 hours no longer gets business class in the State Department (I think as of 2008 or something), whether one is doing temporary duty or moving overseas for a long term assignment. The only provision if flying over 14 hours is that you get a rest stop (with per diem – hotel and meal expenses) along the way, but it’s still all in economy class!

  5. “Though the report is meant to spark outrage”

    If the following from that article doesn’t spark outrage, what would?

    “Several space agency employees flew from Oslo, Norway, to Tromso, Norway — a trip that should have cost $65. Instead, each flew business class for $4,668.

    Another NASA employee flew from Frankfurt, Germany, to Cologne, Germany, for $6,851 instead of $133, a flight that cost almost 52 times more than the coach fare.”

    Frankfurt to Cologne by train: Dep 09:29 Arr 10:32 total travel time: 1 hour 2 minutes. Fares as low as US$55. Compared to commuting to the FRA airport, going thru security, boarding, the flight itself, deplaning, transit from Cologne airport to downtown. Flying probably took 3 times as long as taking the train.

    The fact that this sort of thing is being done by NASA, the Commerce Dept, etc, while State Dept family relocations of 14 hours and more are forced to go coach, is utterly despicable.

  6. I work for the DoD and have been overseas for a while. It’s very frustrating to me that the DoD refuses to buy a business class ticket (17 hours in air to DC). I use my personal miles or GPUs to upgrade. Recently the gov travel agency put me in the “K” fare class, so I couldn’t upgrade on (United). Apparently, I was asking too much for my usual “Y” class. If I have to fly 17 hours and work as soon as I get in, it should be at least be Y if not biz, regardless if it is the government or not.

  7. @Robert – there’s something wrong with the report if they’re seeing intra-Norway tickets for more than $4000. It’s the reporting of the tickets, not the actual tickets, clearly. And no one in history has ever spent over $6000 to fly on a scheduled commercial flight between Frankfurt and Cologne. The article HAS TO BE wrong. Sure if it were true I would be shocked, but one way full fare business appears to be $565++…

  8. “one way full fare business appears to be $565++…”

    Even at $565, compared to a one hour city center to city center train ride for $55, 10X the cost without allowing for the commute to/from the airports, that’s still an outrage.

    State Department families relocating on 14 hour flights should be in Bus, NASA bureaucrats going Frankfurt to Cologne, with high speed trains leaving hourly all day long, should not be flying at all. Much less in a premium cabin….

    Even for those of us who don’t believe in AGW and hence aren’t concerned with “green house gas” (sic) emissions. While the official US government position is to reduce them as much as possible.

  9. @Robert Hanson – I’m not saying $565 is a good deal, for Frankfurt-Cologne in most cases take the train. I’m saying that if they’re reporting $4k for that ticket, there is simply something wrong with the way the data is being reported and you can’t draw any conclusions from that data point.

  10. There’s not a comment section on the web that doesn’t have some mis-informed outraged person on one Team grinding a misguided manufactured grudge against the other Team.

    Robert, can we please keep it out of the FF pages?!

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