UCSD travelers get discount on airline ticket prices

People traveling on official UCSD business now have the option of purchasing airline tickets priced at discounted state fares.

State fares are state-contracted airfares for use by business travelers whose travel expenses are paid for by either the state of California or the University of California. They are limited to certain city pairs designated by the state and can be purchased through UCSD’s partner agency, Balboa Travel. Discounted rates are available for 263 city pairs.

Employees, students and nonemployees traveling to or from UCSD on business are eligible for the discounted rates. This includes nonsalary employees, teaching assistants, students going to conferences and visitors invited to UCSD, according to Dawn McDevitt, travel program coordinator for Balboa Travel.

According to Disbursements Division Manager Faye McCullough, UCSD business travel specifically refers to “”authorized travel that accomplishes a bona fide university purpose.””

Nonbusiness travel, such as leisure travel for students, does not apply to the contracts, McCullough said.

State fares are less restrictive airline tickets purchased online. There are no restrictions for advance purchasing, and tickets are fully refundable.

They are not, however, always the cheapest rates available and are also limited to United and Southwest Airlines. Those considering using state fares are encouraged by the travel providers to compare prices and look for special Internet promotions first.

“”We want to make sure people are looking at all options,”” McDevitt said, “”not just jumping into it.””

University Events Business Manager Judi Griffith cited the school’s tight budget as reason not to use the state fares.

“”We’re trying to save the university money,”” Griffith said. “”So why would we use [the state fares] when we can get cheaper prices on the Internet?””

Griffith herself considered using the state fares for a flight from San Diego to Oakland, Calif. Comparing state fares and Internet fares, she found cheaper prices online.

Student Organizations Accounts Specialist Sandy Ray, a former employee of the University Travel Accounts Office, warned that Internet prices are unstable and can change as seats fill up on a flight. She said she knew of one occasion in which an airline ticket fare on the Internet went up $200 within one hour.

Ray further noted that when comparing state fares with Internet fares, it is important to look at the prices for the same flight time, not just flights on the same day with the same destination. Also, the later a flight is booked, the higher the online rate. In this aspect, state fares are preferable over Internet fares.

Ray also believes that for those who travel frequently, going through Balboa Travel and using state fares is probably easier.

The state has had a contracted airfare program for specific city pairs for several years, McCullough said. This past year, the University of California Office of the President advised that this program be made available to UC campuses.

The most popular destinations for UCSD travelers are San Francisco and Oakland. Using state fares, a roundtrip ticket from San Diego to San Francisco costs $134; to Oakland, $168. These prices do not include a service fee of $15 or other applicable fees.

More information on state fares can be found on the World Wide Web at http://blink.ucsd.edu/go/statefares.