Idea of state airline service didn’t pan out
The idea of saving money on thousands of trips between Reno and Las Vegas by setting up an air service for state workers just didn’t pencil out, according to Deputy Purchasing Director Kimberlee Tarter.
The idea was proposed in April and purchasing decided to issue a Request for Proposal to see what airline companies would come up with.
“It was an idea that was definitely worth looking at,” said Tarter. “It was important to us to make sure when somebody offered the idea, that there wasn’t something out there that would better serve our needs and reduce costs.”
They were hoping to reduce the use of Southwest, which cost the state $3.1 million for 31,450 flights between Reno and Las Vegas in 2007.
And Tarter said the state received responses to the idea.
“After looking at the options, it really came down to the fact that we weren’t able to come up with something to provide greater cost savings to the state than Southwest Airlines.
She said California went through a similar process and also decided to remain with Southwest.
“We canceled that solicitation after looking at the proposals,” she said. “They (Southwest) continue to provide the lowest fares and most reliable service with the greatest number of flights.”
Tarter said the best rates the state gets is about $49 each between Reno and Las Vegas. But she said that’s for flights booked 21 days in advance. Flights booked with just one day’s notice, she said, cost about $250 for a round trip between north and south.
Department heads are mandating that, except in emergency situations, all travel be planned well in advance to get that rate.
“With what happened with the budget, it’s more important to utilize that low fare option,” she said.
She said the budget shortfall has dramatically changed how most agencies handle travel.
“You don’t need to travel,” she said. “We’re doing a lot more committee meetings by way of teleconference.”
Andrew Clinger, director of administration, said video-teleconferencing equipment has gotten so much better over the past few years that it’s not necessary to travel as much anymore. He cited a recent meeting of the Interim Finance Committee to discuss budget cuts which was video-cast from sites in Reno, Carson City, Las Vegas and Elko. None of the lawmakers and other state officials involved had to travel to attend and participate.
As a result, the total number of state-purchased flights is expected to be down significantly this year.
Clinger said he doesn’t see that changing even after the economy recovers and the state’s financial picture improves.
Many agencies cut travel to reduce spending this year, using video teleconferencing instead. He said that money won’t be put back into budgets and he expects the video conference to become the norm.
“If it’s not part of their core business, we’ve told them not to restore travel,” he said.
– Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.