Comment of the day: Should state workers fly first class?

This, from reader Ah Ha,  is something I’ve often noticed and wondered about:

It seems to me that there ought to be a law, any airline ticket purchased by the State of Alaska for travel between Anchorage and Juneau or vice versa should only be valid for seats in rows 14 and higher. It also seems to me that there are a lot of State employee’s who are piling up miles and gold member benefits paid for by the State. What gives?

To take the discussion further: Why should state workers earn airline miles on their personal accounts when traveling on the state dime? How much money would it save if those miles went into a state pot and were used for travel?


21 thoughts on “Comment of the day: Should state workers fly first class?

  1. Ric

    Hey, the commenter that calls him or herself “for the record”, welcome to the real world. You won’t get any moans from the private sector for this. Like I said, welcome to reality.

  2. for the record

    Due to the nature of our state the majority of travel for classified employees is out to the bush on the combi planes so #1 there is no first class. Over the years all departments have had huge travel budget cuts but the same work still needs to be done. To stay in budget most employees now try their best to do one day trips. That means going out on a flight between 6 & 7am then returning on a flight between 9 & 10 at night (most times delayed by 1 or 2 hrs). Classified staff do not get paid for travel time. So if your work day on site is 8-6 that is our paid time. If your flight is delayed & you don’t get home until 1 or 2 in the morning the employee is still expected to be at work the next day by 8 am. If you need extra rest the employee must request personal leave ahead of time. Then for one day trips the per diem is taxed. The result is most jobs that require travel remain vacant for long periods of time. Or are filled by a person who thinks it is fun to travel & when reality hits they quit after 2 or 3 months. Those that are willing to work within this structure do so because they feel very connected to their job, the people they serve, & have a strong sense of public service. The last thing it is about is the air miles. Finally very few classified staff if any, travel enough in a year to gain enough miles for any type of free upgrades. Travel budgets just don’t allow it any more.

  3. State employee

    The state uses Easybiz through Alaska air. Both state and employee earns miles. And business entity can sign up for this.

  4. akmom

    Amanda: They also accrue miles earned through personal travel. It is not fair to characterize that they only accrue miles by official travel.

    While I was at the state, there was a proposal to separate business from personal travel. Alaska Airlines felt the process was too complex for them to care to deal with.

    For the record, I hated traveling for the State.

  5. Amanda Post author

    @AH HA. Many of the state workers do work awfully hard, many for much less than they would be paid in the private sector.

  6. ron

    If it’s a free upgrade, why not?
    Nonetheless, bringing up the subject makes sense as the state needs to look at travel policies and seek ways to reduce travel expenses. No state expense is too big or little to avoid fiscal review to determine if savings can occur. The university system, under the leadership of retired generals, has refused to join state contracts which means the careless and selfish waste of hundreds of thousands of dollars. I hope that Walker-Mallott make it known that the Captain Zero administration is gone and the new governor has the intestinal fortitude to stand up for the state’s interests. What a welcome change that’ll be.
    Maybe it would make sense to put a task force together of some business folks and former DOA types to come up with serious suggestions that would maxi$ize travel savings.

  7. AH HA

    @jon, if one chooses to take an exempt position there is really no cause to snivel about ‘long days’ since its the nature of the job.

  8. Lynn Willis

    Ah Ha is attempting to save money by a small gesture which, of course, will make absolutely no sense to a pampered Alaskan Legislator. More suggestions like this are needed. My suggestion is to now cancel any lease for office space provided to any legislator within 45 miles of the new multi-million dollar Anchorage LIO.
    These elected officials and self indulgent state employees should understand that soon enough Alaskans who are about to suffer the consequences of the unsustainable spending of the last four years will be seeking these state jobs and elected positions. I bet these unemployed folks will be willing to travel on a cargo pallet to secure financial security.
    This practice of luxury travel is great fodder for anyone wishing to campaign against the elite of the Alaska Legislature. Take a picture of your opponent in First Class as you pass him or her on your way to “steerage”. Just before you snap the photo ask them why are they sitting in that seat on the state dime or on miles accrued from official travel. That should catch the facial expression that will have the desired impact and be most usable. .

  9. Jon K

    Ah ha, many state employees that fly are exempt or non-exempt and don’t get overtime. When I was at the state, many of the people I worked with easily put in 60-80 hours a week with no overtime.

  10. AH HA

    Perhaps we can get one of Alaska Air’s experts to either confirm or deny this but it is my understanding that all tickets are not created equal with respect to how they will upgrade.

    For instance: A Category Y full fare fully refundable ticket will upgrade more often than cheaper fares do. I have been told by several State employee’s that the state allows purchase of these costly fares over the cheaper non refundable fares, even though they are not really needed and that this allows State Employee’s a chance to ‘game’ the state into paying for what amounts to a first class ticket, or something that is typically within just a few dollar of the cost of a fist class ticket.

    As far as the complaints of the ‘long days’ as justification, it is not. In nearly all cases, an employer is required to pay for an employee’s time portal to portal (CFR 786.33). If an employee chooses not to charge this work time to their employer then they have an ethical problem.

  11. Niggler

    Airlines strongly oppose letting employers pool their employees’ miles, they want these employees to have a reason for preferring one carrier over another.

  12. MBecker

    As a former state employee for three years back in the ’90s, I recall this issue. At the time, state employees were not allowed to accrue frequent flyer miles on employment-related flights. But, because employees often had to (and presumably still do) pay up front for relatively short-notice flights and then be reimbursed, compared with the added administrative costs tracking this minutia and establishing a method for the State of Alaska to globally accrue mileage, etc., a financial analysis determined it was MUCH cheaper to leave the FF program alone. The cost to the State is way less than the cost of accounting for every f…. ing flight mile.

  13. Dan Svatass

    Imposing this policy would help ensure that skilled, competent workers continue to steer clear of state employment.

    “I can get paid far less than I would in the private sector, will get terrible office space, will have my outside employment opportunities severely restricted, and won’t get frequent flyer benefits? Where do I not sign up?”

  14. Sandra

    I am a State employee and sit in the lap of luxury when I travel — up at 5a for a 7:30a flight, meetings and either the Cordova/Yakutat milkrun back or return on the plane that arrives here at 9:30p. Yup, I know you all envy me. Or getting stuck somewhere due to weather. Or traveling to a community where I get to sleep on a floor. I travel more on my own dime so if I am a state employee sitting in first class, I have paid. I realize there are many folks who travel more than I do but these trips aren’t always fun.

  15. Kate Consenstein

    When I worked for the legislature, Leg Affairs used EasyBiz which allows the agency and the traveller to both accrue miles for the flight. Legislators and staff were never authorized to book a first class ticket but many were later upgraded at the gate due to mileage plan status. Whether they choose to accept those upgrades is another matter.

  16. Anonymous

    @jon. Amanda here. Yes. They upgrade from their accounts which they can do because of miles they’ve wracked up traveling for the state.

  17. CeCe

    Why waste your time on this foolish question and rile people for little reason let the people in charge deal with it as they have a hundred times before

  18. Jon K

    I find it hard to believe that state workers purchase first class tickets on the state’s dime. I imagine these workers have received free upgrades from AK Airlines.

  19. kyle johansen

    I’ve seen the numbers run in the 90’s as staff and a few years back as a member. The answer from the Administration has always been that it is a recruitment tool for state employees. It is a fringe benefit to sweeten the public employee employment package. I believe the bargaining units were very protective of this benefit. I don’t believe it is negotiated, but a state policy from the 3rd floor. I don’t believe it is a insignificant amount either, although the attitude (usually) is “we ain’t gonna balance the budget doing little things like that…” Well, if we did a hundred little million-dollar thing, well it all adds up. haha.

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