I'm not sure how everyone else does it, but at the State Department we have to book our flights through a travel system called E2, run by a company called Carlson-Wagonlit. Besides being difficult to use, this system charges ridiculous amounts for flights. I recently booked a trip from the Global Financial Service Center in Charleston, SC to Washington DC and back again. E2 price? $1400. The same flights were available on Expedia for $253.
If we allowed government employees to search for the best prices, book and pay for their own flights and then reimburse them after the trip is complete (as we do with hotel rooms and other expenses) we would save money on travel.
I know there are some regulations regarding flights that the E2 system supposedly helps us follow (such as the Fly America Act) but I don't see why we can't just learn the policies and book flights that follow the rules. It's just not that hard.
Bottom line is this: if we promise to only book flights through E2/Carlson-Wagonlit, they have no incentive to provide us with the best rates. We've given them a monopoly on government air travel....why?