The General Services Administration, trying to design an "efficient and manageable" system of scheduling travel and accommodations for federal employes, is giving a stomach ache to the airline trade group, the Air Transport Association. The ATA operates 33 Scheduled Airline Ticket Offices (SATOs) at federal installations under GSA supervision and 211 at military installations under the Defense Department. GSA believes a travel agent can meet its needs better than the ATA, which won't book conference halls and provide other services the GSA wants. As a test, GSA has contracted with eight travel agencies and is seeking six more.

Gabriel Phillips, ATA senior vice president for traffic services, has asked the General Accounting Office to see if GSA can do that. (Unless GAO grants a waiver, which it did in 1979, federal agencies are barred from using travel agents.) "We believe that GSA's approach goes beyond the scope of a test which GAO had recommended and that it, in fact, will result in the establishment of a full-fledged program long before a test is completed and results evaluated." GSA's Bob Springer said it is not the government's job to help the airline industry, but "to save the taxpayer money at every turn."