8/6/13

Flying to Lower Volunteer Commitments: Exciting Changes to WorldTeach Costs & Services


For 27 years we have offered our volunteers the service of booking a round trip air ticket from a U.S. departure city to the country where they volunteer. When we started, it made sense to offer this service. In the 80’s booking an international flight was not the three clicks and instant confirmation that it is today. Air travel was less straightforward and especially less so to the areas of the world where we work. Booking a ticket to Ecuador or Namibia required savvy travel expertise. Through the years, we have continued to offer this service despite many similar organizations' reluctance to and despite the rise in ease in international travel.

After examining trends among our volunteers and experiencing large fluctuations in air travel costs in recent years, however, we have decided to revise our execution of this service in response to volunteers’ needs. The trend among volunteers to choose to travel independently and opt out of the WorldTeach group round trip air ticket has been steadily increasing. We view this increase as an indication that our volunteers are more versed in international travel and comfortable and competent at booking their own travel. Secondly, since 2009, the airline industry has undergone big changes which has resulted in steadily increasing fares. The consolidation of the industry, decrease in competition, increase in airline fuel costs, and added taxes and security fees in the wake of the recession have driven prices upward. For example, the average price of airfare for international flights went up 23 percent between 2009 and 2010. Meanwhile, the volunteer commitment of our programs has largely stayed the same. Also, in the past WorldTeach was able to obtain great rates for group tickets with flexible conditions - two things that were unavailable to an individual booking his or her own ticket. Unfortunately, group rates are no longer more affordable than an individual ticket and flexible conditions are available for single tickets. In short, the cost savings that used to occur for volunteers when WorldTeach booked group tickets no longer happens. As such, we are rolling out a revision to the costs & services of WorldTeach programs, with the first changes starting in February 2014.

This revision will allow our organization to be more cost effective and efficient, thereby allowing us to serve our volunteers better. It will also provide several benefits to volunteers including flexibility and a reduced commitment fee for several of our programs. Let me explain.

Summer programs will remain as they always have. Most volunteers in these programs still travel on the group ticket and the ability to book round trip travel without having to change the return ticket date and incur change fees and differences in airfare makes booking these tickets easy on us and easy on volunteers. The volunteer commitment will stay the same and we will continue to book round-trip group travel from a US departure city to country. Summer volunteers may still choose to opt out and travel independently, as they have always been able to.

Likewise, funded programs (currently our programs in Micronesia, Marshall Islands, American Samoa, Bangladesh, and Vietnam) will also remain as they always have. The entire contribution that supports these programs comes from our in-country partners and thus the cost of airfare cannot be split out and reduced from the volunteer contribution. The volunteer deposit will stay the same and we will continue to book round trip group travel from a US departure city to country. Volunteers in these programs may still choose to opt out and travel independently, as they have always been able to.

For yearlong and semester programs where volunteers contribute (currently our programs in Thailand, Namibia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Tanzania, Ecuador, Chile, India, and Guyana) we will no longer offer the service of booking a round-trip airfare ticket. We will, however, lower the volunteer commitment accordingly. The chart below outlines the timeline for implementing these changes as well as the new volunteer contribution by program. A few benefits that result as an outcome of these changes are:
  • Affordability: First, the contribution is lower. Secondly, volunteers booking their own travel will be able to use frequent flier miles of their own, or miles donated by family and friends, for the entire international length of the trip. This diversifies options that volunteers have for fundraising and is often an easier contribution for family and friends to make. Additionally, it is usually cheaper to book one ticket from volunteers’ hometowns to their country of service rather than a volunteer purchasing the domestic ticket and WorldTeach purchasing the international ticket.
  • No more re-checking bags!: In the past, volunteers booked their domestic flights from their hometowns to the US departure city. WorldTeach booked the flight from the US departure city to country. Often, those two flights would not be on the same airline and volunteers would have to fly their domestic leg, disembark, collect their luggage, check in to their international flight, check their bags in, and go back through security to the gate. Now, volunteers can book direct flights from their hometown or at the very least they can book the ticket as one itinerary on the same airline and thus avoid the hassle of re-checking bags.
  • Autonomy when the unexpected happens: Inevitably, with nearly 500 volunteers traveling throughout the year, many of our volunteers encounter weather related delays or other external circumstances that prevent them from being able to arrive to the departure city on time for the group flight. When this happens, not only do they need to reschedule their domestic flight, but they also have to coordinate with WorldTeach to reschedule their international flight. Having two separate tickets means higher costs for rescheduling and less understanding on the part of the airlines when the passenger is delayed on a different airline. With volunteers booking their entire length of travel on one airline, fees will no longer be doubled and volunteers will be able to more quickly arrange new plans, without having to coordinate with WorldTeach as the middleman.
We recognize that this is a big change, however, we do strongly believe that this is better for our volunteers and better for the organization as a whole. It will improve our organizational capacity and we hope that it will position our programs as a more attractive choice to even more people. More volunteers serving with WorldTeach means that we can have an impact on that many more students. More teaching and more learning? Now that’s something that we can stand behind and we hope you’ll stand with us too.

- Cara Abel, WorldTeach Director of Communications & Marketing

If you have any questions about this change, please don’t hesitate to write us at info@worldteach.org or give us a call at 857-259-6646. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have!

Program, Departure Month
2013
2014
2015
Thailand Year, October
$4990 (round-trip airfare from US departure city included)
$3590 (no airfare included)
$3590 (no airfare included)
Namibia Year, December
$5990 (round-trip airfare from US departure city included)
$3990 (no airfare included)
$3990 (no airfare included)
Colombia Year, January & July
January: $2500 (round-trip airfare from US departure city included)


July: $2500 (round-trip airfare from US departure city included)
January: $2500 (round-trip airfare from US departure city included)

July: $1250 (no airfare included)
January: $1250 (no airfare included)



July: $1250 (no airfare included)
Costa Rica Year, January
$5490 (round-trip airfare from US departure city included)
$5490 (round-trip airfare from US departure city included)
$4590 (no airfare included)
Tanzania Semester, January
$3990 (round-trip airfare from US departure city included)
$3990 (round-trip airfare from US departure city included)
$2390 (no airfare included)
Ecuador Year, February & September
February: $5490 (round-trip airfare from US departure city included)


September: $5490 (round-trip airfare from US departure city included)
February: $4590 (no airfare included)



September: $4590 (no airfare included)
February: $4590 (no airfare included)



September:$4590 (no airfare included)
Chile Year, March
$4990 (round-trip airfare from US departure city included)
$3590 (no airfare included)
$3590 (no airfare included)
India Year, May
$4990 (round-trip airfare from US departure city included)
$3590 (no airfare included)
$3590 (no airfare included)
Namibia Semester, June
$4990 (round-trip airfare from US departure city included)
$3290 (no airfare included)
$3290 (no airfare included)
Tanzania Year, June
$5990  (round-trip airfare from US departure city included)
$3990 (no airfare included)
$3990 (no airfare included)
China Year, August
$1,000 with a $1,000 deposit (round-trip airfare from US departure city included)
$500 deposit (no airfare included)
$500 deposit (no airfare included)
Guyana Year, August
$2500 (round-trip airfare from US departure city included)
$1690 (no airfare included)
$1690 (no airfare included)


 

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