07 - 005 Air Travel, Domestic and Foreign

Please review Policy 07-001 Introduction to Travel for an overview of USNH travel policies. The procedures below provide more specific requirements related to Air Travel.

A.   COMMERCIAL AIR TRAVEL

Regardless of funding, USNH travelers should book the lowest-priced airfare available for both domestic and foreign travel, source by purchasing a non-refundable ticket classified as economy/coach class or lower taking into consideration the traveler’s schedule and routing efficiency. Refundable tickets or cost in excess of the economy fare will not be paid by USNH unless an exception has been approved prior to booking of the flight (see Policy 07-001 Introduction to Travel, section D.3, Authority to approve exceptions). If a traveler chooses an upgrade over the lowest-priced fare, the traveler will need to obtain documentation of the standard seat cost quote on the same flight to submit with their receipts. It is the responsibility of that individual to pay the difference between the lowest-priced fare available and the upgrade amount.

1.   Lower airfare may be possible if the traveler either departs a day early, stays an extra day, or stays over Saturday night. USNH will reimburse the additional lodging, meals, and other costs related to the overnight stay providing these costs do not exceed the amount saved on airfare. The related cost savings must be clearly documented. When possible, reservations should be made as far in advance as needed to take advantage of early purchase discounts. This is often one month in advance.

2.   USNH will not reimburse for the value of frequent flyer miles used for USNH travel.

3.   If the traveler uses an indirect route or interrupts travel via a direct route for personal convenience or vacation, any additional expenses above the lowest-priced fare available for a direct route will be borne by the traveler. The traveler should include a statement and documentation that supports the cost of the business portion of the trip.

4.   When the lowest-priced fare results in layovers of greater than two hours, a traveler may select a higher-priced fare as long as the incremental cost is reasonable. If travel is charged to a federally funded project, all flights must be in accordance with the Fly America Act (see Section D below).

5.   If a trip is cancelled for reasons beyond the control of the traveler (e.g., conference cancelled, etc.), USNH will pay for costs expended to date. Please see notice below regarding changes, cancellations and unused tickets charged to sponsored projects.

6.   USNH will reimburse travelers for common customary fees charged by an airline, such as booking fees for the flight, checked baggage fees, fee for a guaranteed standard seat when not included in the basic fare, or inflight internet access. It is important that these additional fees be considered when determining the lowest cost for the flight.

7.   USNH will not reimburse travelers for any costs associated with food or meals during a flight as these amounts are part of the employee meal and incidental per diem allowance.

8.   Personal use of any portion of a University purchased/reimbursed ticket is not allowed. Penalties imposed as a result of canceling a ticket or fees assessed for reissuing a non-refundable ticket may be reimbursed to the traveler if extenuating circumstances are documented in writing and approved by Campus CFO or designee.

B.   PRIVATE AND RENTAL PLANES

USNH travel by employees, via their personal aircraft or a rented/leased aircraft whether as pilots or passengers, is prohibited because USNH is not adequately insured for these risks. Any such travel costs will not be reimbursed. This does not include chartered flights (e.g. team travel) which may be authorized by the Campus CFO or designee.

C.   SPONSORED PROJECTS TRAVEL

1.   Changes, Cancellations, and Unused Tickets Due to Unforeseen Circumstances (including a government shutdown).

a.   Change Fees:  If a ticket has to be changed and a fee is incurred, the traveler may claim payment for the fee. The fee may be an allowable charge to a sponsored project based on the documented facts and circumstances. In the case of a shutdown, if the government sponsor cancelled the trip, the change fee is allowable.

b.   Cancelled Travel Costs: Travelers who have purchased tickets or incurred expenses for travel on sponsored programs which are subsequently cancelled are encouraged to rebook unused airfare and cancel lodging reservations and conference fees whenever possible. If the travel is not rebooked within the project period, then the expenses should not be charged to the sponsored program, but rather a university fund; unless the travel has been cancelled due to circumstances beyond the traveler’s control, e.g., a government shutdown. 

In these cases, appropriate documentation, including an explanation for the cancellation, must be included with the Personal Reimbursement Form or PCard Documentation.

2.   Foreign Travel

a.   Sponsor regulations regarding foreign travel vary. For this reason, all federally sponsored international travel must be pre-approved by the campus Sponsored Programs office.

b.   Requests for pre-approval should include the traveler's name, destination, cost, airline carrier (federal awards require U. S. flag carriers or carriers with an exception to the Fly America Act described below), source of funds, purpose of the travel, and ticket classification (e.g., the coach, business, first class, etc.). This information should be included when the traveler is requesting pre-approval.

c.   It is important to note that most federal sponsors do not allow travel on a non-U.S. flag carrier, regardless of cost savings. Project Directors should be aware of their sponsor's regulations regarding foreign travel. Awareness of the regulations up front could avert a possible foreign cost disallowance later. See Uniform Guidance, section 200.474 for rules pertaining to travel costs allocable to federally sponsored agreements.

3.   The Fly America Act

The Fly America Act mandates the use of U.S. flag carriers when traveling on funds provided by the federal government unless permitted exceptions exist. U.S. flag carriers are airlines owned by an American company. The choice to “Fly America” is made regardless of cost or convenience. Travel with a foreign air carrier must be necessary and meet the exception criteria defined by the Fly America Act.

a.   Federally sponsored trips must utilize U.S. flag carriers at the lowest available rates. Federal regulations prohibit the charging of business class or first-class air travel to federally sponsored projects. Travel should adhere to USNH travel procedures unless sponsor requirements impose greater restrictions. The Act does not apply to non-federally funded awards. If you are scheduling federally funded travel, unless a permitted exception exists, flights must be scheduled on U.S. flag carriers or on foreign air carriers that “code share” with a U.S. Flag carrier.

b.   Code sharing occurs when two or more airlines “code” the same flight as if it is their own. In other words, a U.S. airline may sell a seat on a plane of a foreign air carrier and this seat is considered the same as one on a plane operated by a U.S. flag carrier. Compliance with the Fly America Act is satisfied when the U.S. flag air carrier’s designator code is shown. If you believe that you were on a code share flight, but there is no documentation showing the carrier code, you cannot charge the flight to a federally sponsored project. If your travel was originally booked on a U.S. carrier and the air carrier involuntarily re-routed you to a non-U.S. air carrier, document this situation and the exceptional circumstances, your travel will be supported by federal funds. Permitted exceptions must be documented in advance with the Fly America Act Exception Form.

c.   It is necessary to present proof of a U.S. flag air carrier’s designator codes for all legs of a trip when traveling on federal funds. An air carrier’s designator code is present in the area next to the flight numbers on the airline ticket, boarding pass, or on the documentation for an electronic ticket (passenger receipt). There are several resources online which provide airlines and designator codes, be sure that the airline used is a major U.S. airline. The key to compliance is making sure the trip either complies, or is eligible for exemption, before the trip is taken. Reimbursement for foreign air carriers must be denied unless a foreign air carrier is permitted under this regulation.

d.   The biggest exception to the Fly America Act is the Open Skies Agreement. On October 6, 2010 the Unites States and European Union (EU) “Open Skies” Air Transport Agreement was published by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) providing full explanation of the multilateral agreement in place so that qualifying travelers, whose travel is supported by federal funds, may travel on European Union (EU) airlines as well as U.S. flag air carriers. There are also Open Skies agreements with Australia, Switzerland, and Japan. When traveling to a destination serviced by a European Union airline, USNH travelers flying on a federal grant can fly on either a US carrier or an EU carrier as long as they touch down in an EU Country.

i.    USNH travelers on federal Funds cannot use city-pair1 contracts
ii.   USNH travelers flying on a federal grant can use an Australian airline if the origin/destination is either the US or Australia and no city-pair contract flight between the two points (origin and destination) exists.
iii.  USNH travelers flying on a federal grant can us a Swiss airline if a point of origin/destination is either the US or Switzerland and no city-pair contract flight between the two points (origin and destination) exists.
iv.  USNH travelers flying on a federal grant can us a Japanese airline if a point of origin/destination is either the US or Japan and no city-pair contract flight between the two points (origin and destination) exists.
v.   Travelers using funding from U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) or Secretary of a military department such as the Air Force, Army or Navy, are not permitted to take advantage of the open sky agreements. Travelers using these funds must use a U.S. flag carrier, unless they qualify for a permitted exception of the Fly America Act. If you are unsure if an exception exists, contact the responsible accounting and financial compliance representative for the award.

Caution: The costs of travel subject to the Fly America Act that do not adhere to this federal regulation will be borne by the Principal Investigator’s department or will need to be transferred to a suitable non-federal funding source.

D.   AIRPORT BUSES, PARKING, SHUTTLES, AND TAXIS

1.   Travelers should use the most cost-efficient means of travel to and from airports, with due consideration for reasonable personal convenience and safety as well as USNH business concerns. Public transportation and carpooling are encouraged. If using Logan airport, travelers should use bus transportation when available.

2.   Travelers may use the "Park and Fly" parking lots at or near airports after consideration of the cost and convenience of alternative transportation. Cost savings of "Park and Fly" over alternative transportation should be documented for travel exceeding 10 days.

3.   Travelers departing from Manchester-Boston Regional Airport should use the most reasonable parking available while on USNH business.

4.   Travelers should use complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport if provided by hotels or conferences. Lacking such service, travelers should use other non-extravagant transportation such as regularly-scheduled shuttles, ride share services, buses, or taxis between airports and hotels. Auto rentals should be considered only in the absence of less expensive modes of transportation providing reasonable convenience.

5.   Travelers must document reasons why the lowest-cost mode of transportation was not used when requesting reimbursement for more expensive methods. Travel Expense Approvers must review the documentation for reasonableness with recognition given to the value of an employee's time, weather conditions, and other special circumstances.  If the Travel Expense Approver deems the explanation insufficient to support the higher cost, reimbursement should be made at the lower rate. Tips up to 15% of fare paid to taxi drivers are considered reasonable and may be reimbursed.

E.   USE OF USNH PURCHASING CARD

1.   Travelers not using a USNH Purchasing Card are required to pay for airfare and other airport transportation costs personally. They will be reimbursed after the trip for the actual cost or the lowest rate available whichever is less.

2.   Only business-related airfare and public airport transportation can be directly charged to a USNH Purchasing Card. Transportation modes that require a personal account such as Uber are not allowed on a USNH Purchasing Card. When combining a personal trip with a business trip, the entire airline ticket will need to be paid personally.

F.   ACCEPTABLE SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION

In addition to the required documentation described in section of Procedure 07-004 Travel Expense Reimbursement, to secure reimbursement for air travel cost, a traveler must:

1. Retain and submit all transportation ticket receipts
2. Submit documentation of reason(s) why lowest cost mode of transportation was not used, along with necessary pre-approval where applicable
3. Submit itemized receipts for parking, public transportation, shuttle service or taxi service to or from the airport. Refer to Procedure 07-004 Travel Expense Reimbursement, Section B., for receipt requirements.

The City Pair Program (CPP) is a federal program offering fares considerably lower than comparable commercial fares, saving the federal government billions of dollars annually. The program is restricted to federal or military employees on official travel, therefore USNH is not eligible to participate.


The official version of this information will only be maintained in an on-line web format. Any and all printed copies of this material are dated as of the print date. Please make certain to review the material on-line prior to placing reliance on a dated printed version.

This page last updated Friday, June 28, 2019. For information on the adoption and effective dates of policies please see explanation on the OLPM Main Menu.