Original Issuance Date: December 8, 2014
Last Revision Date: June 21, 2019

1. Policy Purpose

The objectives of this policy are as follows:

  • Define “lowest logical airfare” and standards for the purchase and payment of airfare, including utilization of UW System airline contracts.
  • Identify Concur as the contracted self-­booking tool and Fox World Travel Management Company as the sole sources for university sponsored air reservations.
  • Identify exemptions to the required reservation methods and use of contracts.
  • Reduce or contain UW System travel costs and increase service standards by:
    • Reducing ancillary airline fees (checked baggage, priority boarding, coach seat assignments, etc.) by utilizing contract airline carriers.
    • Obtaining process efficiency in making travel reservations.
    • Consolidating spending with contract airline carriers to achieve discounts, soft dollar savings, penalty waivers, additional carrier services and additional travel support.
    • Identifying those in travel status and providing “Duty of Care” notification and assistance in event of airline cancellation/delay or more significant emergencies.
    • Tracking and salvaging unused airline ticket values to prevent loss of university funds.
    • Increasing administrative efficiency and reducing expenses by standardizing administrative processes and enhancing data collection for airfare purchases and payment.
    • Clarifying airfare and related expenses that can be paid with university funds.
    • Identifying consequences to travelers, travel arrangers or departments who purchase airfare through alternative means.

2. Responsible UW System Officer

Vice President for Finance

3. Scope

This policy applies to faculty, staff, students, and nonemployees traveling for university sponsored purposes.

4. Background

This policy has been issued under the authority of the Board of Regents as it relates to the governance of university travel policies created under s. 36.11(56), Wis. Stats.

5. Definitions

University sponsored travel: University sponsored travel is defined by one or more of the following criteria:

  • paid for in full or in part by the university;
  • paid directly or indirectly by the university;
  • organized by the university with participants or sponsors paying;
  • organized by others outside the university and paid for by the university; and/or
  • sponsored by the university in the form of name, organization, communication, management, staffing, transportation, or space provision.

Independent study abroad: Programs provided wholly by international institutions of higher education or third-party affiliates.

6. Policy Statement

A. Purchasing Airfare

All travelers and those that arrange travel for others are required to make air reservations using business travel dates, schedules, direct routing and air carriers that will produce the most economical fare for the trip. When additional travel days are added because the traveler elects to combine personal days with business travel, the traveler is responsible for any additional costs resulting from adding nonbusiness travel days. A cost comparison must be done at the time of booking and attached to expense reports.

All airline tickets must be purchased at the “lowest logical airfare” available at the time of booking. The university’s definition of “lowest logical airfare” is the least expensive fare, plus or minus a minimum of one hour of the requested departure time, within the university’s price tolerance of $150, for a nonrefundable coach/economy ticket, as offered by the UW System’s contracted travel management company. Premium Economy tickets are allowed for international flights with 8 hours or more of total flight time.

The required methods for making any UW System sponsored airline reservation are with the UW System’s contracted travel management company agents or when utilizing the self-booking tool.

Note: While basic economy fares tickets are typically lower in price than economy fares, the highly restrictive nature of a basic economy fare often makes them an ill-advised choice for purchase. Please be sure to thoroughly review restrictions that come with a basic economy fare prior to booking. 

Most tickets purchased within the university’s travel program can be cancelled and voided without airline administrative processes or penalties up until 5:00 p.m. the next business day following purchase confirmation.

B. Exemptions to Policy

The following are exemptions to the required reservations methods and/or use of contracts:

  • NCAA Official Tournament Travel: Athletic travel for official NCAA Tournaments must be arranged through designated NCAA travel agency.
  • UW-Madison Athletics: Under ongoing delegation from UW System Administration, UW-Madison has contracted with a separate on-site travel agency to provide services, processes and requirements similar to the rest of UW System.
  • International Flights That Can Not Be Booked with Designated Travel Management Company or are Purchased Abroad (Outside the United States) for a Lower Cost: Though rare, some international airline tickets cannot be purchased with our contracted travel management company. For example, the UW System’s designated travel management company is not authorized to book flights to Cuba and some remote international carriers must be purchased in-country. If purchasing airfare abroad, the origin and destination must both be to international locations.
  • Independent Study Abroad: UW System students traveling for independent study abroad, as defined by this policy, are exempt and may make their own travel arrangements.
  • University Organized or Faculty Led Programs: When UW System students are traveling for the primary purpose of participating in a university organized or faculty-led program, UW institutions may authorize exemptions, thereby allowing students to travel on their own and first meet as a group at an international location, if all of the following are in place and documented:
    • The UW institution has formal internal guidelines that:
      1. identify a risk/opportunity threshold for participation or travel to specific destinations and
      2. provide a process by which the program leader can seek a waiver to the threshold from the institutional chancellor or vice chancellor, on behalf of all program participants.
    • A cross-functional committee is charged to oversee and implement the travel guidelines; review and formulate positions on related issues; and make recommendations or decisions on requests for groups to meet at international locations and requests for waiver to the guidelines. Waivers must be documented on a per program basis.
  • International Student Recruitment Tours, International Collaborative Projects and Diplomatic/Trade Missions: When recruitment tours, collaborative projects or diplomatic/trade missions are organized by a third-party provider or by another state or federal agency and that provider or agency is comprehensively making arrangements (air, ground transportation, lodging, meals, language support). All flights to the location where the tour, project or mission begins and all flights after the tour, project or mission concludes must be made within the UW System’s managed travel program. However, the UW System’s contracted travel management company is not required for in-country or in-region travel services during the tour, project or mission.

C. Application of Policy

When reserving air, travelers will be offered the lowest logical fares at the time of reservation and when a more costly flight is selected the fare difference will be recorded and reported as an exception. Exception reports are provided to the institution’s travel office on a monthly basis.

D. Policy of Non-compliance

Any airfare that is purchased outside of this policy will not be paid or reimbursed by the university.

E. Payable or Reimbursable Expenses

The following air related expenditures will be paid or reimbursed with university funds:

  • Agency fees and self-booking fees when travel is booked within the UW System managed travel program
  • All federal excise taxes
  • Advance coach/economy class seat assignment fees
  • Premium economy airfare when total international flight time is greater than 8 hours
  • Charges for overhead bin storage of carry-on bag
  • One piece of checked baggage – additional costs for extra or overweight baggage require justification of the added expense
  • Penalties or additional costs assessed for cancellations or changes outside the employee’s control with adequate justification. Some examples of allowable circumstances are:
    • cancelled conference/meeting or date changes
    • airline cancelled flight
    • serious unexpected illness or death of an immediate family member
    • traveler’s unexpected illness which did not allow the business trip to be taken or continued as planned

All airfare changes and cancellations must be made with the UW contract travel management company.

F. Non-Payable or Reimbursable Expenses

The following expenditures will not be paid or reimbursed with university funds:

  • Any airfare that is not purchased in accordance with this policy
  • Individual travel packages that combine airfare, lodging and/or car rental in any combination, not purchased through contract Travel Management Company
  • Business or First Class airfare
  • Additional costs for priority boarding
  • Additional costs for personal travel/side trips in conjunction with business travel
  • Additional costs for travel companions
  • Expenses for memberships and/or entry fees for airline club use
  • Expenses for flight insurance
  • TSA PreCheck, Clear or Global Entry membership programs
  • Any value of certificates or frequent flyer/rewards points

G. Receipt Requirements

Receipts are required for all airfare purchases, including airline advance seat assignments and any penalties for changes and cancellations. Airline baggage fees must be receipted when over $30. Airfare receipts must contain the following information:

  • Traveler name
  • Ticket Number (typically 13-digit number)
  • Dates and times of flight
  • Flight itinerary
  • Class of travel (must be coach/economy)
  • Total cost, including any additional service or related fees, federal excise tax
  • Confirmation of payment

H. Unused Tickets

For those tickets purchased that will not be utilized, travelers or travel arrangers are responsible for cancelling the ticket in the self-booking tool or by contacting an agent. These tickets may not be cancelled or converted with the airline directly. Any non-refundable ticket values that result from a canceled trip will be applied to a future business trip when taken by the same traveler on the same airline. If the original airfare was paid by the university, the value of an unused ticket must be applied towards a future business trip to mitigate any financial loss to the university funding source. The unused ticket value cannot be applied towards a personal trip. In most cases, the traveler has a year in which to apply the unused ticket value to a future business trip.

I. Airline Benefits

All airfare purchasing decisions should be made based on business needs and policy compliance. Employees will be reimbursed based on fare paid and will not be compensated for business use of any vouchers, or certificates of frequent flyer miles redeemed. Benefits as a result of bumping can be retained by the employee, provided the alternative travel resulting from the bumping does not involve any lost work time or incur additional university travel costs.

J. Fly America Act/Open Skies Agreement

The Fly America Act/Open Skies Agreement requires that Americans who fly internationally on federal funds (grants) use a U.S. flag carrier, with few exceptions. Exceptions to Fly America Act:

  • When there is no nonstop or direct service offered by a U.S. carrier
  • When travel solely outside the U.S. increases the number of aircraft changes en route to more than two
  • When the passenger’s travel time is extended by at least 6 hours
  • When the connecting time is 4 hours or more at an overseas interchange point

Travelers using federal grant funds are responsible for understanding the requirements of the Fly America Act/Open Skies Agreement prior to making international air reservations.

K. Procedural Standards

Procedural standards for the purchase and payment of individual and group airfare are integral to the application of this policy. Travelers and arrangers are responsible for reviewing required procedures prior to making reservations.

7. Related Documents

Regent Policy Document 21-5, University Travel Policies
UW System Administrative Policy 405, Travel Expense – General Travel & Expense Policy
Airfare Purchase and Payment Procedures, Individual Reservations
Airfare Purchase and Payment Procedures, Group Reservations

8. Policy History

Revision 1: June 21, 2019
First approved: December 8, 2014

9. Scheduled Review

June 2022