4.7 Travel by Commercial or Public Transportation
4.7.1 General Provisions
State employees are encouraged to travel by state-owned or personal vehicles when feasible and cost-effective. However, when commercial transportation is necessary, employees may be reimbursed for the expenses incurred. Employees will be reimbursed for actual expenses incurred, provided the appropriate steps are taken to obtain the lowest possible fare or cost.
Institutional personnel must receive prior written approval to travel by commercial or public transportation. When considering such a request, institutional personnel should consider the distance to be traveled, the travel time, and the cost.
4.7.2 Commercial Air Transportation
Employees should utilize commercial air transportation when it is more cost-effective and efficient to travel by air than by motor vehicle. Under such circumstances, institutions may reimburse employees for expenses incurred for air travel, provided these expenses were approved prior to the date of travel.
Note: Employees who choose to travel by motor vehicle, whether personal, state-owned, or commercial, when air transportation is more cost-effective, may only receive reimbursement for the cost of the lowest available airfare to the specified destination.
Employees who require air travel should obtain the lowest available airfare to a specified destination, which may include the use of the Internet, a travel agent, or the state airfare contract.
The state purchasing office of the Department of Administrative Services (DOAS) has contracted with airlines for various travel destinations. Employees should refer to the statewide contract when making travel arrangements. Airfares included in this contract may be accessed at: http://ssl.doas.state.ga.us/PRSapp/PR_StateWide_contract_menu.jsp.
Employees who utilize the state airfare contract may purchase their tickets directly through a travel agent, or may pick up their tickets in person at a ticket office or at the airport. Tickets may be purchased using a state-issued corporate charge card, state purchasing card, personal credit card on an as-needed basis with prior approval of institution, or through invoicing by a travel agent.
It should be noted that employees are not required to use the statewide contract when lower fares can be obtained through another airline or reservation method. The contracted airline should, however, be offered the opportunity to meet the lower fare. Employees also are also not required to use the statewide contract if the contracted flight is not non-stop and the contracted flight would cause the employee undue hardship or would conflict with the employee’s schedule.
Use of Travel Agents
Many travel agents now charge small fees for issuing tickets. These fees, if reasonable, are part of the cost of travel. Employees may, therefore, be reimbursed for such costs, regardless of whether the airfare tickets were purchased through the state airfare contract or not. However, employees are strongly encouraged to use the Internet in order to avoid travel agent fees.
Travel agents used for making travel arrangements should not be related to the employee making, authorizing, or approving the arrangements. The travel agents also should not be related to the employee actually traveling. A “related” party would include any members of the employee’s family or any organizations in which the employee or his/her family members have a financial interest. The purpose for not using such travel agents is to maintain the state’s integrity in financial matters. The actions of all state employees must be above reproach.
Special Travel Provisions
In general, it is the state’s policy that state officials or employees traveling by commercial air carrier travel in the most cost-effective manner and utilize the lowest possible coach fares. Officials or employees traveling by commercial air carrier will not be reimbursed for the portion of non-coach (first class, business class, etc.) airfare that exceeds the cost of the lowest available fare on the same flight unless:
- There is no other space available on the needed flight;
- The Commissioner of Public Safety certifies that specific air travel arrangements are necessary for security reasons; or,
- A licensed medical practitioner certifies that, because of a person’s mental or physical condition, specific air travel arrangements are required.
- An international Business class nonstop flight exceeds 10 hours in duration. This does not include any time spent in between flights during a connection.
- Note: Institution officials are responsible for obtaining the necessary medical certifications for any employee who requires special air travel arrangements due to a medical condition. Institution officials should also obtain information specifying the expected length of time such condition would have an impact on travel needs.
Institutions should maintain such information in a manner that would enable the auditors to readily determine who is subject to these special travel provisions.
4.7.3 Upgrades to Non-Coach Travel
State officials or employees may, at any time, use personal frequent flyer miles or similar programs to upgrade to non-coach travel. In addition, nothing in this policy shall preclude a state official or employee from personally paying for an upgrade to non-coach travel.
For purposes of conducting official state business, state officials or employees may negotiate or arrange for upgrades to non-coach travel with individual commercial carriers if:
- The flight is international and over five hours in duration; and,
- The carrier agrees not to charge any additional cost to the state.
4.7.4 Indemnification Received Due to Travel Inconveniences Imposed by Airlines
Occasions may arise when airlines overbook, change, delay or cancel flights, thereby imposing travel inconveniences on their passengers. In these instances, airlines often offer the impacted passengers indemnification for these inconveniences. Examples of indemnification that may be offered by an airline include vouchers for meals or lodging, upgrades to non-coach travel, and credits toward future flight costs. State employees are authorized to accept such indemnification if the travel inconvenience was imposed by the airline and there is no additional cost to the state.
4.7.5 Additional Airline Charges
Most airlines charge an additional fee for changes in flights. Employees should make every effort to avoid changes, but if an additional fee is imposed for rescheduling, this becomes part of the travel expense and is reimbursable. The reason for the change must be documented in the expense report.
If a portion or all of the airline ticket is not used for reasons beyond the control of the employee, the employee may be reimbursed for the cost of the airline ticket, with the approval of his/her supervisor. This reimbursement will not be considered a travel expense. The reason for not using the ticket must be documented on the request for employee reimbursement.
Most airlines also charge a fee for paper tickets that could be electronically ticketed. Employees are strongly encouraged to avoid this fee by using the Internet. If there is a valid reason for a paper ticket and a fee is charged, it becomes part of the travel expense and is reimbursable. In the event there is a charge for checking luggage, the State will reimburse for a maximum of one (1) piece of checked luggage. In the event additional bag(s) are required, requests for reimbursement must include an associated explanation.
4.7.6 Fly America Act
Airline travel reimbursement on federal and federal pass-through sponsored agreements is subject to the requirements found in the Fly America Act (49 U.S.C. 40118), which requires federal employees and others performing U.S. Government financed travel to use U.S. flag carriers for all air travel funded by the United States Government unless U.S. carriers are unavailable. This includes U.S. federal government employees and their dependents, consultants, contractors, grantees, and others.
Note: U.S. flag air carrier service is considered available even if:
- A foreign air carrier would be at less cost to the traveler or institution; or,
- A foreign air carrier would be more convenient to the traveler.
4.7.7 Out-of-State Rental of Motor Vehicles
The use of commercially leased vehicles will be left to the discretion of institutional personnel responsible for authorizing travel. Employees requiring the use of commercially-leased vehicles may obtain their vehicles through the state-contracted rental agency according to the conditions of the statewide contract issued by the DOAS. This contract is available through the statewide travel regulations on the Internet. The contract can also be directly accessed at the following Internet address: http://ssl.doas.state.ga.us/PRSapp/PR_StateWide_contract_menu.jsp.
Employees are also encouraged to contact travel agencies to identify the lowest available rates. Employees who are able to obtain lower rates through other companies should use these other companies to rent their vehicles.
Employees traveling on state business in a rented motor vehicle are covered by the state’s liability policy. Therefore, liability coverage should be declined when renting a motor vehicle. Loss Damage Waiver/Collision Damage Waiver (LDW/CDW) insurance is included in the statewide contract at no additional cost. Contact DOAS Risk Management Services or go to http://doas.ga.gov/StateLocal/Risk/Pages/RiskInsurance.aspx for more information.
Employees requiring the use of commercially leased vehicles will be reimbursed for gasoline purchases associated with the business use of such vehicle, provided appropriate receipts are included.
4.7.8 Travel by Railroad
Institutions may reimburse employees for the actual cost of rail transportation, provided the appropriate personnel authorized the travel expense in advance. Employees traveling by rail are encouraged to obtain the lowest possible fare. There is no statewide contract for transportation by rail.
4.7.9 Travel by Mass Transportation, Taxi, or Airport Vans
Employees officially on travel status may be reimbursed for necessary costs of transportation by bus, taxi, or airport vans for the following situations:
- Between the employee’s departure point and the common carrier’s departure point;
- Between the common carrier’s arrival point and the employee’s lodging or meeting place; and,
- Between the lodging and meeting places if at different locations.
These guidelines strongly encourage that employees use airport vans when available, when arrival or departure is during daylight hours, and when they are the lowest cost alternative.
4.7.10 Reimbursement for Baggage Handling Services
Employees may be reimbursed for expenses associated with baggage handling services (porterage) when an expense is actually incurred in moving luggage into or out of lodging places, common carriers, and/or airports, when such expense was necessary. Employees should not be reimbursed for such expenses when they choose to use baggage-handling services as a convenience to them.
4.7.11 Required Documentation of Expenses
All travel by commercial or public transportation must be recorded on the employee travel expense statement. Employees requesting reimbursement must submit receipts for travel by commercial air carrier or railroad and for the cost of rented vehicles, including the cost of gasoline purchased when the amount is over $25.00. Although receipts are not needed for expenses under $25.00, employees must include a point-to-point explanation for each item reimbursed. All transportation expenses should be itemized on the employee travel expense statement.