4.6 Air Travel and Other Public Transportation
(Last Modified on April 15, 2016)
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.
4.6.1 Air Travel
(Last Modified September 28, 2017)
Air Travel is covered in Section 1 of the Statewide Travel Policy. This Section addresses booking (including exchanges, cancellations and voids), selecting appropriate air fares, upgrading to Business and First Class, international travel and use of private aircraft.
The following items are provided in conjunction with Section 1 of the Statewide Travel Policy to offer additional clarity and guidance on Air Travel.
- 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.
- Many travel agents now charge 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.
- It is the state’s policy that state officials or employees traveling by commercial air carrier should travel in the most cost-effective manner and utilize the lowest possible coach fares. Generally, 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. The travel provides some exceptions for domestic flights to Alaska and Hawaii, international travel and travel of employees with medical conditions. Business Class airfare is allowable for international flights and domestic flights to Alaska and Hawaii. Although, state travel regulations in Section 1 and Appendix B allow for both First Class or Business Class airfare using state funds, the University System of Georgia does not permit First Class travel unless the circumstances noted below require it. The University System of Georgia is committed to using resources, regardless of funding source, in a fiscally prudent manner and believes First Class travel, except for the requirements noted below, does not demonstrate appropriate stewardship of institutional funds.
Business Class airfare using state funds or other fund types (unless specifically restricted), is permissible in accordance with state policy (international and U.S. routes of 10 hours or more) and with appropriate travel authority approvals. First Class travel is only permitted, if approved, in the following circumstances:
- There is no other space available on the needed flight (supporting documentation from a travel agency/booking site must be included with the travel reimbursement request).
- A licensed medical practitioner certifies that because of a person’s mental or physical condition, specific air travel arrangements are required. The employee must provide necessary medical certifications for the required special air travel arrangements due to a medical condition. Information should also be obtained specifying the expected length of time such condition would have an impact on travel needs. Supporting documentation must be retained within the employee’s department.
- The Commissioner of Public Safety certifies that specific air travel arrangements are necessary for security reasons.
Note: Institutions should maintain such supporting documentation in a manner that would enable the auditors to readily determine who is subject to these special travel provisions.
- 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 affected 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 to include First Class, 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.
4.6.2 Other Public Transportation
(Last Modified April 15, 2016)
Other forms of public transportation include trains, taxis and shuttle services. These are discussed in Section 2.1 of the Statewide Travel Policy. It is up to the employee to obtain the best rates available. See Section 7.4 of the Statewide Travel Policy for receipt requirements.