Policy Steward: 
Director of Vendor Payment Strategies
Format Updated: 
University Policy & Standards Converted: 
Revision Date: 
Wednesday, April 3, 2019

* This information replaces FIS 411-01 Air Transportation



People traveling on University business are able to take advantage of several methods to obtain their travel services. Selected airfare should be economical, reasonable, and the route necessary for the business being conducted. OSUhas contracted travel agents who provide planning services for the traveler which are billed directly to the University. In addition, these agents have access to airfare contracts which can represent a significant savings to units and allow flexibility to change or revise travel plans. Official University travelers are encouraged to book their flights through contracted travel agencies on flightsthat provide the most economical (coach or economy class) direct travel route that will meet the traveler’s needs; however, their use is not mandated. 

All airfare travel booked through the contracted travel agencies require approval by the designated unit’s representative for ticketing and billing. An approval email, providing the authorization for travel and related expenditures, index, and account code for billing must be sent within 24 hours after the itinerary is confirmed to complete the booking. The price for the airfare is not guaranteed until the transaction has been finalized.  Fees associated with exchanges, refunds and cancellations will be billed to the designated unit. The traveler (not OSU) will be personally responsible for fees unless the changes made are necessary for OSU’s business needs or are outside the control of the traveler. Any fees that are personal in type will not be reimbursed (i.e. priority or early check-in, priority seating assignment, TSA pre-check, seating upgrades, etc.). Any required accommodation should be requested at the time of booking and explained in documentation or text.

Additional information regarding OSU contracted travel agents and contracted benefits can be found on the Business Affairs Travel website.

International Flights – Foreign travel charged to Federal funds must comply with the Fly America Act.  U.S. flag air carriers must be utilized when the airfare is paid with federal funds on a grant or contract - this includes “flow through” funding. (In FIS Banner, indexes funded with federal dollars will have a fund type “31”.) The Fly America Act policy, Open Sky's Agreement, the Foreign Travel authorization forms, and the mandatory Fly America Act Waiver Checklist are located in Grant, Contract & Gift Manual GCG 215-03: Foreign Travel.

Purchasing Airfare from a Non-Contracted Vendor – Travelers have the option to purchase airline tickets from a vendor other than a contracted agent. A traveler choosing this method may use their personal funds to purchase airfare.  In most cases these types of airfare purchases are restricted tickets and the traveler assumes all risk and costs, if changes or cancellation occur.

Note: if the traveler chooses to use a non-contracted vendor and chooses to pay for it personally, the traveler (not OSU) will be responsible for cancellations, itinerary changes, or other charges unless the charges are necessary for OSU’s business needs or are outside the control of the traveler. If a traveler conducting OSU business chooses to utilize an outside source for air travel, the traveler must do so in an economical and reasonable way. Only regular, coach class fares are allowed to be used (additional charges for upgrade or premium seats will not be reimbursed).

Airfare Reimbursement – Airfare purchased from non-contracted vendors will be reimbursed after the trip is completed. The traveler will not be reimbursed for any interest or late fees associated with the purchase.

Reimbursements to travelers require a copy of the on-line documentation showing the payment method and the itinerary.

The on-line confirmation or itinerary should include the traveler's name, dates of travel, destinations, and seat class. 

The traveler has 60 days from date of the completed travel to request reimbursement.  See FIS 411-07 Travel Reimbursements.

Personal Travel Combined with Business Travel – Travelers may combine personal travel with business travel as long as no added expense is incurred by the University. A comparison quote showing the business-only costs is required. OSU will only cover the business portion of the trip. OSU contracted travel agencies can split the billing so that the business portion of the fare is charged to the University and the traveler is billed separately for their personal segment of the trip. Personal days must be noted on the traveler’s itinerary when requesting reimbursement of business related expenses.

An employee may request in advance to travel by personal vehicle in lieu of air travel in order to combine official travel with personal travel. Travelers choosing to drive rather than fly will be reimbursed for an amount equal to the lesser of the mileage reimbursement or the cost of round-trip airfare that would have been incurred for commercial air travel. Travelers will need to obtain a comparison quote from one of the contracted travel agencies showing the most economical direct-route travel cost. This quote will be used to reimburse the traveler after the trip is completed. Expenses resulting from the additional time required to drive are not reimbursed.

When an employee is authorized in advance to travel by personal vehicle instead of a commercial airline, they may be reimbursed for the following costs associated with air travel between his or her official station and destination:

  • The cost of round-trip commercial airfare for the most economical direct route that would have been incurred. The quotes must be submitted with the travel reimbursement request.
  • Private vehicle mileage to and from the air terminal that would normally be used for departure.
  • Lodging, meal, and incidental expenses that the employee would normally incur with air travel. Expenses resulting from the additional time required to drive are not reimbursable.

Travel associated with official business while at the destination may include:

  • Vicinity mileage from hotel to official business sites.
  • If personal car is not available for vicinity mileage on official business, other normal means of transportation may be used and reimbursed at normal OSU rates.

Charter Aircraft or air taxi service may be taken when the cost is shared by three or more people. The charter is normally restricted to flights of less than 600 miles one way. Trips made by fewer than three people or flights greater than 601 miles one way must be approved in advance by the VP of Finance and Administration or their designee. The aircraft must be piloted by the company pilot and not an OSU employee.

Charter aircraft used transporting people from one location to another in lieu of routine transportation would be coded 39xxx Travel and non-travel activity (crop-dusting, aerial photographing) would be coded 24010 Equipment Rentals.

Travel by private aircraft (employee-owned or rented) may be authorized when advantageous to the University or for the employee’s convenience. Reimbursement for expenses is for use of the aircraft regardless of the number of passengers. If an employee elects to use employee-owned or rental aircraft for personal convenience, reimbursement for travel expense will not be greater than the lowest cost method of travel. Use of employee-owned or rented aircraft will normally be restricted to flights of less than 600 miles one-way, unless approved in advance by the VP of Finance and Administration or designee.

Only employees who hold a Private, Commercial or Airline Transport Pilot Certificate and are properly certificated, rated, and qualified under the current Federal Aviation Administration (F.A.A.) regulations with apply to the operation of the flown aircraft may pilot aircraft on OSU business.

Mileage allowances for employee-owned or rented aircraft are governed by the following policies:

  • Current rate per shortest air mile when use of the aircraft is advantageous to the institution. In an unusual situation, additional mileage may be authorized when supported by the circumstances.
  • Current rate per highway mile for motor vehicle travel when travel by car is appropriate. Additional expenses from use of the aircraft are not reimbursed. Reimbursement is limited to the current Privately Owned Vehicle (POV) Airplane Mileage Rate as specified by the US General Services Administration.

Employees operating aircraft on official business must carry their own personal aircraft insurance or be covered under private insurance on leased or controlled aircraft. The University requires the employee pilot to have a current medical certificate and meet the pilot qualifications for the aircraft type used.

Travel Awards and Frequent Flyer Mileage – Because the cost of recordkeeping outweighs any monetary benefit, OSU will not recapture airline bonuses awarded employees for frequent flyer miles. The value of frequent flyer or other bonus plans redeemed for official University travel is not a reimbursable expense. In addition, the terms of some grants and contracts may restrict the traveler from earning frequent flyer miles.

First Class and Business Class Air Travel – The university will support the cost of economy class (coach) commercial airfare for official university travel. When business travel necessitates the use of unrestricted air ticketing it must be the least expensive unrestricted airfare.

First class and business class air travel is only allowed under the following circumstances:

  • Such travel is necessary because of documented medical reasons;
  • Coach class is unavailable and alternate/travel schedules would result in circuitous routing during unreasonable hours, excessively prolonged travel, or result in additional costs that would offset the transportation savings (substantiating documents must be submitted and advance written approval must be obtained by the president, provost, or vice president for Finance and Administration); or
  • Advance written approval is obtained from the Board Chair for travel by the president and spouse when supported by legitimate business needs and when gift funds are available to cover any cost differential.

Under no circumstances may business class or first class travel be used when travel is being paid for on a sponsored project account.