1501.3 - Procedure on Air Travel



The purpose of this procedure is to outline the University's required process for booking air travel.

Scope of Applicability

This procedure applies to all employees (faculty, staff, employed students, and senior University administrators) and non-employees (non-employed students, independent contractors, and University affiliates).


Employee travelers are required to procure airfare for athletic travel, individual business travel, and group travel from the university-contract travel agencies with whom the university has sourcing agreements. Use of the university-contracted travel agencies is highly encouraged for graduate students, student employees traveling outside the scope of their employment, and guest travelers. Use of the university-contracted agencies is not required for airfare arranged for local (in-country) flights within international countries.

Each employee may be granted an exemption from this requirement of airfare procured through an alternate source/supplier up to a maximum of two times during their employment (i.e. lifetime maximum). Any subsequent airfare not purchased from a university-contracted travel agency may be subject to the following:

  • If airfare was purchased out-of-pocket, the employee will not be reimbursed the cost of the airfare
  • If airfare was purchased by university payment method (i.e. Travel & Expense Card, Airfare Direct Bill Card, Purchasing Card, Purchase Order), the employee will be required to repay the university the cost of the airfare.

Additional exceptions may be approved by the Travel Services Office to purchase airfare through an alternate source/supplier in limited or extenuating circumstances.

Purchasing Transportation by Air

Traveler on University business are encouraged to use commercial air transportation and are limited to actual coach/economy fare, substantiated by receipt. Reimbursement for fees required for seat assignments or baggage is limited to actual costs substantiated by receipt. Personal expenses such as Early Check-In, Early Boarding, Extra legroom, and TSA Pre-Check are for personal convenience and are not reimbursable.

Business Class airfare is allowed in the following circumstances:

  1. Domestic travel by business or first class is permitted if the traveler is accompanying a major donor or dignitary who is traveling by business or first class and if the funding source permits.
  2. International travel by business class is allowable if the length of the non-stop international segment is at least eight (8) hours in duration.
  3. The first class or business class airfare for senior University administrators must be approved in advance by the appropriate individual as described in Finance Procedure 1501.1 and by the department head for other University employees and substantiated by written documentation.

Employees traveling by common carrier to conduct official University business who travel to their destination earlier than necessary and/or delay their return to avail the University of reduced transportation rates, may be reimbursed subsistence if the cost of the subsistence does not outweigh the savings of the reduced transportation rates. Documentation of cost savings and prior written approval of the department head is required.

University travelers who do have a Travel & Expense (T&E) Card may have their airfare directly charged to the University and avoid any out-of-pocket cost by using the Airfare - Direct Billing Process. Employees who have been issued a T&E Card should use their card to purchase their airfare and any related allowable airline costs. Travel advances are not issued for airfare.

All employees must submit a Travel Request in Concur for travel which includes airfare. Once approved, travelers may either book online via Concur Travel or contact the University's Authorized Travel Agency to request travel itinerary and ticket cost options. In order to complete the ticket purchase, the traveler will be asked to provide the traveler's Concur Request ID number.

Once the ticket has been booked the transaction will be assigned to the traveler in Concur Expense for reconciliation. Airfare - Direct Billing transactions will appear under "Available Expenses" and should be assigned to an expense report and reconciled within 30 days of purchase.

Students and non-employee travelers may have their airfare directly charged to the University and avoid any out-of-pocket costs by using CABS. CABS is used in conjunction with the Web Travel system to reserve, issue, and pay for airline tickets. A training manual can be found on the Finance and Accounting Training webpage.

Fly America Act

All out-of-state travel and foreign travel funded by contracts or grants requires prior agency approval. According to the Fly America Act, federal contracts and grants require the use of U.S.-flagged airline carriers when leaving and returning to the United States unless otherwise approved by the sponsoring agency. You must travel on a U.S. carrier as far as possible. Additional cost for U.S. carrier flights is not sufficient justification to fly on foreign carriers. Please note that the same rules apply to a foreign visitor's flights when supported by federal funds.

Exceptions to the Fly America Act:

There are strictly limited circumstances in which an exception to the Fly America Act may apply and the use of a foreign carrier is allowable. For example:

For more information, see the U.S. General Services Administration's Fly America Act webpage and the City Pairs Program Fare Finder webpage.

Travel by Non-Commercial Aircraft

Requests for travel on non-commercial aircraft may be proposed for approval based on the circumstances of the trip. Non-commercial aircraft includes the following forms of travel:

  1. Travel by a Senior University Administrator or other University employee on a Medical Air Operations plane is permitted, but is subject to the UNC Air Operations Passenger Eligibility Policy, related North Carolina Area Health Education Centers (NC AHEC) policies, and this policy. In addition, travel on a Medical Air Operations plane should not be used in any instance that would involve "deadhead" miles. Approval is required in the same manner as transportation by other means.
  2. Travel by a senior University administrator or other University employee on a donor-owned plane does not require pre-approval under these policies; however, such travel must be reported for information only to the individual responsible for approving the senior University administrator's or other University employee's travel.
  3. Travel by a senior University administrator or other University employee by private charter is strongly discouraged but may be proposed for prior approval in unusual circumstances. At a minimum, documentation must include confirmation that a commercial flight is not available or not appropriate for the size of the party traveling or the destination airport, the use of a charter flight is more economical than a commercial flight, and the use of a charter flight is necessary because of unusual travel circumstances. Approval by the Chancellor or the person designated to do so by the Chancellor is required.

Special Situations


Penalties and charges resulting from the cancellation of airline reservations (or other travel reservations) are the department's obligation if the employee's travel has been approved in advance and the cancellation or change is made at the direction of and for the convenience of the department. If the cancellation or change is made for the personal benefit of the employee, it is the employee's obligation to pay the penalties and charges. However, in the event of accidents, serious illness or death within the employee's immediate family, severe inclement weather or other critical circumstance beyond the control of the employee, the department will be obligated to pay the penalties and charges.

Frequent Flyer Miles

Frequent flier miles earned by a state employee while traveling on state business at state expense are the property of the state. Frequent flier miles accumulated by an individual state employee during previous state business trips should, to the extent possible, be used by the state employee that accumulated the frequent flier miles while traveling on future state business trips.

Coupons or Certificates for Reduced Airfare

Coupons or certificates for reduced airfare, if acquired by a state employee while traveling on state business at state expense, are the property of the State and should be used, to the extent possible, by the state employee on future state business trips.


Please refer to Finance Policy 1501 - Policy on Business Travel for a list of common definitions.

Related Requirements

External Regulations and Consequences

University Policies, Standards, and Procedures

Contact Information

Primary Contacts
Contact Telephone Fax Email
Travel Policy 919-962-0210 919-962-2356 travel_team@unc.edu
Concur 919-843-5097 919-962-2356 concur@unc.edu
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Article ID: 131473
Thu 4/8/21 9:09 PM
Thu 5/5/22 2:22 PM
Effective Date
If the date on which this document became/becomes enforceable differs from the Origination or Last Revision, this attribute reflects the date on which it is/was enforcable.
08/03/2021 12:00 AM
Issuing Officer
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Issuing Officer Title
Title of the person who is primarily responsible for issuing this policy.
Travel and Payment Card Services Manager
Last Review
Date on which the most recent document review was completed.
07/30/2021 12:00 AM
Last Revised
Date on which the most recent changes to this document were approved.
07/30/2021 12:00 AM
Next Review
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08/01/2022 12:00 AM
Date on which the original version of this document was first made official.
08/02/2019 12:00 AM
Responsible Unit
School, Department, or other organizational unit issuing this document.
Finance and Budget