1501.3 - Procedure for Air Travel


University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Finance Procedure 1501.3 - Procedure for Air Travel



The purpose of this procedure is to outline the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's ("University" or "UNC-Chapel Hill") process for booking air travel.

Scope of Applicability

This procedure applies to all University Employees (Employed Students, Faculty, Staff, and Senior University Administrators) and Non-Employees (University Affiliates, Contractors, Guests, and Non-Employed Students).


The University has a managed travel program that includes the Concur Travel booking tool for online domestic/international bookings, World Travel, Inc. (WTI) for group travel and domestic/international bookings, and Anthony Travel for Athletics bookings. All University travel sourcing agreements are available through these resources.

Employee airfare purchases must be made using the University travel program unless an exception applies as outlined below. Use of the University travel program is highly encouraged for graduate students, Employed Students traveling outside the scope of their employment, and Guest travelers. 

Booking airfare outside of the University travel program is permissible under the following circumstances:

  1. The fare is not available for purchase through the University travel program.
    • Limitations may be related to international in-country travel, remote travel, etc.
  2. Significant cost savings are demonstrated to the University. For an airfare purchase to demonstrate significant cost savings, ALL of the following requirements must be met:
    • Obtain a cost comparison from Concur/WTI/Anthony dated on or prior to the date of the airfare purchase. Comparison quote must be for exact itinerary - same travel dates, times, routes, airline(s), and class of service as the planned purchase.
    • When compared to the quote from Concur/WTI/Anthony, the cost of the airfare must be at least:
      • $25 less for domestic flights
      • $100 less for international flights.
    • Cost comparison and justification applies to the cost of the airline ticket only. Ancillary fees such as seat assignment, baggage, agency booking fees, etc. are not considered part of the ticket purchase price. Fees for required seat assignments and/or baggage are reimbursable as detailed below. Outside agency booking fees will only be allowable in limited circumstances.
    • Purchase must made using a personal credit card and reimbursement can only be requested after the completion of the trip. A copy of the comparison quote must be attached to the trip expense report.
  3. Employee has an unused ticket credit that must be re-booked directly through the airline.

All airfare purchases are audited to ensure they meet these requirements. If an employee submits a report that includes airfare purchased outside of the University travel program that does not meet these requirements, the employee may be granted a one-time exception. Any additional purchases not meeting these requirements will 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 only be approved in writing by the Travel Services Office (or their leadership) to purchase airfare through an alternate source/supplier in limited or extenuating circumstances.

Purchasing Transportation by Air

Travelers on University business are encouraged to use commercial air transportation and are limited to actual Coach/Economy/main cabin 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.

Upgraded airfare is allowed in the following circumstances:

  • Intercontinental Travel.
    • Upgrades are permissible up to and including Business Class.
    • All flight segments may be upgraded if the final destination is to a different continent.
  • Non-stop flights which exceed eight (8) hours in duration.
    • Upgrades are permissible up to and including Business Class.
    • All flight segments may be upgraded if at least one non-stop segment exceeds eight (8) hours.
  • Domestic Travel.
    • Upgrades are permissible if the traveler is accompanying a major donor or dignitary who is traveling in an upgraded airfare class and if the funding source permits.

Upgraded airfare classes must be detailed on the Employee's Travel Request in Concur. Use of 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 on Pre-Travel Authorization.

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 not 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 Bill Card 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 University's ConnectCarolina Online Learning 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:

  • Airfare is not funded by the U.S. Federal Funds.
  • Open Skies Agreements.
  • Other exceptions, as listed in the Fly America Act Waiver Checklist.

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

If a traveler qualifies for an exception to the Fly America Act, they must complete the Office Sponsored Programs' Fly America Act Waiver. This form must be attached to the traveler's Expense Report in Concur.

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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Travel by a Senior University Administrator's 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:
    1. confirmation that a commercial flight is not available or not appropriate for the size of the party traveling or the destination airport,
    2. the use of a charter flight is more economical than a commercial flight, and
    3. the use of a charter flight is necessary because of unusual travel circumstances.
    The University Chancellor or Chancellor's designee must pre-approve any travel by private charter.

Special Situations

Medical Accommodations

Employees who require accommodations as it relates to University business travel may make a request through the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office (EOC). Employees will be required to submit information including documentation to support their request. Employees must submit the request before traveling and, on average, the request will take approximately 30 calendar days to complete. If approved, the EOC will provide the employee with an accommodation notice detailing the approved accommodation. A copy of this notice must be submitted with all subsequent expense reports to document the approved accommodation. Questions regarding the accommodation process may be sent to accomodations@unc.edu.

Persons of Size

If a traveler is required by the airline to purchase a larger seat or multiple seats, the traveler must utilize the most economical solution available to meet this requirement. This may require the purchase of multiple, Economy/Coach/main cabin seats or may require the purchase of an upgraded class of seat. When the airline determines that this is a requirement, the University will support this increase in cost. The traveler must provide a brief explanation regarding the additional expenses on their expense report.


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 the University's 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

Subject: Travel Policy

  • Contact: Travel Services
  • Telephone: 919-962-0210
  • Email: travel_team@unc.edu

Subject: Concur

Subject: Medical Accommodations

  • Contact: Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office
  • Telephone: 919-966-3576
  • Email: accomodations@unc.edu
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Article ID: 131473
Thu 4/8/21 9:09 PM
Tue 5/14/24 3:21 PM
Responsible Unit
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Finance and Budget
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