Questions 'N Answers for Travel
For employees and users with access to the internal JLab website the JLab Travel Policy is part of the CFO under “Travel”. This document is intended to answer questions that may not be detailed in the policy.
Click on the desired topic for specific questions.
If there are still questions call Travel Services: Jenita at ext. 7438, Sasi at ext. 7437, or Kimberly at ext. 7838. Questions can also be sent to email@example.com.
What authorization is required before an airline ticket can be purchased?
Domestic - There must be an approved Travel Authorization (TA) in the system that has an estimated cost for airfare that is within 25% of the actual airfare being purchased. If this is a self- purchased ticket, per travel policy (402.03-A) the purchase must be pre-approved by the Accounting Manager, Pam Turk. Submit the desired air itinerary with cost, a comparison airfare from Concur Solutions, and an explanation from the traveler of why they want to purchase their own ticketed.
Foreign travel - same for domestic except if travel is to a Sensitive country the foreign travel approval must be received from Travel Services (TS) before the ticket can be purchased.
When personal time is combined with business how is the cost of the personal airfare documented?
- At beginning or end of trip - a cost comparison itinerary must be printed the same day actual ticket is purchased and attached to the expense report. If airfare is the same or less no deduction will be made on the expense report.
- At any other time during the trip - at least 2 reasons for the travel need to be identified on the travel authorization.
If a cost comparison is not printed on the same day the ticket is purchased two (2) comparisons will be prepared on the same day for travel on a future date. The first comparison will be for the future dates that correspond to the actual dates travel was accomplished. The second comparison will be for the future dates that correspond to the dates travel should have occurred. If airfare on the itinerary that corresponds to the actual dates of travel is the same or less no deduction will be made on the expense report
Can I purchase my own airline tickets if I am a JLab employee traveling on business for JLab?
NO, all JLab employees must purchase business travel airline tickets through JLab’s subcontractor travel agency. Any exceptions must be approved by the Accounting Manager in advance of travel.
When is a travel day of rest authorized?
a) A rest period not in excess of 24 hours at either an intermediate point or at your destination can be authorized when all of the below requirements are met,
- Either your origin or destination point is OCONUS;
- Your scheduled flight time, including stopovers, exceeds 14 hours;
- Travel is by a direct or usually traveled route; and
- Travel is by coach-class service.
b)When a rest stop is authorized the applicable per diem rate is the rate for the rest stop location.
What are the rules when booking domestic flights?
JLab’s subcontract travel agency online booking system will be utilized for all domestic single-destination trips. If the trip is multi-destination an email can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with the desired travel information.
Federal regulation requires we obtain the "Lowest Available Fare" published on our subcontractor's booking system. JLab’s definition of the lowest available airfare is based on the following criteria:
1) Coach Class seating - in the lowest coach fare class available
2) Carrier preference by the traveler can not be a consideration when looking for the lowest available airfare
3) Departing Airport on JLab business outbound flights can be RIC, ORF, or PHF, as long as the airfare is within $200 of the lowest fare displayed at the time of booking no alternate will be recommended.
4) Time of Departure - within a 2 hour window of the time requested by the traveler between - 7AM - 7PM departure time from point-of-origin, Before 10PM on arrival time at destination
Traveler may accept flights outside these windows but are not required to do so.
5) Stop-Overs - Traveler must accept flights with one en-route stop when it represents a lower airfare over a non-stop flight.
6) Change fees - during travel a flight change fee is an allowable expense when it represents an overall cost savings to JLab. (i.e., paying $50 to catch an 8pm flight that arrives at 11pm saves the Lab an extra day’s per diem over an originally scheduled flight that leaves at 10pm and arrives at 2 am.)
Difference in airfare that exceed $300 (including the penalty) must be approved by the Travel Program Administrator (TPA).
1) Dates for purchasing tickets: To obtain the best possible airfare every effort should be made to get flights ticketed two (2) full weeks prior to the departure date.
2) Fly America Act - all domestic flights and over the water to an International destination must fly a US Flag carrier airline or one that is part of a US alliance. (See Open Skies Agreements for international flight exceptions.)
3) Open Skies Agreements - flights on non-US carriers that are part of the Open Skies Agreement must meet all requires for their use. This documentation must be provided to the Travel Program. Administrator (TPA) by the traveler, travel coordinator, or subcontracting travel agency. Cost can not be the primary factor for using a non-US air carrier.
Is the Subcontract travel agency required to reserve a seat when issuing an airline ticket for JLab business travel?
It will be the subcontracting agency’s responsibility to reserve a seat on an aircraft as long as seating is not under airline or airport control. If no seat can be reserved at the time of booking the traveler can check-in online 24 hours prior to flight departure and be issued a seat.
Can the traveler pay for upgraded seating?
Yes. If a traveler wishes to upgrade from the lowest coach class fare available at the time of booking -
- the upgrade will be noted on the TA under Miscellaneous with a MINUS amount and explained in the notes.
- In Special Instructions section in Concur Solutions (domestic) write - “traveler to pay for premium economy/business class/first class (specify which one) upgrade.” (Int’l) add upgrade request to the email requesting air travel dates, times, etc.
- The upgraded seating cost will be deducted from the staff traveler’s ER under per diem (personal expenses).
If this situation is for a visitor, they must give CI Travel a personal credit card for the upgrade charge or purchase their own airline ticket, preferably on a U.S. Air carrier, and be reimbursed (less the upgrade seat cost).
If upgrade seating is purchased by the traveler at any other time payment must be made by the traveler. HOWEVER, the cost is not allowable since it is generally a traveler’s personal choice and not necessary the business trip mission. The exceptions to this rule can be found in the FTR 301-10.123.
When must a US Air Carrier be used?
The Fly America Act is very specific about use of US Air carriers for Federal Government Contractor travel. However, recently the Open Skies Agreement has given some relief to contractor’s that are eligible to use the Federal City-Pair Agreements with US Airlines.
DOE has authorized use of the Open Skies Agreement to contractors. However, the terms are specific, see FTR 301-10.135, FTR 301-10.142, GSA Bulletin FTR 11-02, and the Open Skies Agreement website: http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/103191.
When no seat is assigned on a flight when the booking is authorized, can an upgrade be authorized to guarantee a seat on the aircraft?
Under certain circumstances an upgrade can be authorized to guarantee a seat on an aircraft. See FTR 301-10.123 for exceptions to lowest fare coach class seating. However, except for extraordinary circumstances, authorization must be granted prior to purchase of the upgrade.
Can I get reimbursed for Wi-Fi charges?
While on business travel, airplane Wi-Fi may be reimbursed on expense reports for flights lasting longer than two hours. Additionally, if Wi-Fi is not provided at no extra charge in hotels, the cost for Wi-Fi service, which typically includes long distance phone service, may also be reimbursed on the expense report. If Wi-Fi costs are reimbursed, they will be in lieu of personal and/or business phone calls during travel.
Who is eligible for a travel cash advance to pay out-of-pocket expenses?
To be eligible for a travel cash advance one of these situations must exist.
- Not traveled in the last 18 months and do not have a JLAB Travel Card.
- Only traveled once in the last 18 months and do not have a JLAB Travel Card.
- Term Employee of 2 years or less.
- Visitors authorized to get per diem may receive up to 10 days advanced per diem
Employees who are not eligible for a travel cash advance include -
- Those who have traveled more than once during the last 18 months and do not have a JLAB Travel Card.
- Those who have a JLab travel card, regardless of how many times they have traveled.
- Do not want a Lab travel card, asked their travel card be closed or have lost your travel card privilege.
If I am not eligible for a travel cash advance should I apply for a Travel Credit Card?
For more on using the travel credit card see Travel Card Training on the Travel/Training website: http://www.jlab.org/div_dept/cfo/travel/training.html
When a registration fee or hotel deposit is paid using a credit card (personal or JLab travel credit card) can a cash advance be issued to pay the credit card bill before the travel is completed?
YES - A traveler may request early reimbursement of charges to meet payment due dates. (i.e. registration fees paid in advance of travel).
To obtain a cash advance, prepare an addendum to the TA requesting a cash advance. Under the NOTES section, indicate a cash advance is being requested to pay registration fee charges. Attach a copy of the traveler’s credit card statement showing the registration fee charge. Submit the TA for approval. Once approved the cash advance will be processed by Travel Services. Later, when the expense report is prepared be sure to include the registration fee under traveler paid expenses, and subtract the cash advance.
When can a cash advance be requested to pay business related out-of-pocket expenses?
The travel authorization can include a request for a cash advance for an amount that does not exceed the “Cost to Travel” section on the TA. The “Cash Advance needed by” field should be a date that is not more than 3 business days before the travel start date.
Where do I find information on sponsoring a conference not attending one held by someone else?
JLab policy on sponsoring a conference is in the Administrative Manual, Section 104-03. http://www.jlab.org/div_dept/admin/HR/jris/hosting.html
When JSA is providing financial support to a foreign national that is attending a conference or workshop being held by us, what are the requirements?
When JSA is providing financial support to a foreign national attendee to a conference or workshop must have their documents validated by International Services upon arrival at the event. The event sponsors should discuss this process with Staff Services during the event planning phase and submit their plan for this process to International Services at email@example.com for review before the event.
Where do I find the policy on Conference Attendance by JLab staff or visitor’s?
Administrative Manual, Section 402.02. Additional information is available at the Travel website under Conferences
My business travel to a foreign country will include some vacation days. How many vacation days can be approved if JLab is paying for the expenses?
When personal foreign travel is combined with official foreign travel, the ratio will be 2 business days to 1 personal day. Travel days are included as business in this calculation. Weekends and holidays are considered personal if no business or travel is being conducted. Admin. Manual Section 402.01 - A7.
How are meals per diem calculated when personal leave is taken in conjunction with business travel?
The actual date of departure for the business travel is considered the departure travel day (75% of full per diem at the business lodging location is paid for that day)
Each full business day is paid at the full per diem rate for the business lodging location.
The actual date of return to Newport News is considered the return travel day (75% of the full per diem at the last business lodging location is paid for that day.)
When personal leave is added to the end of business travel will I be paid a full days meal per diem when I do not arrive home until after mid-night on my day of return? (full per diem for the day I start my trip home and the reduced per diem of 75% the day I arrive at my back home.)
The traveler should schedule their return time to arrive at their point of destination (home) no later than mid-night. Payment of per diem for flights that do not land until after mid-night will not be considered unless there was a delay beyond the traveler’s control (i.e., airplane, airport, or weather). The delay must be documented in order to receive the full days per diem for the return day plus the reduced per diem of 75% calculated for the actual day of return to the point-of-destination.
Should I return from business travel on the day my business ends at 5:00 PM?
The return travel day is determined by the distance the traveler must go to return to the work site area or point-of-origin. If travel can be completed by a reasonable hour in the evening the return will be the day the event ends. If travel cannot be completed by a reasonable hour the traveler is authorized to travel the next day. (Example, travel to Washington DC is about 3 hours - if business ends at 4:30, traveler should return home that evening.)
Is there a way for me to be electronically notified of flight schedule changes?
JLab travelers can sign up for up-to-the-minute updates on changes to their travel itinerary, such as a delay or cancellation of your flight, a gate change on a connection, or any other airline emergency. Notifications will be sent to the traveler via mobile phone, e-mail or another telephone number listed in the traveler's profile in the Concur Solutions online booking system. To get details, speak with your Travel Coordinator or click the "Notification Preferences" link on the Travel Department web page.
Once my business has ended, when must I return from my trip?
The return travel day is determined by the distance the traveler must go to return to the work location. If travel can be completed by a reasonable hour in the evening the return will be the day the event ends. Otherwise the traveler is authorized to travel the next day.
How does JLab determine the best mode of transportation?
JLab follows the requirements and described in the Federal Travel Regulation 301-10.4.
Your agency must select the method most advantageous to the Government, when cost and other factors are considered. Under 5 U.S.C. 5733, travel must be by the most expeditious means of transportation practicable and commensurate with the nature and purpose of your duties. In addition, your agency must consider energy conservation, total cost to the Government (including costs of per diem, overtime, lost work time, and actual transportation costs), total distance traveled, number of points visited, and number of travelers.
May I drive my privately owned vehicle (POV) when I travel to Maryland, Virginia, or the District of Columbia?
YES - POV travel to VA, MD, DC, WV, NC, DE does not require a drive vs. fly comparison or special authorization. It has been determined that travel to these surrounding states via car is less expensive than flying.
Is there a preferred car rental company that should be used for my business travel?
Yes - National is our first preferred vendor. Enterprise is the secondary preferred vendor. We enjoy excellent rates with both companies. However, should our rental car base rate volume, for 2 consecutive quarters, not be met our rates will be increased. Hence, it is important to select one of the preferred vendors unless there are other rental preferences being considered. NOTE: Rentals paid for by the renter, either with one of our preferred vendors or another company, will not count toward the JLab volume target.
When can I upgrade to a larger vehicle? Will the cost difference be reimbursed?
JLab authorizes rental of a mid-size car for our business travelers. If the vehicle is upgraded one of the following circumstances must apply or the upgrade must be pre-approved by the TPA or Accounting Manager in order to qualify for reimbursement of the cost difference.
- When 3 or more individuals are traveling a one-car-class upgrade is authorized.
- Equipment or other business related materials are being transported.
Will JLab reimburse the cost of a GPS when I am traveling alone in a congested area?
Generally accessory equipment such as a GPS is a choice made by the traveler for personal reasons and is the personal responsibility of the traveler. Further, JSA’s Travel policy indicates that Optional equipment and upgrades will be the financial responsibility of the renter.
Can a One-Way Rental be reserved using one of our preferred vendors?
Yes - our preferred vendors have a one-way rental rate that has been negotiated into our agreement.
If I have a rental car company preferred program can I get my rental from that company?
Yes - Some traveler's have a Emerald Club Card recognized by National and Enterprise.
Can I rent a car from a company that is not a JLab preferred vendor when I am traveling via car on Lab business?
Please contact Omega World Travel (firstname.lastname@example.org) before reserving a local rental on your own. They can generally locate an off airport pick-up/drop-off in the Hampton Roads area. If they can’t you can rent from whatever is available in your area. You will pay for the rental and request reimbursement by JLab on your expense report (ER). Be sure to submit the email correspondence with Omega World Travel and a paid receipt with your ER.