Policy: 201.A - Air Travel

Statement of Policy

Payment/Reimbursement for travel shall be limited to the lowest cost means of travel unless it is impractical or not available. Travel by air shall be limited to the lowest, non-refundable, coach/economy class fare available.  The additional cost for premium class or seat assignment fees for premium class (first class, business class, economy plus or economy comfort) travel is generally not reimbursable. If extenuating circumstances arise where premium class travel is required, such travel must be documented, approved by the respective Divisional Business Office and subsequently approved by the UW-Madison Travel Office prior to booking the flight.  Employees who seek a disability-related travel accommodation should see http://www.oed.wisc.edu/disability/employee.html for information on the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Note: Alternative fare classes for Southwest (Anytime and Business Select) Airlines are available for purchase in Concur or through Fox World Travel full service, when in policy.  Options to book these alternative fare classes are reserved for travelers and travel arrangers that use Concur or Fox World Travel full service and only when the fare is within the "lowest available" policy threshold established in Concur. Per policy, travelers or travel arrangers that do not use Concur for self-booking or Fox World Travel for full service reservations are not allowed to book outside of coach/economy class fares on any airline, including Southwest (Wanna Get Away fare class), unless they have documented, approved, extenuating circumstances.

Associated Fees

  • Baggage: The first piece of baggage within the airlines’ weight and size limits is allowable. Costs for additional baggage beyond the first piece and overweight or oversized baggage may be reimbursed by providing a business justification.
  • Aisle, Window or Exit Row Fees: Reasonable costs associated with booking an aisle, window or exit row seat on a coach class ticket are allowable if purchased within 24 hours of departure or at the airport.
  • Change/Cancellation Fees: Fees charged for changing a non-refundable ticket are allowable if justified by circumstances outside of the traveler's control (i.e. meeting dates changed).
  • Booking Fees: Travel agency and online booking fees are allowable.

Note: Any additional fees for traveler conveniences or amenities are not allowable expenses.

Departure and Return
The traveler should determine the necessary date for arrival to allow sufficient time to prepare for the business to be conducted.  Arrival on the day prior to a morning start time for an event is acceptable.  When business is concluded early enough in the day to allow the traveler to return to their home at a reasonable hour (e.g. by 10:00 pm), it is expected the traveler will return that day.

Booking Methods
Fox World Travel, the University’s contracted travel agency, can be used to book domestic, international, and group travel.  Concur, the contracted self-booking tool  should be used to book individual domestic or non-complex international airfare. Visit UW TravelWIse for access to the contract vendor and booking tool. Please note that if travelers use an alternative (i.e., purchase tickets through internet sources or other travel agencies), the University will not centrally pre-pay the airfare.  (These statements exclude UW Madison Athletics, which operates an on-site agency under on-going delegation.)
People traveling on university-paid business may use a non-contracted travel agency that best meets their needs for multi-destination international travel and group travel.  However, use of the contracted travel agency (Fox World Travel) is recommended in these instances since it will allow UW institutions to further consolidate volume and leverage savings.

Whenever possible, travelers should utilize the University Purchasing Travel Card or the personal-liability My Corporate Card to pay for UW-Madison business-related airfare and allowable associated fees. Airfare and associated fees purchased through the contract vendor (Concur/Fox World Travel) may be pre-paid or pre-reimbursed by the University. Individual, non-complex travel (domestic or international) booked through non-contracted sources will not be pre-paid (e.g. Purchasing Travel Card) or reimbursed prior to the trip. Non-compliance may result in restricted use of the Purchasing Travel Card or delayed approval of an expense report until the conclusion of the trip.

Receipt/Documentation Requirements
Note:  Required documentation should be retained in the payment mechanism files.  When entering University Prepaid Expenses in e-Reimbursement, an additional copy of the expense receipt is not required in the receipt packet.

Airfare:  Complete supporting documentation for airfare includes the following:

  1. An approved UW – Madison business purpose
  2. An airline or agency receipt that includes all of the following:
      • Traveler’s name
      • Ticket number
      • Destination
      • Departure/Return Dates
      • Amount of fare
      • Itinerary
      • Class of travel
      • Proof of payment
  3. An explanation and a cost comparison obtained at the time of booking are required under the following circumstances:
    • Indirect routing and/or extra stops for personal reasons:  Indirect routing/extra stops for personal reasons are allowable provided there are no additional costs incurred.
    • Departing from and/or returning to an alternate city: Departing from and/or returning to a city other than Madison, Milwaukee or Chicago is allowable provided the fare is more cost effective for the UW, including parking, mileage, meals, additional overnight stays, etc.
    • Departing earlier/returning later than business requires: It is acceptable to depart a day early and/or return a day late if it results in a substantial savings in airfare to offset the extra costs of the room, meals, etc.

Associated Fees: A receipt may be required for associated fees depending on the amount and payment method used.  For complete receipt requirements, see Policy 201.L Receipt Requirements.

Airline Promotions
Benefits from any airline promotion, such as free tickets for frequent fliers, merchandise, etc., that accrue as a result of UW paid travel belong to the UW and must be used for UW related business only; however, benefits that accrue as a result of voluntary bumping may be retained by the employee. 
Note: An employee may not be reimbursed or compensated for business use of personally earned frequent flyer vouchers, vouchers for bumping, discount coupons or other instruments of value.

International Travel
For additional requirements pertaining to international travel, see Policy 201.J International Travel.

Travelers and departmental staff should contact their respective Divisional Business Office for policy or procedural questions.
Divisional Business Offices may contact uwtravel@bussvc.wisc.edu with questions.