Direct Costs: Travel

Travel costs, including costs of transportation, lodging, meals, and incidentals, are an allowable cost on Federal awards. Employees should be on travel status and on official business related to the Federal award (UG §200.474). The employee’s travel should directly benefit the project goals. In most cases, this means an employee should be paid through the grant in order to charge travel to it. Documentation for travel costs charged to a Federal award must justify:

  1. Participation of the individual is necessary to the Federal award
  2. The costs are reasonable and consistent with UCI's travel policy


When booking travel for Federal award or any other University business, only coach or economy-class tickets should be purchased. This policy applies to all travel regardless of the purpose or the fund source. Use of business or first-class may be authorized under the following circumstances:

  • Business or first-class is the only service offered between two points;
  • The use of coach class would be more expensive or time consuming, such as unduly long layover when making connections or an unnecessary hotel expense;
  • An itinerary involves overnight travel without an opportunity for normal rest before the commencement of working hours; or
  • The use of business or first-class travel is necessary to reasonably accommodate a disability or medical need of a traveler.

Exceptions should be justified, documented, and approved in advance by an administrator with an official Delegation of Authority granted by the Chancellor (usually a Dean, depending on the organizational structure of the unit).

Ancillary charges for airfare are sometimes allowable. Provided that the charges for these ancillary expenses are allowed by the funding source, the following airline charges may be reimbursable under UCI policy:

  • Checked and carry-on bag fees
  • Early check-in (i.e. Southwest Airlines Early Bird Check-in)
  • Economy-class seat selection fees

Foreign Travel - Fly America Act

Travelers are required by the Fly America Act to use U.S. flag air carrier service, or foreign carriers that code share with a U.S. flag air carrier, for all transportation services funded by the U.S. government if service provided by such a carrier is available. The U.S. government has entered into several bilateral Open Skies Agreements  with foreign countries, and these agreements allow for code-sharing arrangements between the air carriers. In order for the cost of airfare to be an allowable expense on a Federal award, tickets must identify the U.S. flag air carrier’s designator code and flight number.

There are other exceptions to using only U.S. flag air carrier, and they are outlined on the following UCI website: Fly America Act - Use of U.S. - Flag Air Carriers

Additional Resources

Exception to Open Skies Agreement

The rights given to airlines under the Open Skies Agreement don't apply to travel funded by the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of a military department.

As a result of this additional restriction, the Department of Defense (DOD) requires that all foreign travel takes place on U.S. flag air carrier services, unless the traveler qualifies for an exception, as noted in FTR §301-10.135, sections (a), (d), (e), (f), and (g).