Policy Notes:  Fly America Act and Open Skies Exceptions (Air Carrier Requirements)

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General Requirement of the Fly America Act

Generally, all flights charged to federal projects must be taken on U.S. flag air carriers or on foreign air carriers that code share with a U.S. flag carrier on the flight taken. This includes flights within the U.S. If there is no U.S. carrier to your destination, you must travel on a U.S. carrier as far as possible. By law, 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.

See list of U.S. Flag Air Carriers and Code Share Alliances.

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Open Skies Exceptions

The biggest exception to the Fly America Act is the Open Skies Agreement. On October 6, 2010, the United States and European Union (EU) "Open Skies" Air Transport Agreement was published by the U.S. General Services Administration providing full explanation of the multilateral agreement in place so that qualifying travelers, whose travel is supported by federal funds, may travel on European Union airlines as well as U.S. flag air carriers. A list of current member countries of the European Union is available at the Europa web site (plus Norway and Iceland). There are also Open Skies agreements with Australia, Switzerland and Japan.

What does the Open Skies Agreement mean to Stanford Travelers?

When air travel is supported by federal funds, travel to the following destinations must either be on a U.S. carrier or, for specific destinations, may be on a European Union (EU) (plus Norway and Iceland), Australian, Japanese, or Swiss airline.

Important Note:  The Open Skies Agreements do not apply if travel is funded by the Department of Defense (DOD) or by a department of the U.S. Military. Travel funded by the DOD or by a U.S. military department must be on a U.S. flag air carrier.

Click on a destination area in the boxes below for Open Skies Agreement specifics:

Claim Unidentified Receipts Workflow

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Additional Exceptions

Other strictly limited circumstances in which an exception may be allowed include:

  • a U.S. flag carrier does not provide service on a particular leg of your trip,
  • the use of a U.S. carrier will unreasonably delay your travel time
  • you are involuntarily rerouted, or
  • medical or safety reasons.

Refer to the Certification of Exception to Fly America Act Form to help identify legitimate exceptions for use of a non-U.S. carrier.

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Documentation of Compliance

To satisfy regulatory requirements for charges to a federally sponsored project, a U.S. flag carrier designator code, or Open Skies eligible carrier code, must be present on documentation for a flight; for example, UA1776 for United Flight 1776 or AA1787 for American Flight 1787. If you believe that you were on a code share flight, but there is no documentation showing the carrier code and flight number, you cannot charge the flight to a federally sponsored project.

A paper ticket or documentation for an e-ticket normally provides this proof. However, in some code sharing situations, we have found that only the boarding pass showed the U.S. flag carrier code. In this case, the boarding pass should be retained for documentation.

If you are claiming an exception under the Act, detail the certification requirements for federal audit purposes. When submitting your expense report for a flight that does not comply, you must document the reason for the exception by including a Certification of Exception to Fly America Act Form.

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Booking Travel

Agents with Stanford Travel's booking tool partner are well versed in the Fly America Act. If you advise them that your trip is federally funded, they will provide flight options that comply with the Act.

Book through the preferred agency partner for the Stanford Travel program, and indicate that the trip is federally funded to ensure that your trip complies with the Fly America Act / Open Skies agreement. For questions related to compliance with the Act, contact the Financial Support Center (3-2772).

Stanford Travel's online booking tool or other travel web sites cannot provide certification of compliance with Fly America.

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