B-200433.OM, OCT 15, 1980

B-200433.OM: Oct 15, 1980

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AS IS REQUIRED FOR DISCOUNTS OFFERED TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC AND ELIMINATE THE RESTRICTION OF SUCH AN OFFER ONLY TO CARRIER EMPLOYEES. THE REDUCED OR FREE FARES COULD BE OFFERED TO "GOVERNMENT" (FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC) PERSONNEL "ENGAGED IN PROMOTING TRANSPORTATION" WHERE THE REDUCED OR FREE TRANSPORTATION IS "UNDERTAKEN FOR A PROMOTIONAL PURPOSE.". WE BELIEVE THERE ARE TWO DIFFICULTIES WITH PERMITTING GAO TRAVEL UNIT PERSONNEL TO ACCEPT THIS TRAVEL. WE DO NOT BELIEVE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TRAVEL PERSONNEL ARE INVOLVED IN "PROMOTING" TRAVEL. WE CANNOT THINK OF ANY INSTANCES WHERE THE GAO TRAVEL UNIT STAFF WOULD PROMOTE TRAVEL IN THE SENSE PROMOTE IS DEFINED IN THE DICTIONARY. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TRAVEL IS NOT PROMOTED IN THE WAY THAT TRAVEL AGENTS.

B-200433.OM, OCT 15, 1980

SUBJECT: B-200433-O.M. CIVIL AERONAUTICS BOARD REGULATION CONCERNING REDUCED FARE OR FREE TRIPS FOR "GOVERNMENT" TRAVEL SERVICE PERSONNEL

CHRISTINE DOREY, OAS, TRAVEL SERVICES SECTION:

YOU REQUEST OUR OPINION WHETHER A CHANGE IN CIVIL AERONAUTICS BOARD (CAB) REGULATIONS PERMITS TRAVEL SERVICES STAFF TO ACCEPT UNRESTRICTED FREE OR REDUCED RATE AIR TRAVEL OFFERED BY AIRLINES TO THOSE INVOLVED IN PROMOTING TRANSPORTATION. THE AMENDED REGULATIONS AUTHORIZE AIRLINES TO OFFER THIS TRAVEL WITHOUT HAVING TO FILE TARIFFS, AS IS REQUIRED FOR DISCOUNTS OFFERED TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC AND ELIMINATE THE RESTRICTION OF SUCH AN OFFER ONLY TO CARRIER EMPLOYEES, TRAVEL AGENTS AND CERTAIN OTHER CLASSES OF INDIVIDUALS. UNDER THE NEW REGULATIONS, SEE 14 CFR PART 223(1) AS AMENDED JULY 2, 1980, THE REDUCED OR FREE FARES COULD BE OFFERED TO "GOVERNMENT" (FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC) PERSONNEL "ENGAGED IN PROMOTING TRANSPORTATION" WHERE THE REDUCED OR FREE TRANSPORTATION IS "UNDERTAKEN FOR A PROMOTIONAL PURPOSE."

WE BELIEVE THERE ARE TWO DIFFICULTIES WITH PERMITTING GAO TRAVEL UNIT PERSONNEL TO ACCEPT THIS TRAVEL. FIRST, GENERALLY, WE DO NOT BELIEVE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TRAVEL PERSONNEL ARE INVOLVED IN "PROMOTING" TRAVEL. IN THIS CONNECTION, THE CAB REGULATIONS DO NOT DEFINE PROMOTIONAL ACTIVITY. THE WEBSTER'S NEW COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY DEFINES PROMOTE TO MEAN, "TO ADVANCE ... TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE GROWTH OR PROSPERITY OF; (TO) FURTHER." WE CANNOT THINK OF ANY INSTANCES WHERE THE GAO TRAVEL UNIT STAFF WOULD PROMOTE TRAVEL IN THE SENSE PROMOTE IS DEFINED IN THE DICTIONARY. IN OUR VIEW, FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TRAVEL IS NOT PROMOTED IN THE WAY THAT TRAVEL AGENTS, FOR EXAMPLE, PROMOTE TRAVEL FOR AIRLINES. THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TRAVELERS TRAVEL TO THE EXTENT MADE NECESSARY BY THEIR GOVERNMENT WORK. AS WE UNDERSTAND IT, THE OBJECTIVE OF THE GAO TRAVEL UNIT IS TO MEET THE GAO'S TRAVEL NEEDS, I.E., PROCUREMENT OF TRANSPORTATION SERVICES AT THE LOWEST OVERALL COST TO THE UNITED STATES, NOT TO ADVANCE OR FURTHER AIR TRAVEL OR OTHER TRANSPORTATION SERVICES. CF. WORLD WIDE ASSOCIATES, INC., B-103315, MARCH 22, 1977; B-103315, MAY 31, 1972; B-153105, JANUARY 21, 1964. ALSO SEE TWO GAO REPORTS, "USE OF DISCOUNT AIRLINE FARES ...," FGMSD 78 46, JULY 21, 1978; "A LOOK AT THE PROHIBITION ON USING COMMERCIAL TRAVEL AGENTS," LCD 78-219, AUGUST 8, 1978.

THUS, WE DO NOT BELIEVE THAT FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TRAVEL SERVICE PERSONNEL ARE OR CAN BE "ENGAGED IN PROMOTING TRANSPORTATION," WHICH IS A REQUIREMENT FOR ALLOWING SUCH PERSONNEL REDUCED FARE OR FREE TRAVEL UNDER THE REGULATIONS.

SECOND, WE ARE CONCERNED THAT THE EMPLOYEE'S ACCEPTANCE OF "TRANSPORTATION UNDERTAKEN FOR A PROMOTIONAL PURPOSE" WILL CONFLICT WITH THE PROVISION IN GAO OPERATIONS MANUAL SEC. 0841.1 WHICH STATES GAO'S POLICY PERTAINING TO GIFTS, ENTERTAINMENT AND FAVORS. CHAPTER 2 THEREOF STATES IN PERTINENT PART:

"1. WHEN AN EMPLOYEE SHALL NOT ACCEPT GIFTS, ENTERTAINMENT, AND FAVORS.

... AN EMPLOYEE SHALL NOT SOLICIT OR ACCEPT, DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY, ANY GIFT, GRATUITY, FAVOR, ENTERTAINMENT, LOAN, OR ANY OTHER THING OF MONETARY VALUE, FROM A PERSON WHO:

A. HAS, OR IS SEEKING TO OBTAIN, CONTRACTUAL OR OTHER BUSINESS OR FINANCIAL RELATIONS WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT;

C. HAS INTERESTS THAT MAY BE SUBSTANTIALLY AFFECTED BY THE PERFORMANCE OR NONPERFORMANCE OF THE EMPLOYEE'S OFFICIAL DUTY."

ALTHOUGH NO SPECIFIC EXAMPLES OF THE PROMOTIONAL TRAVEL TO BE OFFERED BY AIRLINES WERE GIVEN, WE BELIEVE THAT ACCEPTANCE BY A TRAVEL SERVICE STAFF PERSON OF A FREE PLANE RIDE AS PART OF A PROMOTIONAL PROGRAM CONSTITUTES A GIFT FROM A DONOR (AN AIRLINE) WHICH IS SEEKING GOVERNMENT BUSINESS OR WHOSE ACTIVITY WITH RESPECT TO THE GOVERNMENT CAN BE SUBSTANTIALLY AFFECTED BY THE PERFORMANCE OR NONPERFORMANCE OF THE EMPLOYEE'S OFFICIAL DUTY. THUS, THE GAO OPERATIONS MANUAL PROVISION WOULD BAR GAO TRAVEL SERVICE UNIT PERSONNEL FROM ACCEPTING SUCH A GIFT.

THUS, WE DO NOT GENERALLY BELIEVE THAT TRAVEL SERVICES STAFF CAN ACCEPT PROMOTIONAL TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES OFFERED BY AIRLINES. THIS IS AN INFORMAL OPINION FOR YOUR GUIDANCE, HOWEVER WE DO NOT ANTICIPATE ANY CIRCUMSTANCE IN WHICH ACCEPTANCE OF SUCH TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES WOULD BE PERMISSIBLE.