B-203972(1),L/M, FEB 3, 1982, OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL

B-203972(1),L/M: Feb 3, 1982

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FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION: THIS IS IN RESPONSE TO YOUR LETTER DATED JUNE 30. REQUESTING OUR DECISION ON WHETHER A FEDERAL EMPLOYEE MAY BE REIMBURSED FOR AN UNUSED NONREFUNDABLE AIRLINE TICKET IF THE TRIP WAS CANCELLED FOR ADEQUATELY JUSTIFIABLE REASONS. YOU REPORT THAT CERTAIN AIRLINES HAVE RECENTLY OFFERED A DISCOUNT TICKET THAT IS NONREFUNDABLE AND NONTRANSFERABLE. YOU INQUIRE WHETHER A FEDERAL EMPLOYEE WHO PURCHASED SUCH A TICKET FOR OFFICIAL BUSINESS PURPOSES COULD BE REIMBURSED FOR THE TICKET IF THE TRIP WAS SUBSEQUENTLY CANCELLED FOR ADEQUATELY JUSTIFIABLE REASONS. WE ARE NOT PROVIDING A FORMAL DECISION SINCE YOU HAVE POSED A HYPOTHETICAL QUESTION NOT INVOLVING THE PAYMENT OF A SPECIFIC VOUCHER.

B-203972(1),L/M, FEB 3, 1982, OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL

PRECIS-UNAVAILABLE

GEORGE B. FINEBERG, FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION:

THIS IS IN RESPONSE TO YOUR LETTER DATED JUNE 30, 1981, REQUESTING OUR DECISION ON WHETHER A FEDERAL EMPLOYEE MAY BE REIMBURSED FOR AN UNUSED NONREFUNDABLE AIRLINE TICKET IF THE TRIP WAS CANCELLED FOR ADEQUATELY JUSTIFIABLE REASONS.

YOU REPORT THAT CERTAIN AIRLINES HAVE RECENTLY OFFERED A DISCOUNT TICKET THAT IS NONREFUNDABLE AND NONTRANSFERABLE. YOU INQUIRE WHETHER A FEDERAL EMPLOYEE WHO PURCHASED SUCH A TICKET FOR OFFICIAL BUSINESS PURPOSES COULD BE REIMBURSED FOR THE TICKET IF THE TRIP WAS SUBSEQUENTLY CANCELLED FOR ADEQUATELY JUSTIFIABLE REASONS.

IN ACCORDANCE WITH 31 U.S.C. SECS. 74 AND 82D, WE ARE NOT PROVIDING A FORMAL DECISION SINCE YOU HAVE POSED A HYPOTHETICAL QUESTION NOT INVOLVING THE PAYMENT OF A SPECIFIC VOUCHER. HOWEVER, WE ARE PROVIDING THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION FOR YOUR GUIDANCE. COPIES OF PERTINENT DECISIONS ARE ENCLOSED.

AN EXAMINATION OF THE FEDERAL TRAVEL REGULATIONS (FTR) SHOWS THAT PARAGRAPHS 1-1.3A AND 1-3.4B(1)(A) APPLY TO THE SITUATION DESCRIBED. THEY PROVIDE:

"1-1.3. GENERAL RULES.

A. EMPLOYEE'S OBLIGATION. AN EMPLOYEE TRAVELING ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS IS EXPECTED TO EXERCISE THE SAME CARE IN INCURRING EXPENSES THAT A PRUDENT PERSON WOULD EXERCISE IF TRAVELING ON PERSONAL BUSINESS.

"1-3.4B. REDUCED RATES.

(1) USE OF SPECIAL LOWER FARES.

(A) THROUGH FARES, SPECIAL FARES, COMMUTATION FARES, EXCURSION, AND REDUCED-RATE ROUND TRIP FARES SHALL BE USED FOR OFFICIAL TRAVEL WHEN IT CAN BE DETERMINED BEFORE THE START OF A TRIP THAT THIS TYPE OF SERVICE IS PRACTICAL AND ECONOMICAL TO THE GOVERNMENT. ROUND TRIP TICKETS SHALL BE SECURED ONLY WHEN, ON THE BASIS OF THE JOURNEY AS PLANNED, IT IS KNOWN OR CAN BE REASONABLY ANTICIPATED THAT THESE TICKETS WILL BE USED."

WE HAVE HELD THAT FTR PARA. 1-3.4B(1) NOT ONLY PERMITS THE USE OF SPECIAL REDUCED RATES BUT ACTUALLY REQUIRES A TRAVELER TO USE THEM FOR OFFICIAL TRAVEL WHEN IT CAN BE DETERMINED IN ADVANCE THAT IT WOULD BE ADVANTAGEOUS TO THE GOVERNMENT. 54 COMP.GEN. 268, 269 (1974).

IN THE PAST, THIS OFFICE HAS ADVOCATED THE USE OF AIRLINE DISCOUNT FARES WHEN FEASIBLE RATHER THAN REGULAR COACH-CLASS AIR FARES. SEE B-103315, AUGUST 25, 1977. IN THAT MEMORANDUM WE NOTED THAT SEVERAL MILLION DOLLARS WAS LOST ANNUALLY GOVERNMENT-WIDE BECAUSE TRAVELERS AND TRAVEL OFFICERS DID NOT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF DISCOUNT FARES, EVEN THOUGH GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS REQUIRE THEM TO DO SO. HOWEVER, WE ADVISED THAT TRAVELERS SHOULD BE REQUIRED TO USE THEIR AGENCY'S TRAVEL OFFICE PERSONNEL WHO ARE GENERALLY MORE KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT AVAILABLE DISCOUNTS. SEE ALSO GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION REGULATIONS INVOLVING THE USE OF CONTRACT AIRLINE SERVICE BETWEEN SELECTED CITY PAIRS, FPMR TEMP.REG. A-19, 46 FED.REG. 40690, AUGUST 11, 1981.

WE HAVE ALSO HELD THAT PENALTY CHARGES (LIQUIDATED DAMAGES) ASSESSED BY AN AIRLINE PURSUANT TO ITS TARIFF PROVISIONS AGAINST THE FEDERAL EMPLOYEE WHO FAILS TO USE OR CANCEL CONFIRMED RESERVED SPACE MAY BE PAID BY THE AGENCY CONCERNED IF THE CHARGES WERE UNAVOIDABLE IN THE CONDUCT OF OFFICIAL TRAVEL OR WERE INCURRED FOR REASONS BEYOND THE TRAVELER'S CONTROL AND ACCEPTABLE TO THE AGENCY CONCERNED. 41 COMP.GEN. 806 (1962). THUS, IN CERTAIN INSTANCES WE HAVE REIMBURSED EMPLOYEES AND HAVE PERMITTED AGENCIES TO PAY PENALTY CHARGES ASSESSED FOR FAILURE TO USE A CONFIRMED AIRLINE RESERVATION. SEE ALSO RAINEY AND MORSE, 59 COMP.GEN. 612 (1980) INVOLVING FORFEITED DEPOSITS FOR LODGINGS. HOWEVER, AN EMPLOYEE WHO FOR REASONS OTHER THAN THE PERFORMANCE OF OFFICIAL BUSINESS, EXCEPT FOR REASONS BEYOND HIS CONTROL AND ACCEPTABLE TO THE AGENCY CONCERNED, FAILS TO USE OR CANCEL A CONFIRMED RESERVED SPACE IS HIMSELF LIABLE FOR ANY PENALTY. WE STATED THE RESULT WAS THE SAME EVEN IF CASH WAS USED TO PAY THE AIR FARES RATHER THAN GOVERNMENT TRANSPORTATION REQUESTS. 41 COMP.GEN. 806, SUPRA.

ASSUMING THAT THE TRAVEL IN QUESTION DOES NOT INVOLVE CITY-PAIRS UNDER GSA'S CONTRACT CARRIER SERVICE, IT WOULD APPEAR THAT, THE AGENCY CONCERNED WOULD HAVE THE DISCRETION TO PERMIT REIMBURSEMENT IF IT MADE A DETERMINATION THAT THE EMPLOYEE ACTED IN A PRUDENT MANNER IN PURCHASING THE DISCOUNT TICKET, AND THAT THE TRIP WAS CANCELLED BECAUSE OF THE PERFORMANCE OF OFFICIAL BUSINESS OR FOR REASONS BEYOND THE EMPLOYEE'S CONTROL AND ACCEPTABLE TO THE AGENCY.

WE ARE FORWARDING YOUR LETTER AND OUR RESPONSE TO GSA FOR ITS CONSIDERATION.