B-227382, Apr 8, 1988

B-227382: Apr 8, 1988

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A transferred employee was authorized to perform travel to her new duty station using her private aircraft which was determined to be advantageous to the government. Such determinations are made on a case-by-case basis before travel is performed and are discretionary. Where such determinations are made and the employee performs that travel. Where use of a private aircraft is determined to be advantageous to the government for permanent change-of-station travel. Mileage is to be reimbursed under authority of Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) para. 2- 2.1. Where use of a private aircraft is determined to be advantageous to the government for permanent change-of-station travel. Where use of a private aircraft is determined to be advantageous to the government for permanent change-of-station travel.

B-227382, Apr 8, 1988

CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Relocation - Travel expenses - Reimbursement - Privately-owned aircraft - Administrative discretion DIGEST: 1. A transferred employee was authorized to perform travel to her new duty station using her private aircraft which was determined to be advantageous to the government. Officials at the new duty station question the propriety of that determination and the employee's travel entitlements. Under Federal Travel Regulations para. 1-2.2c(3), such determinations are made on a case-by-case basis before travel is performed and are discretionary. Where such determinations are made and the employee performs that travel, the employee may be reimbursed for the mode of travel authorized. CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Relocation - Travel expenses - Privately-owned aircraft - Mileage 2. Where use of a private aircraft is determined to be advantageous to the government for permanent change-of-station travel, mileage is to be reimbursed under authority of Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) para. 2- 2.1, at the rate specified in FTR para. 1-4.2a(3), for the distance between the old and new duty stations as determined under FTR para. 1 4.1b(2). CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Relocation - Per diem rates - Computation 3. Where use of a private aircraft is determined to be advantageous to the government for permanent change-of-station travel, in the absence of a specific rule in the Federal Travel Regulations, travel per diem may be established by dividing the distance between the old and new duty stations by the product of the employee's average daily flight time for each whole day of flying and cruising speed of the aircraft. CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Relocation - Miscellaneous expenses - Reimmbursement - Rates 4. Where use of a private aircraft is determined to be advantageous to the government for permanent change-of-station travel, miscellaneous expense reimbursement may include overnight hangar rental where required since that expense item is comparable to an airplane parking fee authorized under Federal Travel Regulations para. 1-4.1c.

Katharine B. Gebbie -- Relocation Travel by Privately Owned Aircraft:

BACKGROUND

Dr. Katharine B. Gebbie, an employee of the National Bureau of Standards, transferred on a permanent change of station from Gaithersburg, Maryland, to Boulder, Colorado. The travel order issued to her authorized travel by private aircraft as being advantageous to the government, with anticipated travel dates of January 29-30, 1985. The designated reimbursement rate for her flight from Gaithersburg to Boulder was 45 cents per mile.

Dr. Gebbie did not perform her permanent change-of-station travel quite in the manner envisioned when the travel orders were issued. She began her flight at Montgomery County Airport, Maryland, on January 27, and flew that day to Indianapolis, Indiana. The following day she flew as far as Grand Island, Nebraska, where she was forced to land due to weather conditions. On the next day, January 29, she secured commercial air transportation at Grand Island and traveled on to Boulder, Colorado. January 31, after the weather had cleared, she returned to Grand Island by commercial aircraft and flew her private aircraft back to Boulder.

Dr. Gebbie made a claim for per diem for 2 days, mileage for her airplane (1,553 miles), common carrier transportation including airfare from Grand Island to Boulder and return, as well as miscellaneous expenses associated with using an aircraft hangar for 3 days ($36) and servicing her aircraft in Grand Island ($45).

The agency questions the propriety of the sending office authorizing Dr. Gebbie to use her private aircraft as advantageous in view of the time of year when the travel was performed. /1/ However, if it is concluded that her private aircraft use was proper, the agency is uncertain as to the mileage rate which may be paid, whether the round trip to retrieve her aircraft may be paid, and whether she may be reimbursed for the miscellaneous expenses incurred for the 3 days her aircraft was in storage at Grand Island, Nebraska.

OPINION

The laws governing employee reimbursement for relocation expenses incurred incident to a transfer in the interest of the government from one official station to another for permanent duty are contained in 5 U.S.C. Secs. 5724 and 5724a (1982). Regulations issued pursuant to those provisions are contained in Chapter 2, Part 2 of the Federal Travel Regulations, incorp. by ref., 41 C.F.R. Sec. 101-7.003 (1985) (FTR), as amended, in part, by GSA Bulletin FPMR A-40, Supp. 4 (effective October 1982). The thrust of these regulations is to permit the employee and members of the immediate family to travel at government expense from the old to the new duty station by such means as are authorized by the employing agency. However, allowable costs for that travel are limited to the costs of travel by the most direct route from the old to the new station by the mode of travel authorized. FTR para. 2-2.2a and Gary E. Pike, B-209727, July 12, 1983.

Although use of a privately-owned automobile for permanent change of station travel is automatically considered to be advantageous to the government (FTR para. 2-2.3a), a determination that use of a private aircraft is similarly advantageous to the government is to be made on a case-bycase basis and is discretionary on the part of the agency. FTR para. 1-2.2c(3). While reflections on the situation after the travel is completed might reveal a faulty logic in the initial determination, that determination is to be made before travel is performed, and we are not aware of a basis upon which a proper determination can be challenged. See Susan P. Covell, B-191415, Jan. 12, 1979. Further, once a determination is made that use of private aircraft is deemed advantageous to the government, no basis exists to question the employee for performing travel as authorized.

With regard to Dr. Gebbie's mileage claim for her travel expenses to Boulder, we note that because of poor weather conditions she traveled by commercial airline from Grand Island to Denver and then oy airport limousine to Boulder. She later returned to Grand Island, retrieved her private aircraft and then flew it to Boulder to complete her permanent change-of-station travel. Since she completed her travel in the mode authorized, she may be reimbursed for use of her privately owned aircraft. Her mileage would be determined in accordance with FTR para. 1- 4.1b(2), which authorizes mileage as determined by airways charts with provision for additional miles for necessary detours. /2/ However, all expenses associated with her common carrier travel to Boulder and return to Grand Island to retrieve her private aircraft are to be borne by her. Pike, cited above.

The agency also questions the proper rate for mileage reimbursement for using an airplane for relocation travel. Paragraph 22.1 of the FTR, which provides for relocation travel reimbursement, specifically refers to 5 U.S.C. Secs. 5701-5709 and FTR chapter 1 as authority to pay mileage for private aircraft use. The rate prescribed in 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5704(a)(3), as amended by section 2 of Public Law 96-346, Sept. 10, 1980, 94 Stat. 1148, and brought forward into the FTR as paragraph 1-4.2a(3), authorizes reimbursement for private aircraft use in the performance of official travel at the rate of 45 cents a mile.

The agency next questions the proper amount of per diem payable to Dr. Gebbie. We note that the minimum distance required to be traveled by motor vehicle for per diem purposes is 300 road miles a day. FTR para. 2- 2.3d(2). There is no comparable rule in the FTR for calculating travel per diem for use of private aircraft on a permanent change of station when such use is determined to be advantageous to the government. Cf. 35 Comp.Gen. 550 (1956); B-225296, June 2, 1987. However, FTR para. 1- 4.1b(2), relating to distance measurements for private aircraft travel, states in part that "the formula of flight time multiplied by cruising speed of the airplane may be the basis for mileage determination." Therefore, in the absence of a specific rule in the FTR governing per diem for aircraft travel, it would not be unreasonable to calculate per diem by substituting that formula in the computation stated in FTR para. 2-2.3d(2) relating to per diem entitlement when using a privately owned vehicle. The distance Dr. Gebbie flew her private aircraft would be divided by the product of her average daily flight time for each whole day of flying and the cruising speed of her airplane.

Finally, the agency questions whether Dr. Gebbie may be reimbursed for certain miscellaneous expenses incurred when she left her airplane in Grand Island. Paragraph 1-4.1c of the FTR authorizes reimbursement for airplane parking, landing and tie down fees. The expenses claimed as having been incurred were engine defrosting ($25.00), engine preheating ($20.00) and 3 days hangar rental ($36.00). Of these three items only overnight hangar rental would be comparable to the type of expenses listed in the FTR as reimbursable. We do not believe, though, that the government should be required to reimburse Dr. Gebbie for storing her airplane for 2 days because weather conditions prevented a timely continuation of her flight. Therefore, her miscellaneous expense reimbursement would be limited to 1 day hangar rental.

/1/ This request was submitted by the Chief, Mountain Administrative Support Center, Finance Center, U.S.. Department of Commerce.

/2/ We have been informally advised by the Aerospace Unit of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that the flight distance from Gaithersburg to Boulder is 1125 statute miles.