B-234719, Sep 15, 1989

B-234719: Sep 15, 1989

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Even though he was unaware of the Fly America Act requirement to use a U.S. carrier. He is responsible for the cost of travel regardless of any administrative error and even though a travel agent stated. That U.S. carriers were unavailable. Smith - Fly America Act: We are asked whether Major General Issac D. May be reimbursed for the costs of air fare on a foreign air carrier in connection with his dependent's authorized travel. /1/ For the following reasons reimbursement is not authorized. General Smith says he was unaware of this requirement. He implies that the use of the foreign air carrier was the result of administrative errors committed by a travel agent that formerly arranged travel for the installation.

B-234719, Sep 15, 1989

MILITARY PERSONNEL - Travel - Overseas travel - Dependents - Travel expenses - Reimbursement MILITARY PERSONNEL - Travel - Overseas travel - Foreign air carriers - Use - Prohibition DIGEST: Member may not be reimbursed for costs of dependent's travel on foreign air carrier in connection with authorized travel in the absence of showing unavailability of a U.S. carrier, even though he was unaware of the Fly America Act requirement to use a U.S. carrier. Also, he is responsible for the cost of travel regardless of any administrative error and even though a travel agent stated, subsequent to the travel, that U.S. carriers were unavailable.

Major General Isaac D. Smith - Fly America Act:

We are asked whether Major General Issac D. Smith, United States Army, may be reimbursed for the costs of air fare on a foreign air carrier in connection with his dependent's authorized travel. /1/ For the following reasons reimbursement is not authorized.

BACKGROUND

General Smith received orders authorizing leave travel for himself and his wife in conjunction with consecutive overseas tours. Mrs. Smith obtained tickets on the foreign air carrier for the transoceanic portions of her travel at a cost of $871. The orders contained no instructions that an American flag carrier must be used, and therefore, General Smith says he was unaware of this requirement. Additionally, he implies that the use of the foreign air carrier was the result of administrative errors committed by a travel agent that formerly arranged travel for the installation, and by his staff.

After he became aware of the requirement to use a U.S. carrier, General Smith obtained a statement by an employee of the travel agent stating that all American carriers were booked on the dates that Mrs. Smith traveled and that the foreign carrier's flight was less expensive and more direct. General Smith also indicates that the travel agent was unaware of Fly America requirements. However, the Director of Logistics for the Heidelberg Military Community found that American flag carriers were available for Mrs. Smith's use.

ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSION

The "Fly America" Act was originally enacted by section 5(a) of the International Air Transportation Fair Competition Practices Act of 1974, as amended, 49 U.S.C. app. Sec. 1517. /2/ It prohibits the Comptroller General from allowing any expenditure from appropriated funds for transportation of personnel on a non-certificated (foreign flag) carrier in the absence of satisfactory proof of the necessity of using a non-U.S. carrier. Donald R. Mitchell, B-203010, Aug. 4, 1981; Revision of Joint Travel Regulations, 57 Comp.Gen. 546 (1978).

Lack of knowledge of the Act is not sufficient justification for failure to comply with it. The requirement to use American carriers is imposed by statute and all persons are charged with knowledge of it. Jasinder S. Jaspal and Claude A. Goode, 60 Comp.Gen. 718, 720 (1981). This is true even though a member's orders contain no special instructions concerning the requirement. John King, Jr., 62 Comp.Gen. 278 (1983); and Colonel Nicholas S. Kotas, B-194779, Aug. 5. 1980. Moreover, we have held in numerous decisions that no government traveler can be relieved of liability because of ignorance of the law or because others, such as government employees or travel agents, made travel arrangements for him. See for example Staff Sergeant Jeffry A. Collins, B-219850, Feb. 19, 1986, and 62 Comp.Gen. 278.

The travel agent's letter stating no U.S. carriers were available is insufficent to demonstrate the necessity for using a non-U.S. carrier. Decisions and guidelines of this Office, as well as implementing regulations of the Department of Defense, require that the determination of unavailability be made by a transportation officer or other appropriate officer. See 4 C.F.R. Sec. 52.2 and Volume I of the Joint Federal Travel Regulations, Para. U3125 C 4. See also Staff Sergeant Jeffry A. Collins, supra; and Donald R. Mitchell, supra. While an employee's own certification may be acceptable if externally verifiable, it is considered insufficent to authorize reimbursement where, as here, the chief transportation officer in the applicable command finds that Military Airlift Command or American-flag service was available. Staff Sergeant Jeffry A. Collins-- Reconsideration, B-219850, Nov. 23, 1987.

Accordingly, General Smith may not be reimbursed for his dependent's travel on a foreign air carrier.

/1/ The question was presented by the Finance and Accounting Officer, 266th Theater Finance Center, and was assigned PDTATAC Control No. 89-2, by the Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee.

/2/ Pub.L. No. 93-623, Sec. 5(a), 88 Stat. 2102, 2104 (1975), as amended by Pub.L. No. 96-192, Sec. 21, 94 Stat. 35, 43-44 (1980).