Air Travel

It is suggested that a traveler make arrangements for travel through either a University designated travel agency or a University preferred vendor.

USG Regulations

All USG funds are subject to the “Fly America Act,” under which all flights must be booked on a U.S. flag carrier or “code share” airline. The US Flag Carrier Policy is available on the University’s Research Administration webpage.

Travelers should carefully note the specific rules regarding code sharing, as they are restrictive and must meet specific criteria to qualify. If travel is charged to a USG funding source and a foreign carrier is used, the department or traveler may provide any of the following types of documentation to demonstrate that the expense is allowable:

  • A completed Certification of Unavailability of U.S. Carrier (Appendix 46 of the ICAP SOPs) to document that the U.S. Flag Carrier Policy exception was met
  • A copy of the section of the grant/contract award or budget that allows foreign air carriers
  • Written approval from the Department Administrator

The documentation must be attached to the invoice for the airline ticket.

Travel Class

Columbia University guidelines and USG travel regulations stipulate that all tickets purchased must be for coach or economy class travel. The rules call for selecting the lowest-cost carrier and most direct route. If a traveler would like to use a preferred airline carrier or route at an additional cost, the traveler must pay Columbia University the difference between the lowest cost ticket and the actual cost.

Exceptions to the coach/economy class rule may occur in very limited circumstances, e.g., business-class travel is allowable when the scheduled in-air flying time exceeds five hours. See the Travel Expense Policy. Note: Mailman School rules on these exceptions may supersede those established by the University.


The cost of a day room or hotel room is a reimbursable expense, if the traveler has a forced layover in an airport for eight hours or more. The cost limit is the per diem lodging rate for a hotel room in the country where the forced layover occurs. (See the rates at the State Department’s Office of Allowances). The cost of the room should be submitted on the TBER form and a receipt attached.