311 Air Travel Policy

UW-Madison Administrative Policy
Policy # 311
Air Travel Policy

Effective Date: October 10, 2015
Last Updated: July 1, 2020
Last Reviewed: July 17, 2020
Next Review: Jan 1, 2021

Functional Owner: Controller, Division of Business Services, Dan Langer
Executive Sponsor: Associate Vice Chancellor (Interim), Division of Business Services, Dan Langer
Policy Contact: Expense Reimbursement Program Manager, Division of Business Services, Graig Brooks graig.brooks@wisc.edu

Policy Summary

Travel by air is limited to the lowest, logical, non-refundable, coach/economy class fare available unless otherwise noted. All flights must be booked through Concur or the University’s contracted travel agency. Certain associated fees are payable/reimbursable. Cost comparisons from the University’s contracted travel agency are required for trips including personal travel.

Note: NCAA funded travel has specific requirements, some of which may be less restrictive than University policies or rates. NCAA funded travel will be governed by NCAA policy.

Note: Sponsored projects (e.g. fund 144 or 133) are subject to the terms and conditions of the specific award, as well as applicable program guidelines, which may restrict use of funds for certain types of expenses. Please contact the RSP accountant for your award with any questions.

Who This Policy Applies To

This policy applies to faculty, staff, students, and non-employees traveling on or arranging University-sponsored travel.


The University has a managed travel program. Travel policy is established to ensure prudent use of University resources while ensuring the safety of travelers and minimizing the administrative burden on travelers and support staff.

Policy Detail

I. What to Book. Travel by air shall be limited to the lowest, logical, non-refundable, coach/economy class fare available.  The additional cost for premium class or seat assignment fees for premium class (first class, business class, or premium economy) travel is not payable/reimbursable unless:

  • The traveler has been granted an ADA exemption through the Employee Disability Resources Office, or,
  • It is an international flight with 8 hours or more of total flight time, including domestic segments (allowable upgrade to Premium Economy class only).

II. Booking Methods. Airline reservations – for both employee and non-employee travel – must be made with a University contracted travel agency or via the Concur self-booking tool. Exceptions requiring supporting documentation are:

    1. Foreign, Intra-country Flights: Though rare, some international airline tickets cannot be purchased by a designated travel management company or are available at significantly higher rates. Some remote international carriers must be purchased in-country. If purchasing airfare abroad, the origin and destination must both be international locations. Flights purchased under this exception may be booked directly with the airline.
    2. Independent Study Abroad: UW Madison students traveling for programs provided wholly by international institutions of higher education or third-party affiliates.
    3. University Organized or Faculty Led Programs: When UW Madison students are traveling for the primary purpose of participating in a university organized or faculty-led program, students are allowed to purchase travel on their own and first meet as a group at an international location. Applicable University-organized or faculty-led programs are reviewed and approved by the University International Travel Committee and the IAP Faculty Advisory Committee.

The University’s contracted travel agency for individual travel is Travel, Inc.

The University’s contracted travel agency for group travel – defined by the airlines as 10 or more individuals travelling together – is Fox World Travel.

III. Associated Fees.

  1. Baggage: The first piece of baggage within the airlines’ weight and size limits is payable/reimbursable. Costs for additional baggage beyond the first piece and overweight or oversized baggage may be payable/reimbursable with a business justification.
  2. Aisle, Window or Exit Row Fees: Additional fees associated with booking a coach/economy aisle, window or exit row seat at check-in or at the gate are payable/reimbursable. This is not to be confused with fare class upgrades to economy plus/economy comfort, which are typically not allowed.
  3. Change/Cancellation Fees: Fees charged for changing a non-refundable ticket are payable/reimbursable if justified by circumstances outside of the traveler’s control (i.e. meeting dates changed).
  4. Booking Fees: Travel agency and online booking fees are payable/reimbursable.
  5. Federal Excise Taxes: Federal excise taxes are payable/reimbursable.

IV. Cost Comparison. Cost comparisons must be obtained by contacting an agent at a University contracted travel agency. Travelers must obtain a cost comparison under the following circumstances:

  1. Indirect routing, extra stops, and/or extra days for personal reasons
  2. Departing from/returning to a city other than Madison, Milwaukee or Chicago for personal reasons – while it is allowable, travelers must consider potential extra costs for transportation, lodging, meals, tolls, parking, etc. when choosing to travel to/from Milwaukee or Chicago.
  3. Any other situation where the traveler’s itinerary is modified for personal reasons

Either the traveler’s actual flight or their comparison flight – whichever is less expensive – is payable/reimbursable. The University will not pay/reimburse excess costs related to personal travel. Cost comparisons are not required for non-employees. Cost comparisons must be obtained at the time of booking.

V. Airline Promotions. Benefits from any airline promotion, such as free tickets for frequent fliers, merchandise, etc., that accrue as a result of UW paid travel belong to the UW and must be used for UW related business only; however, benefits that accrue as a result of voluntary bumping may be retained by the employee. An employee may not be reimbursed or compensated for business use of personally earned frequent flyer vouchers, vouchers for bumping, discount coupons or other instruments of value.

Consequences for Noncompliance

Non-compliant airfare purchases will not be paid or reimbursed by the University.

Supporting Tools

UW TravelWIse (including travel agency information): https://www.wisconsin.edu/travel/

Concur Travel Booking Tool: https://www.concursolutions.com/default2.asp


  1. Comparison flight: flight itinerary obtained from the University’s contracted travel agency when combining business and personal travel. The comparison flight shows what airfare would have cost had no personal travel been included. When a comparison flight is required, the lesser of the comparison flight and the actual flight are payable/reimbursable.
  2. Concur: web-based travel booking tool utilized by the University of Wisconsin for purchasing airfare and reserving lodging and/or rental vehicles.
  3. Foreign intra-country airfare: airfare which both departs and lands in the same (non-US) country. Travelers may book these flights directly with the airline. These flights are sometimes unavailable or significantly more expensive when purchased elsewhere.
  4. Group travel: defined by the airlines as 10 or more individuals travelling together.
  5. Lowest, Logical, Non-Refundable, Coach/Economy Class Fare Available: least expensive fare offered by the University’s contracted travel agency that fits the traveler’s business travel schedule. This determination must not consider personal travel preferences or personal schedule conflicts. Flights are flagged as non-compliant in Concur when they exceed the lowest available fare by $150.
  6. Managed Travel Program: established policies, procedures, and best practices – universally applied to all travelers – designed to protect travelers, reduce costs, and allow for effective reporting while minimizing administrative burdens on travelers, travel arrangers, and travel approvers.
  7. Non-Employee: an individual traveling on behalf of the University who does not have a current employee appointment. Non-employees include contractors, volunteers, former employees and students, among others. Travel policies apply to non-employees the same as employees.
  8. Travel arranger: an employee designated to reserve airfare on behalf of other employees and non-employees.
  9. Traveler: an individual (employee, student, or non-employee) who has been authorized to travel on behalf of the University on office University business or sanctioned purpose. All University travelers are required to comply with University policies and procedures.
  10. University-sponsored travel: travel which is either:
    1. paid for in full or in part by the University
    2. paid directly or indirectly by the University
    3. organized by the University with participants or sponsors paying
    4. organized by others outside the University and paid for by the University
    5. sponsored by the University in the form of name, organization, communication, management, staffing, transportation, or space provision


Traveler/Travel Arranger –

  • Register for Concur access and create a Concur travel profile.
  • Understand and comply with University travel procurement and payment policies.
  • Obtain prior travel approval from departmental/divisional authorities, if necessary.
  • Obtain a cost comparison, when necessary.
  • Retain all required receipts.

Link to Related Guides

Related Policies


Policy Number: 311
Date Approved 7-17-2019
Revision Dates

  • Removed “initiated by” language
  • Linked to Procedure 311.1
  • Updated language regarding travel agency fees
  • Updated language to require all Airfare cost comparisons to be performed by FWT
  • Added a link to the “Booking Air Travel” landing page


  • Defined exceptions to required booking methods
  • Updated language to reflect new travel agency
  • Added “Federal Excise Tax” to allowable associated fees list
  • Clarified cost comparison language
  • Updated/added definitions, responsibilities, and links to related guides and policies