July 1, 2017
Version #2 / November, 2018
Office of the Vice President for Research and Office of Sponsored Projects
Office of the Vice President for Research
The Fly America Act is a federal regulation that states that any foreign air travel that is financed by federal funds must be booked on U.S. Flag Air Carriers or "codeshare" carriers, regardless of cost or convenience.
Purpose of Policy
This policy is an extension of the University Travel Policy. The policy provides guidance to ensure the University and the traveler are in compliance with the Fly America Act. It also assures that travel and business expenses charged to sponsored projects conform to the regulations and restrictions placed on the use of the funds by the sponsor and the Fly America Act.
Who is Governed by this Policy:
This regulation must be followed by all Brown University faculty, staff, students, trainees, consultants and collaborators who are reimbursed for air travel with federal prime or federal pass through funds. It is the Principal Investigator’s (PI) or his/her designee’s responsibility to ensure that all air travel charged to federal prime or federal pass through awards are in compliance with this regulation.
Code-sharing agreements with foreign air carriers, whereby American carriers purchase or have the right to sell a block of tickets on a foreign carrier, comply with the Fly America Act Regulations. The ticket, or documentation for an electronic ticket, must identify the U.S. carrier's designator code and flight number. This indicates that the flier is in a U.S. Flag carrier seat, regardless of the air carrier, which owns the aircraft. The key to meeting the requirements is that the ticket is purchased through the U.S. air carrier.
Exceptions to the Fly America Act:
Travel to and from the United States
If a U.S. flag carrier offers nonstop or direct service (no aircraft change) from your origin to your destination, you must use a U.S. flag air carrier service unless such use would:
- Extend travel time (including delay at origin) by 24 hours or more.
If a U.S. flag carrier does not offer nonstop or direct service (no aircraft change) from your point of origin to your destination, you must use a U.S. flag air carrier service on every portion of the route that it provides service, unless such use would:
- Increase the number of aircraft changes outside of the U.S. by two or more; or
- Extend travel time by at least 6 hours or more; or
- Require a connecting time of 4 hours or more at an overseas interchange point.
Travel between Two Points outside the United States
You must always use a U.S. flag air carrier for such travel, if available, unless when compared to using a foreign air carrier, such use would:
- Increase the number of aircraft changes you must make enroute by 2 or more; or
- Require a connecting time of 4 hours or more at an overseas interchange point; or
- Extend travel time by 6 hours or more.
Travel on a foreign-flag carrier is permitted if a U.S.-flag air carrier involuntarily reroutes the traveler via a foreign-flag air carrier, notwithstanding the availability of alternative U.S.-flag air carrier service.
Short Distance Travel
For all short distance travel, regardless of origin and destination, use of a foreign-flag air carrier is permissible if the elapsed travel time on a scheduled flight from origin to destination by a foreign air carrier is 3 hours or less and the use of a U.S. flag air carrier doubles time en route.
Note that all exceptions should be documented at the time of purchase. Exceptions to Fly America must meet one of the exception criteria and be justified and documented to be allowable on a federal award.
Open Skies Agreement
The biggest exception to the Fly America Act is the Open Skies Agreement, which is a bilateral or multilateral transport agreement between the United States government and the government of a foreign country. Currently there are four Open Skies agreements with the U.S. - the European Union (excluding United Kingdom), Australia, Switzerland and Japan. These agreements allow for travel sponsored on Federal awards to use foreign air carriers under certain circumstances. The Department of Transportation has determined that Open Skies Agreements meet the requirements of the Fly America Act.
Where an open skies agreement exists a traveler may use the foreign airline except when:
a General Services Administration (GSA) “City Pair” agreement exists, or
the travel is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).
The GSA City Pair Program offers significantly discounted rates to Federal employees traveling abroad. If a City Pair agreement exists for a foreign carrier, then the traveler using funds from a Federal sponsored project MUST fly on a U.S. flag carrier. Prior to booking a flight, travelers should look up their travel route on the Airline City Pair Program Search tool. If a published airfare rate exists, then the traveler must fly on a U.S. flag carrier.
Note: Travelers cannot purchase the discounted city-pair contract rate, this is only for Federal employees.
On October 6, 2010, the United States and European Union (EU) “Open Skies” Air Transport Agreement was published by the U.S. General Services Administration providing full explanation of the multilateral agreement in place so that qualifying travelers, whose travel is supported by federal funds, may travel on European Union airlines (excluding United Kingdom) as well as U.S. Flag Air Carriers. For a list of countries part of the European Union, go to https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/countries_en.
What do these Open Skies Agreements mean to you?
When traveling to a destination serviced by a European Union airline, travelers flying on a Federal grant can fly on either a US carrier or an EU (European Union) carrier as long as they touch down in an EU country.
On June 21, 2011, the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement was amended to include Norway and Iceland as though they were member states of the EU. The traveler may use a Norwegian airline or an Icelandic airline.
- Travelers using federal dollars can use an Australian airline only if a point of origin/destination is either the US or Australia and there is no city-pair contract flight between the two points (origin and destination).If there is a city-pair contract flight, then a U.S. airline must be used.
Travelers using federal dollars can use a Swiss airline only if a point of origin/destination is either the US or Switzerland and there is no city-pair contract flight between the two points (origin and destination). If there is a city-pair contract flight, then a U.S. airline must be used.
Travelers using federal dollars can use a Japanese airline only if a point of origin/destination is either the US or Japan and there is no city-pair contract flight between the two points (origin and destination). If there is a city-pair contract flight, then a U.S. airline must be used.
For more information about Open Skies refer to: https://www.gsa.gov/cdnstatic/FTR_Bulletin_12-04.pdf
Please note: Travelers using Department of Defense (DOD) are not permitted to take advantage of the Open Skies Agreements. Travelers using DOD funds must use a U.S. carrier, unless they qualify for an exemption as noted in FTR 301-10.135, sections (a), (d), (e), (f), and (g):
(a) Use of a foreign air carrier is determined to be a matter of necessity in accordance with § 301–10.138; or
(d) No U.S. flag air carrier provides service on a particular leg of the route, in which case foreign air carrier service may be used, but only to or from the nearest interchange point on a usually traveled route to connect with U.S. flag air carrier service; or
(e) A U.S. flag air carrier involuntarily reroutes your travel on a foreign air carrier; or
(f) Service on a foreign air carrier would be three hours or less, and use of the U.S. flag air carrier would at least double your en route travel time; or
(g) When the costs of transportation are reimbursed in full by a third party, such as a foreign government, international agency, or other organization.
Note that exceptions should be documented at the time of purchase. Exceptions to Fly America Act must meet one of the exception criteria’s and be justified and documented to be allowable on a federal award (see 41 CFR 301.10-141).
If supporting documentation is not provided, the cost of foreign air carrier travel is deemed unallowable and must be covered by non-sponsored (personal or departmental) funds.
- Brown Travel Policy
- General Services Administration (GSA) Fly America Act and Open Skies Agreement
- The City Pair Program (CPP)
- Airline City Pair Program Search Tool
- Fly America – Open Skies Decision Tree
- NIH Grants Policy Statement on the Fly America Act (Rev 10/2013)
- NSF’s Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG)
- OSP Travel Guide
Sponsored Travel Questions
- Version 1 - New procedure – 7/1/17
- Version 2 – Added Additional FAQs- 11/18
The official version of this information will only be maintained in an on-line web format. Any and all printed copies of this material are dated as of the print date. Please make certain to review the material on-line prior to placing reliance on a dated printed version.