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Policy on Air Travel

Find out about policy related to air travel and the special circumstances that may make a UC San Diego business traveler eligible for reimbursement for fares booked outside of policy.

Background:Concur is the official booking source for all UC San Diego employee and guest business travel.  Airfare not booked in Concur is subject to additional audit scrutiny and may cause delays in reimbursement.   

Employees should use coach or economy class for UC San Diego business travel, regardless of the purpose of the travel or the fund source. Fees for early check in, priority boarding, or seat selection are reimbursable only when the original ticket is booked in Concur Travel and there is no change to the class of travel. A business purpose for the purchase is required.  Note: Basic Economy fares are highly restrictive and are not recommended for business travel.   

Rail Travel: Business class tickets are standard for rail travel. A business class rail ticket involves a reserved seat and the ability to conduct work while in transit. Business class rail tickets are allowable without special exception.  

Expenses incurred for purchasing air tickets not considered coach or economy class are only reimbursable when:

  • A higher cost service is the only service offered between two points
  • Coach or economy class is more expensive than first-class, business or other typically higher cost service for the desired route due to scheduling difficulties requiring extra hotel and subsistence expense
  • Coach or economy class is more time-consuming than first-class, business or other typically higher cost service for the desired route due to circuitous routing or long layovers when making connections
  • The itinerary involves overnight travel without an opportunity for normal rest before the commencement of working hours
  • A medical need or disability requires accommodation. The need/disability must be certified by a physician and chronic conditions updated annually, except in the case of permanent conditions which require a certification stating such

Per UC Travel Policy G-28, comparable airfare is required when personal time is used while on business travel status. The traveler is eligible to receive reimbursement for whichever amount is lower. To gather comparable airfare:

  • Keep documentation of what the flight amount would have been if the traveler had stayed in the trip location for only the business portion of the trip at the time of booking
    • We recommend that Concur Travel (Balboa) is used to gather comparable airfare
  • For trips that have already occurred, make sure to look for similar travel dates in the future. 
    • If the original trip date was in April, but the flight was booked in January, then you would search for comparable flights that are three months from the current date.
  • Here are some examples of when comparable airfare would be required
    • Example 1: Traveler is going to a conference from 1/11 and returning on 1/14, but would like to stay until 1/17 as personal travel. When booking the airfare from 1/11-1/17, a comparable quote must be found for 1/11-1/14 (as if the traveler did not take personal travel). The lesser amount between the actual expenses and the comparable is reimbursable.
    • Example 2: Traveler travels from San Diego on 1/11 to Dallas for a conference. After the conference, the traveler flies to Denver on 1/14 for personal travel. They then fly from Denver to San Diego on 1/17. When booking the airfare, a comparable quote must be found for a flight from San Diego - Dallas on 1/11 and Dallas - San Diego on 1/14 (as if the traveler did not take personal travel). The lesser amount between the actual expenses and the comparable is reimbursable.

Consider the fund source. Some fund sources may restrict first class, business, or other higher cost service of travel. In cases where the fund source policy is more restrictive than UC / UC San Diego policy, the more restrictive policy applies.

Reimbursement for business, economy plus, or first-class travel: When requesting reimbursement for business, economy plus or first-class travel, include a description of the appropriate circumstance in the comments of the Airfare Expense in Concur. Note: Appropriate justification must reflect a demonstrated need rather than any reason associated with personal convenience.

Other circumstances: If the reason for the upgraded class is not listed above, you must request written advance approval from the Director of UC San Diego Travel by creating a case via the UC San Diego Services and Support portal (login required). If you receive authorization indicate this in the comments of the Airfare Expense in Concur.

Find answers, request services, or get help from our team at the UC San Diego Services & Support portal.
Notice: UC San Diego travel policy, as published in Blink, is decisive. It has been adapted to UC San Diego's organization, delegation of authority, terminology, chart of accounts and processing applications. The source for UC San Diego travel policy is UC Travel Policy and Regulations (PDF).