Frequent Flyer
Benefits and Bumping

The definition of Government property includes "any right or other intangible interest that is purchased with Government funds." That means any promotional benefit that you receive in connection with a purchase paid for by Government funds is Government property and may not be converted to your personal use.

This rule applies to frequent flyer miles and frequent guest benefits received in connection with official travel. It also applies, however, to promotional benefits received in connection with any Government procurement.

Example: Your administrative or procurement officer signs an order to purchase 50 boxes of photocopy paper from a supplier whose literature advertises that it will give a free briefcase to anyone who purchases 50 or more boxes. Because the paper is purchased with Government funds, the administrative or procurement officer cannot keep the briefcase which, if claimed and received, is Government property.

Frequent Flyer Mileage

Frequent flyer miles accumulated on official business are Government property. You cannot use those benefits for personal travel. If you do a lot of both personal and official travel with the same airline, itís a good idea for you to have two separate frequent flyer accounts with that airline -- one for your personal travel, the other for your official travel. That simplifies accounting for you and helps you stay out of trouble. The same restrictions apply to frequent guest benefits at hotels.

Some airlines might not permit you to establish two separate frequent flyer accounts with them. If that is the case, then you will have the burden of keeping separate records of official and personal frequent flyer miles. If your use of official frequent flyer miles is ever investigated, it will be very important for you to have accurate and complete records to show that the use of the official miles has been proper.

People have been prosecuted and convicted for redeeming travel benefits accumulated on official travel for personal travel tickets for themselves and their family.  

Bumping from Overbooked Flight

What are your rights when you are bumped off an overbooked flight during official travel?  It depends on whether you are bumped involuntarily, or whether you volunteered to be bumped. If you volunteered to be bumped, your action may not interfere with performance of your official duties and may not cause any added cost to the Government. Here's a chart to help you understand the differences between voluntary and involuntary bumping. 

Voluntary Bumping

Involuntary Bumping

Travel Status

Not official travel status Official travel status

Expenses

Can't claim on travel voucher Can claim on travel voucher

Other Benefits (meals, lodging, transportation)

May accept May accept but must reduce official travel claim accordingly

Mileage Credits (as compensation for bumping)

Can accept and use on personal trips Can accept but mileage belongs to Government

Example:  Itís Saturday and youíre in the Los Angles airport ready to go back to Washington. Your next duty day is Monday. Then you hear an announcement that your flight is overbooked! The airline is looking for volunteers to give up their seats on the flight. If you volunteer to be bumped, the airline will guarantee you a seat on the following dayís flight. The airline will also pay for your meals and lodging for the extra 24 hours in Los Angles. To sweeten the pot, the airline is offering you additional frequent flyer miles. You are strongly tempted.  Can you volunteer to be bumped and later use the mileage credits to take a vacation? Yes. You may volunteer to be bumped, as long as this does not interfere with the performance of official duties and does not result in additional cost to the Government. During the 24-hour delay in Los Angles, you are not in an official travel status, and you may not claim any expenses on your travel voucher for that period. You may accept the free meals and lodging from the airline. Finally, you may also accept the frequent flyer miles as compensation to you and use them for personal travel, because you were not in official travel status at the time they were earned.

However, if you are bumped involuntarily, the situation is quite different. You may accept the benefits BUT with significant limitations since you are on official travel as an involuntary "bumpee." You may claim expenses for that period on your travel voucher. You may choose to accept the meals and lodging offered by the airline. If you do, then you must reduce your claim for official travel expenses accordingly on your voucher. The free meals and lodging from the airline are compensation to the Government, not to you. Lastly, you can not use the frequent flyer credits for personal trips. Because you remain on official travel status when you are bumped involuntarily, those frequent flyer credits belong to the Government. 

Reference:
41 CFR 310-53(5); 5 CFR 2635.704, 2635.204(c)(3)

 

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