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NPR 9710.1
Effective Date: June 20, 2018
Expiration Date: June 20, 2024
Printable Format (PDF)

Subject: General Travel Requirements (Updated with Change 2 June 28, 2021)

Responsible Office: Office of the Chief Financial Officer

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Chapter 5. Allowable Transportation Expenses

5.1 Methods of Transportation

The method of transportation most advantageous to the Government shall be authorized, taking into account cost and other factors, and presumptions as to most advantageous methods, pursuant to 41 CFR §301-10.3 through 10.6. Travel by common carrier (e.g., airlines) is always presumed to be the most advantageous method (or mode) absent a different determination, and no justification is required. When the authorizing official determines travel can be performed by automobile as the most advantageous method pursuant to the criteria of 41 CFR §301-10.5, the determination including type of automobile (Government-furnished, rental car, or POV) should be documented in the comments of the authorization.

5.2 Transportation Expenses for Indirect Routes

5.2.1 If an employee is authorized official travel, he or she shall procure a ticket by the direct route using the authorized method of payment through the automated travel management system or the TMC. If the ticket for travel by the indirect route is of lesser value, NASA will only reimburse the cost of official common carrier travel, up to the official ticket amount in accordance with 41 CFR §301-10.8. If there is no contract carrier on the direct route of travel, reimbursement will be limited to the lowest logical airfare (LLA) available on the roundtrip direct route between the duty station and the TDY location. The traveler shall notify their Center's Travel Office at least two weeks in advance of travel to obtain the LLA quote, which should be attached to the travel authorization. Reimbursement will be limited to the lesser of the quoted amount and the actual cost incurred. Receipts showing the actual cost are required for reimbursement.

5.2.2 Employees may not use the city pair program to provide transportation when traveling by an indirect route. Additionally, employees may not use their travel card to procure transportation when traveling by an indirect route.

5.3 Official Travel in Conjunction with Leave

5.3.1 If an employee is recalled to duty while on leave, NASA will pay transportation expenses as follows:

a. If upon completion of TDY assignment, the employee returns to the leave point, NASA will pay transportation costs from the employee's leave point to his or her TDY site and the return transportation costs to the leave point.

b. If upon completion of TDY assignment, the employee returns to the official station, NASA will pay transportation costs from the employee's leave point to his or her TDY site and transportation costs to return to the official duty station.

c. NASA will not pay for expenses in excess of those required to return a traveler to his or her original leave point or the employee's official duty station.

5.3.2 Any leave in conjunction with official travel should be approved by the traveler's Approving Official prior to travel commencing, in accordance with NPR 3600.1.

5.3.3 Official travel over non-work days may be authorized to include days in which the traveler is not required to be present at the TDY location, but the reimbursement for such days is limited to that of the least costly alternative of remaining in travel status at the TDY location (i.e., authorized lodging, M&IE, and local transportation necessary for meals) or returning the traveler to their official station or residence before resuming travel. The traveler may voluntarily choose the other alternative, but the total cost for such days remains limited to the least costly alternative. For purposes of this section, a traveler is required to be present whether physically present for work or required to be in the TDY vicinity on call, but is not considered required for any non-work days (including scheduled days off for weekends, holidays, leave, or alternative work schedules) or alternative worksite arrangements (e.g., scheduled telework not required to be at the TDY location). When such non-work/telework falls between official travel at different TDY locations, the lower per diem applies. Finally, when remaining in travel status on non-work days, lodging and meals outside the TDY location may still be reimbursed as if within the TDY location, but the traveler bears all extra costs and risks (e.g., change fees, transportation other than for official business, costs of accidents, etc.)

5.4 Common Carrier Transportation

5.4.1 Non-contract fares. Prior to using a non-contract fare, the employee and authorizing official shall ensure that the following requirements are met: a. Before purchasing a non-contract fare the employee will meet one of the exceptions listed in 41 CFR§301-10.107 and show approval on their travel authorization to use a non-contract fare with detailed justification.

b. If the non-contract fare is non-refundable, restricted, or has specific eligibility requirements, (1) the employee should know or reasonably anticipate, based on their planned trip, that there is minimal likelihood that the non-refundable ticket will be canceled or changed resulting in a change fee; and (2) the non-refundable ticket is less expensive than the contract fare.

c. The authorizing official shall determine that the proposed non-contract transportation is practical and cost effective to the Government and should rarely authorize non-contract transportation when the travel is via an indirect route.

Note: Carrier preference is not a valid reason for using a non-contract fare. Even if authorized, the Deputy Chief Financial Officer (DCFO) or his/her designee at the employee's Center may review and determine that the proposed non-contract transportation is not practical and cost effective for the Government, which determination will be final.

5.4.2 For unused tickets and or refund applications, the employee should notify their Center Travel Office or its designee as soon as possible so that the appropriate credits can be processed.

5.4.3 If an employee is performing official travel and a carrier denies them a confirmed reserved seat on a plane, the employee is required to give NASA any payment received for liquidated damages. The employee shall ensure the carrier shows the "Treasurer of the United States" as payee on the compensation check, and then forward the payment as to the NSSC/Accounts Receivable Office. In instances where a traveler is issued a ticket and exchanges that ticket for a lesser value ticket used, the traveler is required to take the following action:

a. If ticket is purchased using a travel card or in cases when the total amount is less than $100 paid by cash, obtain a refund by crediting their account (or receiving cash) and then, claiming the lesser value ticket on their travel claim. The employee shall also submit the ticket receipt for the lesser value ticket. If it is not possible to get a credit to their account, he or she may submit a ticket refund application as instructed by his or her Center's DCFO Office.

b. If ticket is purchased using a Centrally Billed Account (CBA), then request a receipt, ticket refund application, or other written acknowledgement of fare adjustment from the carrier (Traveler is not authorized to receive a refund, credit, or any other negotiable document from a carrier.) In instances where a traveler is issued a ticket and exchanges that ticket for a more expensive ticket used, the traveler is required to do the following:

a. If ticket is purchased using a travel card, pay for the new ticket using travel card.

b. If ticket is purchased using a CBA, the traveler will:

(1) Contact his or her TMC if the travel was arranged through the TMC and the traveler can access his or her TMC.

(2) Pay for the new ticket using his or her travel card if he or she cannot use the ETS or access the TMC.

(3) Pay for the new ticket using cash only if he or she cannot use his or her TMC or travel card.

5.5 Other-Than-Coach Class Airline, Train, and Ship Accommodations

5.5.1 NASA travelers may use other-than-coach class accommodations such as business or first class only when NASA specifically authorizes these accommodations under one of the identified criteria in 41 CFR §301-10.123 or 125. Only Center Directors, OICs, or their designees are authorized to approve other-than-coach class accommodations. For authorizations of other than coach class based on disability or special need and "mission criteria" the requirements of Chapter 8 of this NPR also apply. For travel qualifying for other-than-coach class accommodation based on 41 CFR §301-10.123(b)(6) (the "14-hour rule" for Outside Continental United States (OCONUS) travel), a rest stop en route or a rest period at the destination should be authorized in lieu of other-than-coach class transportation when less expensive and the employee travel can reasonably be arranged to permit more than 8 hours rest en route or at the destination before reporting to duty. If other-than-coach class transportation is authorized based on the 14-hour rule, a traveler is not eligible for a rest stop or rest period.

5.5.2 NASA travelers may use first-class train accommodations only when Center Directors, OICs, or their designees specifically authorize the traveler's use of first-class train accommodations under paragraphs (a) through (d) of 41 CFR §301-10.162. In regard to 41 CFR §301-10.162(b), a special need will be justified in writing and shown on the travel authorization.

5.5.3 NASA travelers shall use the lowest first-class accommodation when traveling by ship, except when Center Directors, OICs, or their designees specifically authorize the travelers to use other-than-lowest first-class ship accommodation under paragraphs (a) through (c) of 41 CFR §301-10.183. In regard to 41 CFR §301-10.183(b), justification for special need is required in writing and shown on the travel authorization.

5.6 Privately Owned Vehicle (POV)

5.6.1 If a POV is authorized for official travel, having been determined to be the most advantageous method of transportation for the Government (see sec. 5.1), the employee shall be reimbursed for the mileage to and from the official destination at the current GSA mileage rate. The Approving Official is required to approve the use of POV as most advantageous mode prior to travel. A cost comparison is not required, but cost and other factors should be considered when determining a POV is more advantageous to the Government than other automobile modes (i.e., Government-furnished vehicles or rental cars). Privately Owned Aircraft (POA): When determining whether POA is most advantageous, consideration may include cost savings from other travelers using the POA in lieu of common carrier, but only if the authorizations and vouchers of all travelers are consistent with only the pilot being reimbursed for the POA trip portion and document such in the comments. When POA is determined most advantageous, the pilot should be reimbursed the POA mileage as well as miscellaneous charges for POA landing/parking/tie-down at the destination airport. See 41CFR §301-10.301 through 10.305.

5.6.2 NASA may reimburse a traveler's POV expenses of parking at a common carrier terminal as an allowable transportation expense, not to exceed the cost of taxi fare to/from the terminal.

5.6.3 If the traveler choses to use a POV when that has not been determined to be the most advantageous mode of transportation (e.g., in the absence of any determination common carrier transportation is presumed most advantageous, see sec. 5.1), the traveler will be reimbursed on a mileage basis per 41CFR §301-10.309 for the actual travel performed, not to exceed the total for the constructive voucher of the authorized method. The authorized method is presumed to be the most expeditious common carrier by direct route, absent a different determination on the authorization. The traveler should also be charged for duty hours missed as a result of a personal choice to travel by POV (e.g., if travel takes three days by POV but only one by airplane the extra days should generally be charged as leave; see 41 CFR 301-70.105(b)). The total cost for the constructive voucher is determined by the traveler as follows:

a. Mode of travel to be used for comparison:

(1) Airplane - When NASA authorizes air travel, the traveler reimbursement for mileage cost may not exceed the constructive cost of coach-class accommodations on a commercial air carrier. The traveler is required to use city pair rates as his or her basis of comparison if it is provided between the points involved; otherwise, he or she will use the lowest unrestricted coach-class fare. The traveler should consider coach-class accommodations as being provided by a carrier if they are scheduled on flights between the points involved; whether they would have been available at the time of travel is irrelevant.

(2) Train - When NASA authorizes train travel, the traveler's reimbursement for mileage cost may not exceed the constructive cost of coach-class train accommodations for the travel performed unless NASA has authorized extra-fare train service as advantageous to the Government.

(3) Bus - When NASA authorizes inter-city bus travel, reimbursement for mileage cost may not exceed the constructive cost transportation.

5.7 Constructive Cost (Cost Comparison)

5.7.1 When an employee is authorized to perform TDY travel, the allowable travel time is dependent upon the modes of transportation authorized and/or used over a usually traveled direct route. When the employee, for personal convenience, uses a mode of transportation other than that which is authorized, the allowable travel time and the resulting subsistence allowances payable will be computed on a constructive cost basis.

5.7.2 When the employee does not use the authorized method of transportation listed in 41 CFR §301-10.4, he or she needs to create a constructive voucher. The constructive voucher for the entire trip will be compared with the actual cost of the travel as performed for the entire trip and include the following:

a. Costs to and from carrier terminals.

b. Cost of excess baggage that would have been allowed by the authorized mode of transportation. (Acceptable evidence of baggage weight is required.)

c. Transportation in and around the TDY location.

d. Rental car expense including gas for the rental car, if it would have been authorized by the employee's authorized mode of transportation.

5.7.3 The allowable cost for per diem and transportation will be determined by comparing the constructive voucher for the entire trip with the actual cost of the travel as performed for the entire trip.

5.8 Special Conveyances

5.8.1 In instances where there are groups of NASA employees at the same TDY location and all are in need of rented transportation, authorizing officials may reasonably require individuals to share the use of a rental car. Employees authorized a rental car should record the names of other employees sharing with them on their travel claim.

5.8.2 NASA employees will not use contractor-owned vehicles, including aircraft or accept contractor-provided transportation, except for travel-related expenses accepted by NASA under the authority of 31 U.S.C. §1353 in connection with an employee's attendance at a meeting or similar function relating to official duties that take place away from the duty station. NASA's acceptance will be in accordance with 41 CFR Part 304-1. NASA employees will not request special transportation services from a contractor either to or from an airport, railroad station, or any other transportation points. However, this is not intended to limit permissible use of contractor-provided transportation that is directly paid for by NASA and not used in connection with official travel (e.g., approved uses on bases).

Note: Employees should consult with their local counsel regarding gifts rules under the standards of ethical conduct for employees of the Executive Branch if they have questions about the application of the above prohibitions to a specific instance of contractor-provided transportation.

5.8.3 Contractors are allowed to use or accept NASA-provided transportation in the course of performing official Government business as follows:

a. Contractors may accompany a NASA employee in a Government vehicle or rental car.

b. Contractors are allowed to drive a Government vehicle either alone or accompanying other NASA employees.

5.9 Taxicabs, Shuttle Services, or Other Courtesy Transportation

5.9.1 NASA travelers may use a taxi or shuttle service under the following circumstances:

a. To and from a carrier terminal - When travel is performed utilizing a common carrier, NASA will pay the costs of transportation for (a) travel from the employee's residence to a common carrier terminal on the day of departure from the official station (b) travel from the common carrier terminal to the employee's residence on the day of arrival at the official station.

(1) Between residence and office on the day the employee performs official travel. NASA will not pay the transportation costs, unless:

(a) The employee is provided a transit subsidy under sec. 629 of Pub. L. 103-172.

(b) The employee is authorized home-to-work transportation under 31 U.S.C. §1344.

(c) The employee requires transportation on the day he or she departs to and return from travel and the trip will last two or more days, the employee is not able to perform their commute by their normal mode of transportation, and the use of alternate mode of transportation results in an increase in the employee's commuting costs.

(d) The employee requires transportation because of necessity as provided in 41 CFR §301-10.420(d).

5.9.2 NASA will reimburse an employee for a tip to a taxi, shuttle service, or courtesy transportation driver. NASA has determined that a reasonable tip for commercially operated local transportation, such as taxi, is a maximum of 15 percent of the fare. For courtesy transportation service, a reasonable tip is not more than $2.00. If the employee benefits from exceptional service, he or she may always tip the provider more than these reasonable amounts with the understanding that it is from their personal funds, since the employee is the beneficiary of the exceptional service.

5.10 Rental Car

5.10.1 The use of a rental vehicle, when determined to be advantageous to NASA, should be authorized prior to travel for use at the TDY location. Compact car is the standard size rental authorized for official travel and is considered the default car size. Any upgrades should be authorized prior to travel commencement. If larger than compact size is requested, justification is required stating that the traveler meets one of the following conditions:

a. Two or more travelers using one rental vehicle (providing cost savings to NASA).

b. Medical disability or special need (approval is required for reasonable accommodations prior to travel).

c. No compact car is available for rental.

d. Terrain or weather conditions at the TDY location.

e. A car in a higher class than the standard authorized size (compact) is available at equal to or lower than the lowest cost compact rental at the TDY location.

Note: Additional justification is required for other than the lowest cost rental car company available for booking at the TDY location. Employee may upgrade the vehicle at their personal expense, including through redemption of promotional benefits.

5.10.2 NASA employees shall obtain vehicles through the automated travel management system. This helps ensure that the same terms and conditions of the rental agreements and rates apply as to all Federal employees on official travel, including unlimited mileage and full loss/collision damage waiver (LDW/CDW) on the rental vehicle as long as the Government Administrative Rate Supplement (GARS) fee of $5.00 per day is charged. Travelers will not be reimbursed for the purchase of additional insurance in Contiguous United States (CONUS). Travelers are advised to examine 41 CFR §301- 10.451 guidelines before renting a car in a foreign country.

5.10.3 Rental cars are authorized for official purposes only, and agreements covering official travel may not be used for personal use of the rental car. If an employee wants to use the same rental car for personal use such as non-work days, then prior to obtaining the rental car, the NASA employee should advise the rental car company to prepare a separate rental car agreement for the period covering the use of the rental car for personal use. Employees shall provide a personal credit card to cover the personal use, including non-work days, weekends, and days that are approved for leave, as well as for related non-de minimis personal expenses such as for extra gas. In the event that the traveler does not request a separate agreement or provide a personal credit card for personal use of the rental car, the traveler will be responsible for all charges that are not authorized prior to travel. The traveler is also responsible for and NASA has no obligation to reimburse any costs for other than official business, including but not limited to additional costs for mileage or gas, costs of repairs for damage occurring during a personal use, or liability of passengers not on official business.

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