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Foreign Travel on Federal Awards

Federal regulations govern the use of federal funds (grants, contracts, cooperative agreements) and the selection of air carriers for foreign travel. Foreign flag air carriers may not be used solely on the basis of costs.

Fly America Act

The Act applies to federal awards and with a few exceptions requires the use of U.S. flag air carriers, i.e., an air carrier that is certified under 49 U.S.C. 41102, or service under a code share agreement with a foreign air carrier when the ticket or e-ticket identifies the U.S. flag air carrier’s designator code and flight number.

  • If a U.S. carrier offers nonstop or direct service (no aircraft change) between the U.S. and your foreign destination, you must use a U.S. flag air carrier unless such use would extend travel time by 24 hours or more.
  • If a U.S. carrier does not offer nonstop or direct service (no aircraft change) between the U.S. and your foreign destination, you must use a U.S. flag air carrier on every portion of the route unless the use of the foreign carrier would:
    • increase the number of aircraft changes outside of the U.S. by two or more; or
    • extend your travel time by at least six hours or more; or
    • require a connecting time of four hours or more at an overseas interchange point.
  • If a U.S. carrier does not offer service on a particular leg of your travel route, a foreign air carrier may be used, but only to or from the nearest interchange point to connect with U.S. flag air carrier service.
  • Use of a foreign carrier is also acceptable when determined to be a matter of necessity:
    • A U.S. flag carrier involuntarily reroutes travel on a foreign air carrier;
    • medical reasons;
    • to avoid unreasonable risk to traveler’s safety; or
    • a seat on U.S. air carrier in authorized class of service is unavailable, and a seat on the foreign air carrier in authorized class of service is available.

Open Skies Agreement

The U.S. General Services Administration has issued a limited exception to the Fly America Act for transportation under an Open Skies air transportation agreement between the U.S. and the government of a foreign country. These agreements give foreign airlines the right to transport passengers and cargo on flights funded by the U.S. Government. Otherwise, the Fly America rules apply.

Note: This exception has been implemented only by the National Science Foundation for its award recipients. It is anticipated that other agencies may adopt Open Skies in the future. If so, this webpage will be updated.

Grant and contract recipients are allowed to use foreign carriers if an Open Skies Agreement exists, but a City-Pair agreement does not. Follow these steps:

1.  An Open Skies Agreement exists between the U.S. and the foreign country. To determine if an Open Skies Agreement exists, review the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Travel website. Currently, agreements exist with the European Union, Australia, and Switzerland.

  • If an Open Skies Agreements exists, go to step 2.2. 

2.  A City Pair agreement does not exist for the departure and arrival cities. To determine a City-Pair arrangement, review the City-Pair website.

  • If a City Pair agreement is listed, you may not charge costs for a foreign air carrier to a federal award, unless an exception is designated under the Fly America Act.
  • If a City Pair agreement is not listed, you may charge the fare on a foreign carrier to a federal award.

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