Travel Information

Compliance with the Fly America Act

When federal grants are used for international air tickets, travelers must comply the Fly America Act. Only federal funding sources need to comply with this act.

All travelers, including non-employees, purchasing air tickets with federal grants must be aware of and comply with the Fly America Act. Otherwise, the charges will be disallowed, even if the non-U.S. flag carrier was less expensive.

Please see the last two headers at the bottom of the page for procedures for purchasing tickets through a contracted agency or by using a personal credit card.

General Requirements of the Fly America Act

We have prepared a flowchart to summarize the general requirements of the Fly America Act. If you have questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Complaince (294-3790).

The original Fly America Act required a U.S. flag air carrier to be used for international flights whenever federal funds were used. A list of major U. S. flag air carriers (and their airline codes) includes:

  • AirTran Airways (FL)
  • Alaska Airlines / Horizon Air (AS)
  • American Airlines (AA)
  • Delta Airlines (DL)
  • Frontier Airlines (F9)
  • Hawaiian Airlines (HA)
  • Jet Blue Airlines (B6)
  • Southwest Airlines (WN)
  • Spirit Airlines (NK)
  • Sun Country Airlines (SY)
  • United Airlines (UA)

Recent Amendments

The Fly America Act was amended by various Open Skies Agreements, which may permit the use of a non-U.S. flag carrier when using federal funds. The Open Skies Agreements usually are nullified if there is a city-pair agreement in effect for that point of origin. However, very few city-pair agreeements are in effect for flights with Des Moines as a point of origin. Since Des Moines is the most commonly used airport for ISU travelers, it may be possible to use a non-U.S. flag carrier when using federal funds.

If the traveler has confirmed that no city-pair agreement is in effect, a non-U.S. flag carrier could be used. The traveler could use the city pairs site as a means of justifying the use of federal funds for a non-U.S. flag carrier.

  • Exception: A European Union carrier (e.g., Aer Lingus, Air France, British Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic) can be used regardless of whether a city-pair agreement is in effect.

Federally funded "in-country" travel (e.g., Berlin to Munich) must still be on a U.S. flag air carrier if one is available.

Allowable Code Share Agreements

A code share agreement is when a ticket is issued by a U. S. flag air carrier, although the seat is on a plane operated by a non-U.S. flag carrier. For example, United Airlines may sell a ticket that includes some legs of a trip to Germany on a Lufthansa plane. To be compliant for federal funds, the ticket (or similar documentation, such as an itinerary) must show the U. S. flag air carrier's airline code next to the flight number for each leg of the trip. If the flight number had an airline code of UA for United Airlines, the ticket would be compliant, even if one or more legs of the trip were "Operated by Lufthansa." If the ticket had an airline code of LH for Lufthansa, the ticket would not be compliant, and could not be charged to federal funds.

Documenting Allowable Exceptions

When federal funds are being used and a U. S. flag air carrier is not available, the exception must be documented. The Fly America Act Waiver Checklist must be retained for ten years, as we need to be able to produce these when our federal programs are audited.

Whether the ticket was purchased through a contracted agency or charged to the traveler's personal credit card, the Fly America Act Waiver Checklist (if applicable) should be attached with other receipts for the reimbursement. This will enable more efficient auditing, reduce your department's storage requirements, and ensure that the ten-year retention requirement is met.

Procedures for Using a Contracted Agency

The traveler must submit his/her airline itinerary to the departmental office responsible for procuring the tickets. If a non-U.S. flag carrier is part of the airline itinerary, the traveler must provide to the departmental office a Fly America Act Waiver Checklist signed by the travel agent to support the exception. This should be done before the department approves and faxes the air ticket requisition to the contracted agency.

The Air Ticket Requisition sent to the contracted travel agency will print a message to travel agents reminding them when a ticket is being purchased with federal funds. However, the department is ultimately responsible for compliance with restrictions for federal funds, and must carefully review the carriers being used before the air ticket requisition is sent to the contracted agency.

Departmental personnel ordering tickets are responsible for attaching the airline itinerary and Fly America Act Waiver Checklist (if appropriate) to the travel reimbursement in the Employee Reimbursement System when expenses are submitted for reimbursement. Although the air ticket is not being reimbursed, the documentation enables auditing of the federal funds requirements.

Procedures for Using a Personal Credit Card

If the traveler is being reimbursed for airfare, the traveler must attach documentation that includes the entire airline itinerary showing names, fare class, dates of travel, all legs of the trip, and the amount paid. As most air tickets are now electronic, the documentation usually is an e-mail confirmation. Boarding passes are not required to be attached.

If a non-U.S. flag carrier was used, the traveler must include a Fly America Act Waiver Checklist to support the exception to the Fly America Act. (It is not necessary in this case to get a signature from a travel agent.) The documentation must be attached to the travel reimbursement in the Employee Reimbursement System.

If an indirect route was used to accommodate a vacation, attach a quotation from the travel agent or online source stating the fare for the business portion of the trip. Travelers will be reimbursed for the lowest cost direct route, or the business portion of the trip, whichever is less.

This page was last updated on March 14, 2023.