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NEWS | May 13, 2015

Frequent Flyer Miles/Reward Programs - can you reap the benefits?

By 628th Air Base Wing and 315th Airlift Wing Legal Office

When traveling on official business there are always questions regarding the use of personal travel rewards programs. The information below should provide needed clarification.

The Joint Travel Regulation paragraph 1300.B states, "A traveler on official business may keep promotional material, including frequent traveler benefits, for personal use (e.g., points, miles, upgrades, or access to carrier clubs/facilities)."  Examples of promotional materials include complimentary room upgrades/transportation accommodations provided by the vendor and upgrades 'purchased' using frequent traveler benefits and/or personal unreimbursed funds.  Promotional benefits/materials received from a travel service provider in connection with planning and/or scheduling an official conference or other group travel (as opposed to performing official travel) are considered Government property, and may only be accepted on the Government's behalf. 

The JTR also states that the promotional material must be: a) "Obtained under the same terms as those offered to the general public, or to a class consisting of all Government employees of Uniformed Service members, whether or not restricted on the basis of geographic consideration, and b) at no additional Government cost."

When it comes to frequent flyer miles, Air Force Instruction 24-101, Passenger Movement, 19 October 2012, paragraph 3.30 states: "Government travelers on official business at government expense that are frequent flyer program members may keep points or miles, upgrades, or access to carrier clubs or facilities for personal use.  The promotional material must be obtained under the same terms as those offered to the general public and must be at no cost to the government.  Air Force personnel, when using their frequent flyer miles to upgrade to business or First Class, shall not wear a uniform or allow a rank or grade to be associated with an upgrade.  Please note that membership in frequent flyer programs is not justification to override the requirement (in future reservations) to utilize assigned contract carriers through the GSA City Pairs Program."  Travelers must also be aware that the JTR, paragraph 2000.E says, "Excess costs, circuitous routes, delays or luxury accommodations that are unnecessary or unjustified are the traveler's financial responsibility."  Therefore, travelers are not permitted, at Government expense, to fly or travel a route that is not the normal route for the purpose of obtaining travel rewards.  

This article is not intended to replace specific legal advice from an attorney related to your travel matter.  Legal assistance is provided at the Air Base by appointment on Tuesdays from 12 to 3 p.m., and on Thursdays by appointment from 8 to 10 a.m. Legal Assistance is available at the Naval Weapons Station on a walk-in basis Mondays from 8 to 11 a.m., (please arrive by 10:30 a.m.) and on Fridays by appointment in Building 206 at the WS from 8 to 11 a.m. Please call 843-963-5502 or 843-794-7500 to schedule all appointments.