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Compensation for involuntary flight changes

By 628th Air Base Wing and 315th Airlift Wing Staff Judge Advocate | May 22, 2014

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Military members and civilian employees are often required to travel as part of their duties. If everything goes well, you arrive at the correct location on time, with no complications. In reality, you arrive in Atlanta for your connection, change gates three times and 30 minutes prior to boarding you find out the flight was oversold. The airline then books you on another flight and hands you a check to compensate you for your inconvenience. You accept the check and think how great it is to be inconvenienced. Before you rush to the bank (or pull out your smart phone) to deposit the check, here is what the Joint Federal Travel Regulation/Joint Travel Regulation requires:

"If a traveler is involuntarily denied boarding on a flight, compensation for the denied seat belongs to the government (59 Comp. Gen. 203 (1980)). The traveler must request that the carrier shows the "Treasurer of the United States" as payee on the compensation check and forward the payment according to Service/Agency directives." (JFTR/JTR, APP O, para. T4020-B9c).

AFI 24-101, para. 3.43.5, states "The traveler may not keep compensation for `denied boarding.' When an airline does not allow a traveler to board an overbooked flight the airline owes the government compensation. Travelers must turn in any form of compensatory payment they receive from carriers to the finance office with their travel voucher."

Therefore, if you are bumped from your flight involuntarily and the airline attempts to compensate you for your inconvenience, it is your responsibility to return the check and request they make the check out to the U.S. Treasury. The check must be turned into Finance with your travel voucher.

However, if you are given the option to voluntarily relinquish your seat, you may keep payments from a carrier. "However, no additional expenses (per diem or reimbursable) may be paid as a result of the traveler's delay. Additional travel expenses incurred as a result of voluntarily giving up a seat are the traveler's financial responsibility." (JFTR/JTR, APP O, para. T4020-B9c).

Additionally, you should not relinquish a seat voluntarily if doing so would cause the government to "incur additional costs or it would affect the mission." (JFTR/JTR, APP O, para. T4020-8).

This article is not intended to replace seeking legal advice from an attorney. Legal assistance is provided at the Air Base on Tuesdays from noon until 1 p.m., (military in uniform) and 1 to 3 p.m. (everyone). Legal Assistance is available at the Weapons Station on Mondays from 8 to 11 a.m. and Fridays by appointment from 8 a.m. to noon.

Call 963-5502 for all inquiries and appointments.

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