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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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SMG 2340.2





Effective Date: 09/16/2008

[PDF Version]

 1. Purpose
 2. Background
 3. Responsibilities
 4. Policy
 5. Effective Date
 6. History

Attachment A - Request for Authorization for Business Class Travel


This guide provides FDA policy and reimbursement procedures for the use of business class air travel (Premium other-than first class) while on official government travel for employees of the Food and Drug Administration. First class travel will not be authorized for any agency employee.


Due to the high cost of business class travel, it is crucial for Federal travelers to understand and adhere to Federal travel policies surrounding the use of business class travel while on official business. Managers should discourage international business class travel whenever possible. Agency components engaged in overseas travel have the primary responsibility to ensure any international business class travel is consistent with the Department’s and Government’s mandate to operate efficiently and effectively. FDA policy is consistent with guidance set forth by the Government Accounting Office, the General Services Administration and the DHHS Travel Manual, Chapter 6.4.1 regarding the use of business class air travel while on official business.


The Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) governs Executive branch policies for travel by Federal civilian employees and others authorized to travel at government expense. These regulations are intended to ensure that official travel is conducted in a responsible manner. FTR 301-10.121-301-10.124 detail the conditions that must be met in order to use business class accommodations. Agency personnel (e.g. the approving official) also have a responsibility to ensure that other conditions surrounding the request for and use of business class accommodations are reasonable and necessary given the circumstances for the travel and/or the cost of the travel.


General Policy

FDA employees in certain circumstances may be allowed to travel on business class travel. All business class travel requests for FDA personnel, including senior level executives must be approved by the FDA’s Senior Travel Official or their designee in advance. Each trip requiring business class must be submitted separately to OFM/OC for approval. Each request must be accompanied by the request for a business class travel memo, doctor’s note (as defined in 2. below), travel authorization, and itinerary. FDA employees may request international business class air travel accommodations only under the following circumstances:

1. There is no space available in coach class, and the trip cannot be scheduled on other flights/carriers or routing in time to accomplish the purpose of travel, which is so urgent the travel cannot be postponed.

2. The physical condition of the traveler requires the use of business class travel service, as documented by a letter signed by the traveler’s personal physician. Personal physician is defined by the FDA as a Medical Doctor (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) board-certified by the member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) or the American Osteopathic Association (AOA). The letter must include when special accommodations are needed (e.g. on flights that exceed five (5) hours) and what level of accommodation is required (e.g. leg room beyond what coach class provides on the aircraft involved). In addition the M.D. or D.O. must clearly state on the medical justification why a rest stop is not a viable option. The physician who attests to the medical condition must be the traveler’s personal physician and not within the traveler’s chain of command (either up or down). Approvals granted to accommodate a temporary condition will expire after six (6) months from the date of approval, unless the medical documentation indicates the need for accommodation will cease at an earlier date. In cases in which the medical condition is chronic or unlikely to change, the approval granted for a period not to exceed one year from the date the physician’s letter attests to the medical condition. Each trip must be approved regardless of how many trips occur within the medical condition approval window. The traveler may not be granted an extension beyond the one-year limit. However, the traveler may request an updated approval based upon new documentation provided by the personal physician. A written request from the traveler must justify and clearly define the need or cost basis for business class accommodations (e.g., employee with a special need for wider seat capacity may be required by an airline to purchase two coach-class tickets, but could purchase only one business-class ticket). A cost comparison between the two total fares involved would determine whether business class should be authorized.

3. Business class accommodations are required for security purpose(s), as documented by the attached letter from the Chief of Security of the Department of Health and Human Services.

4. Travel by less-than business class on foreign carrier does not provide adequate sanitation, and the use of foreign-flag carrier service is approved in accordance with the International Air Transportation Fair Competitive Practices Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-623) also know as the “Fly America Act.”

5. The use of business class accommodations would result in an overall cost savings to the Government. Cost analysis to this effect must accompany the travel authorization.

6. The scheduled actual flying time, not including a domestic lay over or actual domestic segment(s) flying time is in excess of 14 hours, and the traveler cannot take a rest stop because of the urgency of the mission; for example: An unplanned inspection (PHS emergency) where the employee is required to depart immediately due to the severity and coach class is unavailable) Travel should be urgent because of the nature of the task—not because the employee is delayed for personal reasons. A rest stop is a stop-over point, during travel, of up to 24 hours, midway in the journey, or as near to the destination as scheduled time permits, or at the destination.* (See a, b,& c below) (6FAM 133.4) In order for FDA employees to be authorized to travel under this regulation, they must be included in the current Memorandum of Understanding between the FDA and the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), regarding mandatory foreign inspection assignments. This MOU covers only employees traveling for foreign inspections.

7. Frequent-traveler benefits permit an upgrade in the class of service, either through the use of frequent-flyer miles or by virtue of the employee’s advanced frequent-flyer status, at no cost to the Government.

*Please note

a. * Coach class shall be used for all domestic segment(s) of trips using this exception. Any business class approval must be limited to the flight segment(s) between the gateway city and the foreign destination.

b. * In most instances, the rationale supporting the “urgency of the mission” criterion will only be satisfied on the outbound flight; the return flight home will not generally be subject to identifiable mission urgency. Business class may be approved solely for the outbound flight, unless specific mission urgency demands the employee’s return without a rest stop and schedule actual flying time, not including domestic layovers or actual domestic segment(s) flying time, is in excess of 14 hours.

c. * The Office of Global Health Affairs (OGHA) will carefully review requests to travel business class in lieu of a rest stop.

All tickets for international trips must be issued with the traveler’s full name, as it appears on their official (maroon) passport.


This policy was signed by John P. Gentile, Associate Commissioner for Operations, effective September 16, 2008.

 6. Document History -- SMG 2340.2, Business Class Air Travel

Initial09/16/2008N/aOC/OM/OFMJohn P. Gentile, Associate Commissioner for Operations