DOD implements new flight cancellation policy for travelers

by Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27, 2012 – The Defense Department is working with airlines to implement a new flight cancellation policy that will affect air travel for temporary duty travelers, a Pentagon official said today.

Andrea Carlock, chief of the program management branch, which serves as part of the Defense Travel Management Office, discussed the genesis of these changes and the potential impact on DOD travelers. “Effective October 1, 2012, any authorization that has airline reservations associated with it will be canceled if not approved and ticketed at least 72 hours prior to the scheduled flight departure,” she said.

“Airlines expressed to GSA, as the program manager, that many of our government travelers were making reservations and were not canceling those reservations,” Carlock explained. “Because of the lack of cancellations [for] those reservations, the airlines were losing money. So with that, GSA implemented this new policy.” According to Carlock, the new policy governs the time requirements for travelers and authorization officials to make and approve arrangements for flights before travel occurs.

“The government employee needs to keep in mind that when you make a reservation, be it through [Defense Travel System] or the Commercial Travel Office … you’re doing just that – making [a] reservation,” she said. “If your approving official does not approve that authorization, that ticket cannot be issued,” Carlock said. “So it could impact your mission and it could increase the cost of travel.

“How could it impact your mission?” she continued. “You could get to the airport and there are no more flights available for that particular timeframe.” Or it could increase costs, Carlock said, if the original flight was booked in a lower class of service and now only a higher class is available. This could generate increased costs to the department if authorizations aren’t approved and ticketed in a timely manner.

Carlock explained requirements for short notice travel that service members and their authorization officials should be aware of. “If you’re going TDY on short-notice travel, and you’re traveling within 72 hours of your flight departure time, you need to ensure that your [authorizing official] improves that authorization and [it is] ticketed,” she said. “If they do not approve it within 24 hours of creation, the reservation will be canceled,” Carlock advised.

For travel departing within 24 hours, she said, individuals need to ensure that they get their authorizations approved and ticketed six hours prior to scheduled flight departure time to prevent cancellation.

Carlock noted this information is available through the Defense Management Travel Office website, and the Commercial Travel Office will provide information on travelers’ itineraries regarding cancellations. A pop-up system is also being implemented for the Defense Travel System, she said, advising those intending to make flight arrangements of these new requirements.

“It’s very important for travelers to ensure that they’re monitoring their authorizations,” Carlock said. “The onus is on the traveler to ensure that the approving official approves the authorization and that they actually have a ticket that’s been issued.”

“[Additionally], travelers need to ensure that their DTS profiles are maintained, that their government travel charge card information is updated and that their travel card is activated,” she added. Carlock encouraged travelers to ensure they take their itineraries with them to the airport upon departure.

“If they get to the airport and they do not have a reservation, the information to contact the Commercial Travel Office is located on that itinerary,” she said. “And that itinerary can be obtained at the time of booking.”