FAQ – Managing Travel Expenses due to COVID-19

Last Updated: April 16, 2020

The University is taking certain cost reduction measures and we are asking that all faculty and staff refrain from booking any advance, non-refundable purchases of airline, hotel, or other travel services until further notice.

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions to summarize how these efforts will impact faculty and staff at the University.

Travel Arrangements or Cancellations

Prior to April 3, 2020, I booked travel services for a University trip that is scheduled to take place within the next several months. Am I allowed to go on this trip? If I am not allowed, or no longer wish to travel because of COVID-19, what are my options?
All University-sponsored international travel is prohibited through August 15, 2020. Please note that this guidance pertains to everyone – faculty, staff, fellows, undergraduates, and graduate and professional students. Currently, the University is asking all members of the community to avoid non-essential domestic travel. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website contains a list of things you should consider when deciding whether it is safe for you to travel. If you cancel or postpone travel previously booked, please make every attempt to obtain a refund or voucher.

Am I allowed to book travel services for research or a conference that is taking place in the fall of 2020?
No. The University is asking that all faculty and staff refrain from booking any advance, non-refundable purchases of airline, hotel, or other travel services until further notice. If you are looking to travel at any time in the future, you will need to wait until the University issues further guidance to make those purchases. Travel services include, but are not limited to, airline tickets, train tickets, lodging, and conference/event fees.

I had to cancel my flight as a result of COVID-19. Rather than refunding, the airline provided me with a credit voucher. I may not be able to travel during the voucher period. What should I do?
Typically, airline vouchers are issued with a one-year expiration. Any future airline travel for University purposes should be paid for using the voucher first. Again, we encourage the use of Egencia, which allows cancelled flights to be tracked for future business travel.

Can I book my flight now and take out cancellation insurance that also covers COVID-19?
No. The request that all faculty and staff refrain from booking any advance, non-refundable purchases of airline, hotel, or other travel services is designed to reduce expenses. A better use of University funds is to wait to book any travel services until the University issues further guidance. We understand that there may be higher pricing if we wait, but we feel this is the most prudent use of funds at this time.

Once travel is permitted again, should I purchase travel insurance?
No. Policy 3301.11 states that “…the University does not reimburse travelers for trip cancellation insurance.” We will provide further guidance once travel is permitted again if we would like you to purchase travel insurance. 

Does the University require that all travel be booked through Egencia? 
No. Egencia is, however, the preferred travel booking platform. Booking through Egencia allows credits for cancelled flights to be tracked for future business travel.

A student has paid out of pocket for travel that has since been cancelled. What should they do?

They should reach out to the Controller’s Office: controllers.office@yale.edu.

Travel Reimbursements/Refunds and Expense Reporting

If I purchase travel services now using my personal credit card or cash, can I be reimbursed for the purchased travel services?
No. Please wait until the University issues further guidance on travel before making any travel services purchases. If arrangements were made prior to April 3, 2020, you will be reimbursed. Please keep in mind that if travel is cancelled, any refunds must be repaid to the University and any vouchers must be used for future University travel. If you make advance, non-refundable purchases of airline, hotel, or other travel services before the University issues further guidance on travel, the University will not reimburse those travel expenses.

Prior to April 3, 2020, I paid for travel services with my University PCard or my personal credit card. They have not yet been posted to an expense report. Can I still expense the travel?
Yes. If travel is cancelled, however, any refunds must be repaid to the University and any vouchers must be used for future University travel.

Will the expense reporting policy be relaxed?
No. Policy 3215 Yale Purchasing Card is still in effect. Cardholders are expected to prepare and submit expense reports for PCard transactions, with supporting documentation, within thirty (30) days from the date the expense is incurred. Out-of-pocket expenses submitted or approved 120 days or more from the date the expense is incurred will be reimbursed as taxable income. Receipts can be scanned using your phone, retrieved electronically, or contained in email and can be uploaded from a remote location. For individuals who left physical receipts in the office, you may use a missing receipt form: Form 3301 FR.05 Missing Receipts Form. Please indicate COVID-19 as the reason for the missing receipt.

Can I charge my cancellation fees to a sponsored award
Awarding agencies may allow recipients who incur costs related to the cancellation of events, travel, or other activities necessary and reasonable for the performance of the award, or the pausing and restarting of grant funded activities due to the public health emergency, to charge these costs to their award without regard to 2 CFR § 200.403, Factors affecting allowability of costs, 2 CFR § 200.404, Reasonable costs, and 2 CFR § 200.405, Allocable costs. Awarding agencies may allow recipients to charge full cost of cancellation when the event, travel, or other activities are conducted under the auspices of the grant. Awarding agencies must advise recipients that they should not assume additional funds will be available should the charging of cancellation or other fees result in a shortage of funds to eventually carry out the event or travel. Awarding agencies require recipients to maintain appropriate records and cost documentation, as required by 2 CFR § 200.302, Financial management and 2 CFR § 200.333, ­Retention requirement of records, to substantiate the charging of any cancellation or other fees related to interruption of operations or services. As appropriate, awarding agencies may list additional guidance on specific types of costs on their websites and/or provide a point of contact for an agency program official.

I booked lodging with an Airbnb. They will not refund me for the cancellation. What should I do?
We are asking that all faculty and staff refrain from using Airbnb until further notice. Although initially less expensive, the inability to cancel has resulted in some incremental and unplanned expenses. Airbnb has offered guests full refunds for reservations booked on or before March 14, 2020 with a check-in date between March 14, 2020 and April 14, 2020. This refund policy does not cover any new bookings.

A faculty or staff member has offered to pay out of pocket (using either out of pocket cash, gift card purchased with personal funds, or a personal credit card) for a service or for an expense on behalf of another community member (e.g., undergraduate student, graduate or professional student, postdoctoral fellow or associate) or on behalf of an external party (study subject, speaker, etc.) Is this allowed and will the University reimburse this expense
No. The University discourages making these types of payments and does not reimburse these expenses. All purchases and payments/expenses need to go through the proper University channels. Purchases must be made in accordance with Policy 3201 General Purchasing (including a University PCard, when appropriate) and payments/disbursements must be made in accordance with Policy 3401 General Payment. We have been experiencing high number of requests for reimbursement for payments previously made on behalf of someone else. When these refunds are made to a faculty or staff member’s personal card, it is difficult to repay the University and there are potential tax implications.

Visiting Speakers/Honoraria

We had to cancel speakers who were coming to Yale. We would like to reimburse them for their flights or train tickets. Can we?
If we are legally obligated to pay for travel services through a written and signed contract, then we would honor our contract and provide reimbursement upon invoice. If they were to be paid for and provided other services as part of the contract, such as a published work, then we would honor the contract and pay for the services provided upon invoice. If they incurred cancellation fees, the department may reimburse them from their departmental budget.

We cancelled an event and would like to pay the speakers their honoraria. Can we?
No. At this time, the University’s position is that it is inappropriate to pay for honoraria if the event was cancelled, unless the University is legally obligated through a written and signed contract.