Can Dept. of Defense Employees Accept Vouchers for Overbooked Flights?
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
This summer is gearing up to be an even more hectic travel season than normal, in part because of the grounding of the 737 MAX. This is especially true for Department of Defense (DoD) employees and military personnel who frequently move around the world on official business. Passengers may be offered a lucrative voucher for volunteering their seat on an overbooked flight this summer. But what if you are a DoD employee traveling on official business and are offered one of these vouchers? Are you able to take it?
There are strict guidelines governing every aspect of the travel process while traveling in an official capacity. These are outlined in detail in the Joint Travel Regulation (JTR). Not sure if the JTR applies to you? Here are the travelers who must follow the regulation:
- Uniformed members of the seven uniformed services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps and Public Health Service Commissioned Corps)
- DoD civilian employees
- Any others traveling at the expense of the DoD.
Were you voluntarily or involuntarily bumped from your flight?
Your answer will determine whether or not you can keep the voucher. The JTR outlines this on pages 2-6 and 2-13 in detail. However, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) offers a short and sweet explanation according to the 1980 court case that raised this question in the first place.
Airline payments to volunteers are distinguishable from denied boarding compensation which is due to the government. Employee may retain payment received as volunteer reduced by any additional expense incurred by the government
How will that compensation get to the government, you ask? The JTR offers us this:
Any compensation for the denied seat belongs to the Government. The traveler must request that the carrier show the “Treasurer of the United States” as payee on the compensation check
If you are thinking that this sounds like Uncle Sam may never see his check, you aren’t alone. But like many rules in the government that we don’t understand, you still have to follow them.
So you want to volunteer your seat. Now what?
You have some important questions to ask yourself once an airline begins offering vouchers in exchange for volunteering your seat.
- When is the next available flight?
- When do your orders require you to report by?
- If staying overnight, will the airline cover your hotel?
As the GAO and JTR tell us, the traveler is responsible for any additional costs incurred as a result of volunteering their seat. Some notable expenses that you may encounter once delayed are meals and hotels.
Hopefully you have a credit card that offers lounge access, and scored your free meal at the airport with your Priority Pass Select membership while waiting. As for the hotel, it never hurts to bargain with the airline to include a hotel in the voucher if you will be delayed overnight.
If you are active-duty military, make sure to check out credit cards offering specific benefits and start traveling in comfort. Also, check out this article on airport lounges offering access to active-duty military.
If you are offered a lucrative deal to volunteer your seat while traveling on orders and will still be able to meet mission requirements, go for it. If volunteering will cause you to report late to your destination, cost the government more money, or will cost you more than the voucher after lodging and meals, don’t volunteer.
Featured image by George Rose/Getty Images
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at US restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
- Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees