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I'm currently trying to book an academic international flight that I'm planning to get reimbursed by a US government-funded institution. The minimal rate with a US carrier is almost $1000, whereas the rate with certain foreign companies is about $600.

I looked at this link and it has a provision that flight on foreign carriers is allowed if either there are no domestic options available (which is not the case for me) or (clause b) if it is allowed under the "open skies agreement", which seems to be a mess of conditions and exceptions which I don't completely understand.

Is there a clear way or a clear heuristic to decide whether a given itinerary is allowed for reimbursed travel?

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    I do not really know a definitive answer to this question, but I'd wager that you're stuck with the more expensive U.S. carrier option. I hope otherwise, for you, but it is exactly such disparities (like a tariff or other tax) that most U.S. federal funding agencies have been commanded to defer to, for the understandable if dubious nationalistic reasons. I'd be interested to hear if anyone can truly show that this is not entirely so... – paul garrett Oct 27 '16 at 22:40
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    I read the upshot of the Open Skies paragraph as being "you can fly on an EU, Australian, Swiss, or Japanese airline". If your desired airline isn't based in one of those countries, I think you're out of luck. – Nate Eldredge Oct 27 '16 at 22:58
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    Might want to ask on travel.stackexchange.com I've seen some awfully sharp folks answer some very esoteric questions over there. – Dave Kanter Oct 27 '16 at 23:05
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    Have you confirmed that the Fly America Act actually applies to your trip? It's not applicable to all trips reimbursed by a federally-funded institution, only to those reimbursed directly by federal funds. For instance, my university, like essentially all US universities, receives federal funds. But I'm not required to use US airlines on all university-funded flights, only those charged directly to a federal grant. – Nate Eldredge Oct 27 '16 at 23:05
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    There's a nice flowchart on page 4 here – Noah Snyder Dec 8 '16 at 4:18
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+50

The best way to check this is to clarify with your institution's travel office (the one where you will submit the reimbursement).

However, my general understanding of the situation (From the days when I worked for the government) was that if there's a code-share between a US airline and the foreign airline you wish to use, they will generally be OK with that. The problem is if it's purely international, and there's no American airline that partners with them. Then you may run into some difficulty.

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  • This fits my understanding as well. I recently bought tickets from the US that were issued by Japan Airlines and was told this was okay because they partnered with American (and indeed my reimbursement, from a US state university, came through without trouble). – Kimball Sep 4 '17 at 21:08
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    My impression was that (on the contrary) this only applied if the tickets were BOOKED on the US airline, even if the flight is operated via codeshare by a foreign airline. For example, if Air Canada operates a flight (say Air Canada flight 101) that is codeshared as United 302, then it would only be reimbursable if booked as United 302, but not if booked as Air Canada 101. I could be wrong, though. – Tom Church Sep 5 '17 at 0:05
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    @TomChurch I was worried about too that before I bought the tickets, but at least my university thought it was okay. Maybe it varies from state to state, or at least is open to institutional interpretation. – Kimball Sep 5 '17 at 19:30
  • My experience agrees with Tom's, though there are some loopholes here that may have meant that this issue didn't apply in your setting. – Noah Snyder Dec 10 '17 at 20:26

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