7.00 Federal Regulations

Fly America Act and Open Skies Agreements

Generally, if a Traveler is traveling on funds provided by the federal government, he/she must use a U.S. flag carrier (an airline owned by an American company), regardless of cost or convenience. See 7.2 below for exceptions.

If you are scheduling international travel that is federally funded, you must ensure that all flights, where possible, are scheduled on U.S. flag carriers or on foreign air carriers that code share with a U.S. flag carrier. Code sharing occurs when two or more airlines “code” the same flight as if it was their own. In other words, a U.S. airline may sell a seat on the plane of a foreign air carrier; this seat is considered the same as one on a plane operated by a U.S. flag carrier. Compliance with the Fly America Act is satisfied when the U.S. flag air carrier's designator code is present in the area next to the flight numbers on the airline ticket, boarding pass, or on the documentation for an electronic ticket (passenger receipt).

For example, Delta (DL) has a code share agreement with Alitalia (AZ) to Rome, Italy. If the boarding pass (flight coupon) or e‐ticket identifies a flight as DL ##, the requirements of the Federal Travel Regulations would be met, even if the flight was on an Alitalia airplane. If however, the boarding pass (flight coupon) or e‐ticket identifies the flight as an AZ ##, then the requirements of the Federal Travel Regulations would not be met.

It is highly recommended that you book your international travel, when federally funded, through one of the MIT’s Preferred Travel Agencies. Our preferred agencies have agents that are well versed in the Fly America Act. Please be sure to advise them that your trip is federally funded.

The biggest exception to the Fly America Act is the Open Skies Agreement. On October 6, 2010, the United States and European Union (EU) “Open Skies” Air Transport Agreement was published by the U.S. General Services Administration providing full explanation of the multilateral agreement in place so that qualifying travelers, whose travel is supported by federal funds, may travel on airlines qualifying under the Open Skies Agreement as well as U.S. Flag Air Carriers. Go to Open Skies Agreement for links to qualifying airlines.

Please note: Travelers with a Department of Defense (DOD) sponsor are not permitted to take advantage of Open Sky Agreements. Travelers using DOD funds must use an American carrier, unless they qualify for an exemption as noted in FTR 301‐10.135, sections (a), (d), (e), (f), and (g).

What do the Open Skies Agreements mean to you?

Qualifying Airlines:

When traveling to a destination serviced by airlines qualifying under the Open Skies Agreement, MIT travelers flying on a Federal grant can fly on either a US carrier or an Open Skies carrier.

  • Australia:
    • MIT travelers using federal dollars can use an Australian airline only if a point of origin is either the US or Australia.
  • Switzerland:
    • MIT travelers using federal dollars can use a Swiss airline only if a point of origin is either the US or Switzerland.
  • Japan:
    • MIT travelers using federal dollars can use a Japanese airline only if a point of origin is either the US or Japan.

For the above three non-EU countries with Open Skies agreements that allow exceptions it is necessary to check if there is a "City Rate Pair" in effect for the departure and destination cities, search here. If a negotiated city rate pair exists, the Open Skies exception does not apply for that route, and a US carrier is required.

There are other exceptions to the Fly America Act which may be appropriate as well. A list of exception criteria may be found in the Federal Travel Regulation Guidelines – FTR sections 301‐10.135‐138. Please note that lower cost and personal convenience are not acceptable criteria for justifying the non‐utilization of a U.S carrier (or an EU, Australian, Swiss or Japanese carrier depending on your destination).

Travel To and From the United States

Use of a foreign-flag air carrier is permissible if:

  • The airport abroad is the traveler's origin or destination airport, and use of a U.S.-flag air carrier service would extend the time in a travel status by at least 24 hours more than travel by a foreign-flag carrier; or,
  • The airport abroad is an interchange point, and use of U.S.-flag air carrier service would require the traveler to wait six hours or more to make connections at that point, or would extend the time in a travel status by at least six hours more than travel by a foreign-flag air carrier.

Travel Between Points Outside the United States

Use of a foreign-flag air carrier is permissible if:

  • Travel by a foreign-flag air carrier would eliminate two or more aircraft changes en route;
  • Travel by a U.S.-flag air carrier would extend the time in a travel status by at least six hours more than travel by a foreign-flag carrier; or,
  • The travel is not part of the trip to and from the United States, and use of a U.S.-flag air carrier would extend the time in a travel status by at least six hours more than travel by a foreign-flag carrier.

Short Distance Travel

For all short distance travel, regardless of origin and destination, use of a foreign-flag air carrier is permissible if the elapsed travel time on a scheduled flight from origin to destination airport by a foreign-flag air carrier is two hours or less and service by a U.S.-flag air carrier would double the travel time.

(Reprinted from GC-1, NSF Grant General Conditions)