Back to Basics

The next two weeks are our yearly featured period.  We thought it was a good idea to update some of our basic posts since we haven’t done that in a while and they are great for a beginner to start.  If you know someone who is just starting the miles and points game or might want to, please refer them to our blog for the next couple of weeks.

The first updated post is the legality of collecting miles and points on the Government’s dime.  Almost all belongs to you, just use your Gov’t Travel Card and remember that VOLUNTARY taking compensation belongs to you while INVOLUNTARY compensation belong to Uncle Sam.

We all know the military runs on RUMINT (Rumor Intelligence) which is often not true.  This happens
quite frequently when discussing frequent flyer miles as most people can’t believe you would be able to do all that I do for free.  To be fair, there was a time in the 80’s and 90’s that the Government claimed that the miles were theirs, but as they had no way to enforce or monitor their use, they finally gave up that line around the year 2000.

As a young officer, I found a good technique when someone would say something was not allowed, was to say “show me the reg”.  The regulation in this case is the Joint Travel Regulation (JTR) which is the bible for all travel for both military and
civilian personnel in DoD.

Here is the language straight from the JTR:


Promotional Materials/Benefits

1. A traveler on official business traveling at GOV’T expense on agency (APP A1)
funds may keep promotional material (including frequent traveler benefits such as points or miles,
upgrades, or access to carrier clubs or facilities) for personal use.

The promotional material must be obtained under the same terms as those offered
to the general public and must be at no additional GOV’T cost. Examples include
vendor-provided complimentary upgrades to rooms or transportation
accommodations and upgrades ‘purchased’ using frequent traveler benefits and/or
personal unreimbursed funds.

APP O: TDY Travel Allowances (JFTR/JTR) T4000-T4070

(3) Promotional benefits or materials received from a travel service provider ICW planning and/or

scheduling an official conference or other group travel (as opposed to performing official travel) are

considered GOV’T property, and may only be accepted on the GOV’T’s behalf.

(4) Promotional items received for travel using funds other than those of an agency are not covered by

this rule. The traveler should seek guidance from the funding authorities.

  1. Seat Relinquishing

(1) Voluntary. A traveler may keep payments from a carrier for voluntarily vacating a transportation

seat. However, no additional expenses (per diem or reimbursable) may be paid as a result of the

traveler’s delay. Additional travel expenses incurred as a result of voluntarily giving up a seat are

the traveler’s financial responsibility.

(2) Involuntarily. If a traveler is involuntarily denied boarding on a flight, compensation for the

denied seat belongs to the GOV’T (59 Comp. Gen. 203 (1980)). The traveler must request that the

carrier shows the “Treasurer of the United States” as payee on the compensation check and forward the

payment according to Service/Agency directives.

One more thing to note when doing a VDB is that you can bargain.  If it’s going to cause an overnight stay, demand a hotel room as part of accepting the deal.  You can ask for other things too such as a free upgrade on the next flight.  All they must give you is the dollar value (usually determined by the amount of time you will be delayed) of the voucher, everything else is up to you.  Some advocate waiting until after the plane has left to do your bargaining, but I think you are in a weaker position then.  I say get the deal you want up front by asking first, all they can say is no.  Sometimes they will get no volunteers and keep upping the offer until someone accepts.  Another war story:  I was on a US Airways flight heading from PHX (Phoenix) to ANC (Anchorage) on the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend and they asked for volunteers.  They started at $200, no takers, then $400 still none as there was only one flight a day meaning a 24 hour wait.  Finally, almost everyone was boarded when the Gate Agent (GA) came on and said they would offer a free international ticket to anywhere US Airways flies.  That was enough to get a couple of volunteers who jumped quickly at that offer.  Why didn’t I take advantage of that?  I was heading home to Alaska after demob at Ft. Bragg.  Nothing was worth keeping me from my family for another day!


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