In June, the university announced its new policy regarding travel that is paid for by the university. The policy states that:
Effective June 15, 2020, university funds may be used to purchase or reimburse new university-sponsored travel expenses only when booked through one of the Stanford Travel booking channels: FCM (formerly Casto), Egencia, United Corporate Direct, StudentUniverse, and Anthony Travel (used exclusively by Athletics). This policy applies to Stanford faculty, staff and students booking airfare, hotel, and/or car rentals.
Supporting Travelers When They Need It Most
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it became clearer than ever that the university needs its centralized ecosystem to locate and assist travelers in an emergency. Stanford Travel, administered by Financial Management Services, is a program comprised of the university's booking channels and provides a centralized system to easily access reliable and up-to-date traveler information. This infrastructure is critical to providing robust and timely support, medical and security services to Stanford travelers when they need it most.
Stanford Travel saves the university time and money by supporting compliance, promoting financial stewardship, and increasing efficiency. However, the primary benefit is program's booking channels automatically send travel reservations to the university's Travel Registry, which connects to Stanford’s service provider for medical, personal, travel and security assistance while travelers are overseas. The Travel Registry is managed by the Office of Risk Management.
The University-Sponsored Travel Program Initiative
The university recognizes the importance of ensuring the policy is properly documented, communicated and implemented. As a result, the University-Sponsored Travel Program project is a Business Affairs initiative and a part of a larger effort to address the travel-related risks across the university. This initiative will focus on aligning processes, systems and tools to support the new university policy and engage with faculty, staff and students to navigate the change. The goals of the initiative include:
- Support the university by providing a world-class travel program that can assist its travelers in the event of emergency.
- Meet compliance needs required at all aspects of the booking, payment and reimbursement processes.
- Provide data and reporting capabilities to provide a holistic view of university-sponsored travel.
- Offer travelers a variety of options to meet their travel needs.
The project team kicked off efforts in summer 2020 to provide clear guidance, processes and support resources to help implement the new policy. The initiative team is actively engaging with advisory groups representing financial and travel administrators from across the university to create a plan to support the change. The team began compiling frequently asked questions, gathering use cases and scoping system updates that may need to be made to ensure continued compliance and implementation of the policy.
In partnership with schools and units, the team will document the details of the policy with regard to booking and paying for university-sponsored travel, raise awareness of the new policy through communications, hold events such as information sessions and provide new and updated learning and support resources to assist travelers with navigating the change.
With the input and feedback from users of financial tools and processes, the team will design and develop updates and enhancements that support excellence in the financial administration of the new policy. The focus will be on providing clear and timely information through virtual office hours, learning and support resources.
Update to Administrative Guide Memo
The booking policy, unlike the travel restrictions posted on Health Alerts, is permanent, and was codified in Stanford’s Administrative Guide in November 2020. The AGM 5.4.2 Business and Travel Expenses outlines the university's guiding principles and IRS regulations with regard to business and travel expenses, and includes a new Travel Policy section that defines university-sponsored travel, describes the booking policy and exclusions, as well as policies with regard to paying for travel and when a personal component of travel is included in the trip. FMS will work closely with schools and units over the coming months to raise awareness of the new policy and provide resources to support compliance.
Stay Up-to-Date and Learn More
This news announcement will serve as the best place for faculty, staff and students to start when looking for information about the new policy until the initiative is completed in early 2021. The following channels are also available to stay up-to-date on news and events related to this effort:
- Learn more by reviewing the Business and Travel Expense Policies overview.
- Follow the Stanford Travel Slack channel: #fms-stanford-travel
- Visit the Business and Travel Expense Event page to view upcoming events and access materials from past events.
- Subscribe to the Stanford Travel newsletter
For information about the university's travel restrictions, exception process and interim policies related to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the Health Alerts website.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why is the university centralizing travel bookings through this policy?
In order for Stanford to be able to provide support to its employees and students when they are traveling on university-sponsored business, the university requires the use of a centralized booking program to connect travel reservations automatically to the university’s Travel Registry. This enables Stanford to locate its employees and students in the case of an emergency and/or provide assistance as needed.
2. What is included in this policy and who does it apply to?
Stanford utilizes a centralized travel booking program (Stanford Travel) that automatically registers travel reservations in the university’s Travel Registry, which connects to Stanford’s provider of medical, personal, travel and security assistance. Therefore, in order to enable the university to locate and support its travelers in the event of emergency, faculty, staff and students traveling on behalf of the university must utilize one of the Stanford Travel booking channels: Casto, Egencia, United Corporate Direct, StudentUniverse, and Anthony Travel (used exclusively by Athletics/DAPER) to book air travel, hotel lodging and car rental reservations.
The following are not required to be booked through Stanford Travel booking channels but must be manually entered and updated in the university’s Travel Registry.
- Conference hotels, which may be booked directly with the hotel at the conference rate per the Lodging Policy.
- Airline ticket reissues or exchanges.
- Travel purchases booked outside of the U.S. for employees of Stanford’s affiliated global subsidiaries and branches. Non-employees affiliated with activities managed through these subsidiaries and branches, for example, coaches or volunteers are also excluded.
- Group travel bookings for 10 or more travelers going to the same destination.
- Rental cars booked through the Enterprise Rent-A-Car branch located on Stanford's historic campus.
- Remote or international air travel, hotels or car rental companies not available in Stanford Travel and there is not a comparable option available.
The following are not required to be booked through Stanford Travel or entered into the Travel Registry:
- Travel for visitors and guests.
- Non university-sponsored or personal travel (such as for non degree programs, internships not sponsored by the university, house-hunting or moving expenses).
- Travel for Stanford Healthcare and SLAC employees, which follow each organization’s respective travel policies.
- Ground transportation options such as car service, rail, taxi and public transportation.
- Homeshare or rideshare services (e.g., Uber, Lyft, and AirBnB). If travelers choose to utilize these optional services, they may be booked either within or outside of the Stanford Travel program.
Read more about business and travel expense policies.
3. What are the booking channels considered a part of Stanford Travel?
Stanford Travel booking channels: FCM (formerly Casto), Egencia, United Corporate Direct, StudentUniverse, and Anthony Travel (used exclusively by Athletics). Learn more about these booking channels and other optional travel services in the Stanford Travel program overview.
4. Is the use of Stanford’s Travel Card required for all travel?
The Stanford Travel Card (TCard) is the preferred payment method for travel expenses. It is highly encouraged that purchases of travel-related services and expenses are made through the TCard. Learn more in the Stanford Travel Card overview.
5. What is the policy regarding business class airfare?
Business class airfare restrictions were lifted effective May 4, 2021. This removes the restriction that was announced in June 2020 that was intended to mitigate COVID-19's budgetary impact.
Per the class of fare policy, the university pays for air travel in coach or economy class for all domestic and most international flights. Business class is permissible for international flights with duration of eight hours or more (including connecting domestic legs, excluding layover time). Other classes of travel may be allowed based on documented medical needs by submitting a medical waiver request.
6. What if I have a cancellation, credit, waiver or certificate from a previous purchase that was not booked through Stanford Travel?
Travel credits and certificates from cancelled tickets that were purchased outside of Stanford Travel can only be exchanged with the original issuing agency or airline of that ticket. The traveler can use their travel certificate towards a new ticket from the original issuing agency or airline for university-sponsored travel. For more information on ticket credits and waivers, please see the COVID-19 Travel Cancellations and Related Expenses resource.
The Business Expense Team would approve reimbursement as long as they demonstrate that the original ticket was purchased prior to the June 15 policy. Please note that, at their local discretion, some schools or units may have stricter policies with regard to approving reimbursements. It’s also important to add that these travelers will need to register their trip manually into the Travel Registry, since it is being booked outside of Stanford Travel.
7. Can I book travel for a future date right now?
Although the university has restricted travel, travel may still be booked now to occur in the future, but it is important to note that the trip may need to be rescheduled or cancelled for a number of reasons, including:
- The university may decide to extend the travel restriction past your trip date.
- The destination of travel may extend or impose visitor restrictions.
- Conferences and venues may decide to cancel or postpone events.
All of the above reasons may result in travel needing to be rebooked, which could incur change fees or potential loss of value to the booking.
In addition, unless a previous credit is being utilized to book the travel, the traveler may be incurring an additional expense for a new ticket which can’t be reimbursed until the ticket is used or expired.
We recommend that travelers check with their department, school or unit to determine the best way to balance the risk of the above financial liabilities with the need to plan future travel. For more information on ticket credits and waivers, please see the COVID-19 Travel Cancellations and Related Expenses resource.
8. What happens if the Stanford Travel Card (TCard) is used to purchase airfare, hotel, and/or car rental outside of a Stanford Travel program booking channel?
Per policy, university funds may only be used to purchase (which includes the use of the TCard) or reimburse university-sponsored travel expenses after June 15, 2020 when booked through one of the Stanford Travel booking channels.
Unless a pre-approved exception has been granted by the Dean's Office (or designee) and attached to the TCard transaction, it will be returned with a request for the traveler to reimburse the university for that expense via a personal check provided to the PTA administrator. The TCard transaction can then be cleared by attaching a copy of the personal check deposit to the PTA.
9. Will there be exceptions to the ground transportation policy (which states that the preferred method of travel for trips over 200 miles round trip is by air), given the impacts of COVID?
While university travel restrictions are in place (which can be found on the Health Alerts site), the Business Expense team will temporarily extend the trip range to 300 miles round trip. So, if a traveler has obtained an exception through the appropriate channels to travel, they may drive instead of flying without being required to submit an airfare comparison if the round trip is under 300 miles.
If the trip exceeds 300 miles round trip, the traveler must obtain additional approval from the Dean (or designee) to drive instead of fly. The traveler must also obtain pre-approval for any additional expenses incurred during the drive, for example, mileage, fees and/or hotel.
10. What is the policy for booking and paying for travel if a personal component is added to a university-sponsored trip?
Per the Stanford Travel overview page, the policy for booking personal travel through Stanford Travel booking channels* is as follows:
- Airline flights can only be booked through Stanford Travel for university-sponsored travel, to add a personal side trip to a business trip or to accompany Stanford travelers on a Stanford-related trip.
- Hotels can be booked for Stanford business or personal trips.
- Ground transportation can be booked for Stanford business and personal trips.
*The StudentUniverse booking channel is the exception, as students are able to book personally-funded travel in addition to university-sponsored travel.
While use of the Travel Card is not required, it is strongly encouraged for the benefits and cost recovery in the event of an emergency. When paying for travel, the Travel Card may be used to pay for trips that include a component of personal travel, but it may not be used to purchase trips that are exclusively personal. In the situations where the trip includes a personal component, the traveler must reimburse the university for the difference.
This includes when a traveler wishes to purchase an upgrade to their airfare that is not allowable under policy. Please note that per the university’s current policy published on Health Alerts, In an effort to mitigate COVID-19’s budgetary impact, the university is suspending all business-class travel until further notice, unless the traveler has a medical exemption on file or the exception has been approved by the dean or unit vice president or their designee. For individuals who use a Travel Card to purchase an upgrade outside of this policy, it must be reimbursed to the university.
Per policy, when a personal component of travel is included in a booking, the charge that would have been incurred without that component must be documented at the time of booking, with a screen shot of relevant costs/fares available at the time of booking (e.g., the screen display from the Stanford Travel booking channel's search engine).
11. What happens to a transaction for an applicable travel expense that was not booked through a Stanford Travel booking channel?
Per the current university policy effective June 15, 2020, all new applicable travel bookings are required to be booked through a Stanford Travel booking channel so that they may be automatically submitted to the Travel Registry and support the university's duty of care. Learn more about which expenses are applicable in Business and Travel Expense policies.
Unless an exception was granted in advance by the Dean's Office (or designee) and attached to the transaction, it will be returned to the preparer and would require an approval from the Dean, Vice Provost, or Vice President of the school/unit and PTA Award owner to be processed.