Guidance for Travel Reimbursements Related to COVID-19

Guidance for Travel Reimbursements

Faculty and staff might have already made travel arrangements and incurred expenses for upcoming travel that may have been cancelled due to concerns related to COVID-19. UB follows SUNY policies for cases when reimbursement is possible. 

Governor's Memorandum Regarding Travel Precautions

Issued March 7, 2020, this memorandum is a directive for employees of all State agencies and public authorities to utilize precautions while traveling.

Policy Guidance

Last Updated April 16, 2020

UB follows State and Research Foundation policies regarding travel reimbursement.

For State-funded or UBF-funded Travel

If a trip is cancelled at the direction of the agency, the traveler will not be responsible for any costs incurred. If a trip is cancelled for the traveler’s convenience, he or she may be responsible for any costs.

For Research Foundation-funded Travel

Nonrefundable Airline Tickets

Unused nonrefundable airline tickets may not be charged to a sponsored program account if a trip is cancelled. Unused tickets have no direct benefit to the project, when a trip is cancelled, there is no benefit to the project, and the cost must be absorbed by the campus. If the unused nonrefundable ticket may be used in the future in support of a project, then the cost of the ticket plus any associated fees, such as an airline transfer fee, can be charged to the sponsored project that benefits from the travel.

Trip Cancellation Insurance

Reimbursement is allowed for protection against changes in travel plans, for example, airfare refundable insurance, provided it is reasonably cost-beneficial. It is noted that nonrefundable airline tickets must not be charged to a sponsored program award if a trip is cancelled.

Travel Insurance

While traveling internationally on RF business, employees and their immediate family members may be covered under the RF’s blanket international travel assistance coverage, subject to the limitations and exceptions when using the RF’s International insurance program. For additional information, refer to the RF's International Travel Assistance web page.

Non-refundable costs associated with sponsored program related travel that has been cancelled due to public health emergencies, such as COVID-19, may be charged to an award if those costs would have otherwise been allowable and the sponsor guidelines related to the treatment of such costs are followed. Please check with your sponsor for specific document requirements.

Unit Responsibility

  • Assess all planned travel related to university business
  • Track and provide proper documentation for traveler reimbursement if university business travel has been cancelled
  • Track all reimbursed flights to ensure staff use the credit(s) from any unused tickets for UB business travel within a year of the original booking date
  • Recover university funds in the event that an individual has been reimbursed and the credit is later used for personal use
    • In Concur, select the Report Type for expense reimbursements called COVID-19 Cancellation
    • When reimbursing non-employees (students, guests), write "COVID-19 Cancellation" in the comment field on the Non-Employee Travel Voucher (State/RF) or Non-Employee Personal Reimbursement Request
  • Obtain and provide necessary unit approvals and reimbursement request documentation

Commonly Asked Questions

Check back often, as we will add commonly asked questions about travel reimbursements related to COVID-19 concerns. 

Last update: March 6, 2020

Should I book travel for upcoming university business?

Before you make travel plans, consider the following points:

  • UB and SUNY have cancelled all campus sponsored travel to impacted countries for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester
  • Study abroad and international experiential learning programs are suspended for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester
  • The university strongly recommends faculty and staff exercise discretion on unplanned travel to countries beyond those that are currently impacted and within the U.S. where current outbreaks of COVID-19 have been identified

Visit CDC website for the latest CDC travel advisories.

Consult your unit leadership for further guidance.

My conference was cancelled, what should I do?

Contact the conference organizer directly. They may offer a refund or rollover to a rescheduled date. If you made your lodging reservation through the conference, then they may have information regarding refunds. You might not be issued a refund, but rather, a credit that will need to be applied for future business-related travel.

What steps should I take if I need to cancel my airfare?

  • If you made your reservations through a travel agency, we recommend you contact them to cancel your reservations
  • If you booked your airfare directly with the airline, please contact the airline for their refund policy. Many vendors in the travel industry are permitting cancellations absent the traditional cancellation fees
  • If the airline issues you a credit for a future flight, you may choose to submit for airfare ticket reimbursement now, but must use your credit within the timeframe determined by the airline
    • If you reschedule your flight for future university travel and incur change fees, the university will reimburse for these costs
    • After receiving reimbursement, should this ticket be used for personal travel at a later date, you must then return the funds that were reimbursed by the university for that ticket

Please refer to New York State travel policy or Research Foundation travel policy for supporting documentation required for reimbursement dependent upon funding source utilized.

What steps should I take if I need to cancel my lodging?

  • If you made your reservation with a travel agent, we recommend you contact them to cancel your reservation  
  • If you made your reservation directly with the hotel or lodging host, contact them directly to determine what their cancellation policy is. Many vendors in the travel industry are permitting cancellations absent the traditional cancellation fees

Please refer to New York State travel policy or Research Foundation travel policy for supporting documentation required for reimbursement dependent upon funding source utilized.

I need to cancel my rental car, what should I do?

If you made your reservation with a travel agent, we recommend you contact them to cancel your reservation.

If you did not use a travel agency, contact the car rental agency directly to inquire about the cancellation policy. Many vendors in the travel industry are permitting cancellations absent the traditional cancellation fees. In the event the car rental agency issues a credit to be applied for future travel, it is the unit's responsibility to track and utilize the credit.

How do I submit my expenses for reimbursement in Concur due to COVID-19 cancellations?

When submitting expenses in Concur due to COVID-19 cancellations, under Report Type, select COVID-19 Cancellation (Figure 1).

When submitting expenses in Concur due to COVID-19, under “Report Type”, select COVID-19.

Figure 1

Can I purchase refundable airline tickets?

Before booking any future travel, please consult with your unit leadership about the most reasonable option. When unsure if the business purpose for the travel might be cancelled but it is still necessary to book the trip, purchasing a refundable ticket may be the most reasonable and economical way to secure your airfare.

If a refundable ticket is purchased, please note “due to COVID-19” as the purpose for the additional expense.

Written documentation and approval from the UBO is required if this option is purchased. Transactions requesting payment to senior leadership (dean, vice president, provost, president) or that benefit an individual with approval authority, require approval by the next higher level of authority.

Can I purchase travel insurance and be reimbursed for the cost?

Trip Cancellation Insurance is an option. Please refer to New York State policy or Research Foundation policy for more details.

If you are using RF funds, and purchase Trip Cancellation Insurance, reimbursement is allowed for protection against changes in travel plans, provided it is reasonably cost-beneficial. Before purchasing trip insurance, review the policy terms; some policies will not cover direct or indirect losses stemming from a health epidemic.

If you are using State funds, you may be reimbursed for Trip Cancellation Insurance when traveling internationally. Before purchasing any Trip Insurance, be sure to review policy terms. Some polices will not cover direct or indirect losses stemming from a health epidemic.

Written documentation and approval from the UBO is required. Transactions requesting payment to senior leadership (dean, vice president, provost, president) or that benefit an individual with approval authority, require approval by the next higher level of authority.

Consult with your unit business office when travel insurance might be necessary and UBF funds may be utilized for reimbursement. Proper written documentation and approval from the unit business officer will be required.

Can I reimburse a guest’s airfare expense if they decide not to travel due to concerns related to COVID-19?

Guest travel is reimbursable based on the expectation that the airfare credit issued will be used for future university travel. It is the unit’s responsibility to document and track this credit usage.

If the individual has been reimbursed and the credit is later used for personal use, the unit is responsible for recovering the funds from the individual.

Contact for Questions

For Questions Related to Business Travel