COVID-19 Cancelled Travel

Updated: July 20, 2020


Sponsor flexibilities for travel cancellations related to COVID-19 were based on OMB Memo 20-17. Those flexibilities were effective from March 16 - June 16, 2020. After June 16, 2020, those flexibilities have been rescinded in OMB Memo 20-26.

As cancellations and refunds may fall outside of the flexibility period, we've provided a list of FAQs.

Travel Cancellation on Sponsored Awards

There is no change to any UW policy as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The purpose of this webpage is to consolidate information into a single location.

For non-Sponsored Award travel, consult the UW Travel webpage on travel cancellation.  

For Sponsored Award travel:

  1. Award and Sponsor-specific requirements should be followed. 
  2. For Federal Awards:
    1. If the Federal Agency adopted the COVID flexibilities (per OMB 20-17), then follow the agency's specific guidelines.
    2. If the Federal Agency did not adopt the COVID flexibilities, then see Airfare on Federal Awards below.
  3. In the absence of Award or Sponsor requirements, UW travel policies apply. UW travel policies state: 

Every effort should be made to obtain a full or partial refund from the vendor (e.g., airline, hotel, conference organizer, car rental). Any refunds should be refunded to the same source on which the purchase was originally made.

If a refund cannot be obtained, then per UW travel policy the unrefunded amount can be charged to the Sponsored Award for the following reasons:

  • Cancelled conference/meeting
  • Airline cancelled flight
  • Death of a family member
  • Traveler’s illness
  • Departmental determination that the health/safety of the traveler is at risk and the travel should thus be cancelled. Compliance with Washington State's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" and other concerns due to COVID-19 fall under this category.

Supporting documentation should be added to the transaction and should include the following:

  • Description of efforts made to obtain a full refund; and
  • The reason, from the list provided above, for the travel cancellation. For health/safety reasons:
    • If the individual is cancelling the travel due to individual concerns, there needs to be documented approval from the department.
    • If the department, school or college has cancelled all travel, a copy of the notification of cancellation should be included. Please do not just include a link to a webpage as webpages may be removed once the health/safety situation has been resolved.

Airline Credits in Lieu of Refunds

Some airlines are offering credits in lieu of refunds for non-refundable tickets. The following guidelines have been developed by PAFC:

  • If it is anticipated that the credit can be used by the traveler or department for work-related travel, transfer the cost of the ticket off the Award and onto the budget where the credit will be used. If the credit ends up being used on the original Award, transfer the cost of the ticket back onto the Award. 
  • If the credit cannot be used by the traveler or department for work-related travel:
    • If the Sponsor allows non-refundable tickets, the cost of the ticket can be left on the Award. Be sure to document the reason that the travel could not take place (COVID-19 outbreak) and why the credit cannot be used. Reference the Sponsor's policy stating that non-refundable tickets are an allowable expense. 
    • If the Sponsor does not allow non-refundable tickets (all Federal Sponsors other than those who have provided a COVID-19 exception), the cost of the ticket must be moved off the Award and onto a departmental discretionary or other non-Sponsored Award budget.

Airfare on Federal Awards: Federal Agency Did Not Adopt COVID Flexibilities

Federal regulations stipulate that non-refundable airfare purchases are not an allowable expense if the ticket is unused. Change or cancellation fees on refundable/changeable tickets are an allowable expense. If travel costs included the purchase of a nonrefundable ticket, the cost of that unused nonrefundable ticket is not an allowable expense on a Federal Award if the Federal Agency did not adopt the COVID flexibilities.

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