The travel industry continues to experience staffing shortages and other challenges. The increase in travel volumes due to summer leisure travel can result in changes to airline schedules, flight delays & cancellations, and long in-person wait times to check in, obtain rental cars, or to pass through security. These industry challenges result in increased demands for assistance and have the potential to additionally impact Travel Management Companies (TMCs).
If you experience an extensive call hold time when contacting your TMC, consider alternative modes of communication. Some TMCs have a desktop or mobile live chat tool that allows travelers to connect with an online agent to handle change requests, cancel a trip, or request an invoice copy. Simpler issues can often be handled faster through a TMC chat session than by calling directly. Some TMCs also offer email service for change requests.
- Use one method only – if you use multiple channels, their response to you will be delayed as they sort out the multiple requests
- Do not contact other TMCs – only your assigned TMC can help you
What Travelers Can Do
Approving Officials can certify that the individual traveler is experiencing excessive wait time in contacting the TMC, which allows the traveler more flexibility in correcting issues on their own. In many cases, travelers may self-service and contact travel providers directly, bypassing the TMC.
Local business rules may impose further limitations. All travel should be completed in accordance with the Federal Travel Regulation and Joint Travel Regulations.
If you are traveling and experience travel disruptions, you may contact the travel providers directly with no prior approval to:
- Book alternative flights with the same airline (ensure you request government fare)
- Book alternative flights with a different airline, when your original airline has made a reservation for you
- Book, change, or cancel rental car reservations
- Book, change, or cancel hotel reservations
Before you book any new flight or an alternative flight directly with a different airline than your original carrier (in the event your original carrier did not reserve/hold a flight for you), you need your Approving Official (AO) to certify that you are experiencing an excessive wait time with your TMC and your AO must approve any additional cost.
Before Travel Commences
Use the DoD booking systems for all travel whenever possible, including new bookings, changes, and cancellations.
- Book travel and approve authorizations in a timely manner
Booking and/or approving travel within a week of departure minimizes the need to rebook or contact the TMC. If you have changes to travel with a departure date more than a week away and cannot make the changes in the DoD booking system(s), email the TMC with your request, including your travel date in the subject line as it helps prioritize the requests.
- Ensure travel cards are activated
Travel cards that are deactivated or have insufficient credit limit result in card declines and increased calls to the TMC. Prior to booking travel, travelers should work with their organization’s travel card Agency Program Coordinator (APC) to ensure their Travel Card is activated and has sufficient credit limit. Defense Travel Administrators should also be proactive by reviewing the Accounts Info List and the Departure Report in the Defense Travel System (DTS) to identify travelers who may need their travel cards activated or credit limits increased.
- Allow 24 hours for DTS authorizations to be worked/ticketed
If your request has been in “CTO Submit” status for more than 24 hours, contact the Travel Assistance Center (TAC) via Live Chat. Please keep in mind that the TAC is unable to assist with new reservations, “TMC assist” requests, reservation cancellations, or ticketing and can only intervene if the authorization/reservation status is not updating as it should.
- If you can’t cancel using DTS or MyTravel, use TMC Live Chat
Some TMCs have a desktop or mobile live chat tool that allows travelers to connect with an online agent to handle simpler requests like cancelling a trip or requesting an invoice copy. Often simpler issues can be handled faster through a TMC chat session than by calling directly.
Before you travel
- Sign-up for airline, rental car, and lodging loyalty programs.
Brand loyalty accounts often come with benefits like priority rebooking, dedicated contact channels, priority check-in lines, and more.
- Download the apps
Download any apps offered by the airlines, train companies, rental car companies, and lodging chains that you will use during your travel. This will allow you to interact directly with the service provider if you experience an excessive TMC hold time or there’s a disruption and it will also allow the travel companies to reach out to you directly if/when they experience irregular operations.
- Confirm your seat assignment
As soon as your airline reservations are ticketed and your invoice has been issued, confirm your seat assignment using the airline app or website. You only need your last name and airline confirmation number for most websites and apps. Passengers with a confirmed seat assignment are far less likely to be bumped from a flight due to overbooking.
Disruptions When Traveling
Flight disruptions – rebooking directly on a different airline
If you are in transit, experience a flight disruption, or you arrive at the airport to discover that your reservation was not ticketed, and your original airline cannot accommodate you or rebook you on an alternate airline, you may interact with other airlines directly to book a replacement flight, but you will need to obtain excessive TMC hold wait time certification from your Approving Official. Excessive TMC hold time is certified on an individual basis by Approving Officials in accordance with guidance provided by the Joint Travel Regulations paragraph 020207.
Be sure to keep a record of your original unused ticket number. Keep mind the following when interacting with any carrier:
- Government airfare
Make sure you request to be booked on a U.S. Government airfare, if available, and ensure that you have access to your travel orders (if applicable), and an active government travel charge card. The lowest cost economy or coach class government fares must be used. Any upgraded accommodations must be authorized or approved as stated in JTR, par. 020206-J and all travel must be booked and completed in accordance with the Federal Travel Regulation and Joint Travel Regulations.
- Code-share tickets
The requirement to obtain Approving Official certification applies even if the new ticket is on the original airline you were supposed to fly, under a code-share ticket with a different airline name (also see the Fly America Act below).
- International flights – Fly America Act
If you are flying internationally, either on a U.S. air carrier or on a U.S. air carrier’s ticket which operates as a code share on a foreign air carrier, you must rebook the ticket through a U.S. air carrier and not through any foreign air carrier, per the Fly America Act. For example, if you have an American Airlines ticket to fly on British Airways, and British Airways is unable to accommodate your requested change, once you have your AO’s approval to procure a new ticket on another airline, you must contact American Airlines, or another U.S. air carrier to rebook you. You cannot be reimbursed for a ticket on a foreign air carrier without documentation that a U.S. air carrier was not available.
No Prior Certification Required
You may contact the travel providers directly under these circumstances without prior approval when in transit, contingent on local business rules (your AO can provide any additional restrictions). You may contact the travel provider using any available method, including through their apps, websites, on-site kiosks, reservation numbers, or in person.
- Flight disruptions – rebook same airline
If you are in transit, experience a flight disruption, and your original airline can accommodate you, you may interact with the airline directly to rebook your flight on the same airline, maintaining your government airfare.
- Flight disruptions – rebook different airline by your original airline
If you are in transit, experience a flight disruption, and your original airline cannot accommodate you, but they can transfer your ticket and maintain your government airfare, or if they can reserve a ticket for you at a government rate on another airline, then you can finalize your arrangements directly with the new airline.
- Rental Car reservations – new reservation, rebooking, or cancellation in transit
If you are in transit and need to book, change, or cancel a rental car reservation, you may interact with the rental car company directly. If booking or changing a reservation, be sure to ask for the government rate under the U.S. Government Rental Car program and confirm that the Government Administrative Rate Supplement (GARS) fee ($5/day) is included on the contract.
- Hotel reservations – new reservation, rebooking, or cancellation in transit
If you need to book, change, or cancel a hotel reservation while in transit, you may interact with the hotel directly.
New reservation/reservation changes: Check the local lodging per diem rate before booking and ensure you use the DOD lodging programs to the maximum extent possible for added benefits. Be conscious of Integrated Lodging Program (ILP) sites and be sure to book the appropriate lodging type and ILP/DoD Preferred rate. Otherwise, book the applicable FedRooms or Government rate, keeping at or under the local lodging per diem. Be aware of any hotel policies and fees, particularly deposits and cancellations.
Cancel reservations: Be aware of your hotel’s cancellation policy. Note the cancellation number, date/time of the call, and the name of the person who processed your change/cancellation. If you cancel after the hotel cancellation timeframe, regardless of the cause of the cancellation, you may still be charged for one-night room and tax.