The Fly America Act is a federal regulation that:

  • Requires the use of U.S. carriers for travel that will be reimbursed from federal grants and contracts, regardless of cost or convenience.
  • Allows for air transportation by or under a “code-sharing agreement” with a U.S. flag air carrier if service provided by such a carrier is available.
  • Requires travel on a U.S. carrier as far as possible if there is no U.S. carrier to your destination.

U.S. Flag Air Carrier

A U.S. flag air carrier is an air carrier that holds a certificate under 49 U.S.C. 41102 but does not include a foreign air carrier operating under a permit.  The full list can be found on U.S. Department of Transportation’s Certificated Air Carriers List

Code-Sharing Agreement

Code-share is an aviation business arrangement where two or more airlines share the same flight. For travel from the U.S., U.S. carriers purchase or have the right to sell a block of tickets on a foreign carrier. To be compliant under the Fly America Act, the ticket or documentation of the ticket must be purchased with and identify the U.S. carrier's designator code and flight number rather than the foreign carrier.

Examples of Code-Sharing Tickets:
Compliant with Fly America: American Airlines (AA) 1234 operated by Qantas Airways (QF) 4321

Not Compliant with Fly America: QF 4321 operated by AA 1234

Documentation of Exceptions

For any travel that is federally funded and not on a U.S. air carrier, the PI/Department or Institute must document the unique circumstances and should attach the documentation to the trip’s other records (i.e., expense report, travel authorization, etc.). The CU Boulder Fly America Act Waiver form is available for this use. It is the responsibility of PIs and Departments or Institutes to follow the Fly America Act for federally funded travel.

Exceptions to the Fly America Act

Open Skies Agreements

Open Skies Agreements is the biggest exception to the Fly America Act. Open Skies Agreements are bilateral or multilateral air transport agreements between the U.S. Government and the government of a foreign country for which the Department of Transportation has determined meets the requirements of the FAA. Under Open Skies Agreements, federal funds can be used for air travel on a foreign carrier, subject to certain restrictions. OCG's Fly America Act Decision Guide can assist you with determining what airlines you need to use for federally funded travel.

Note that if the award is funded by the Department of Defense (DOD) or by a department of the U.S. Military, travel must be on a U.S. flag air carrier and the Open Skies Agreement is not in effect.

Travel to a European Union Country, Norway or Iceland (excludes United Kingdom):

  • You may fly on an EU airline when:
    • Travel is NOT funded by U.S. DOD or U.S. Military, and
    • Flight touches down in an EU country, Norway or Iceland.

Travel to Australia, Japan or Switzerland:

  • You may fly on an airline of Australia, Japan or Switzerland when:
    • Travel is NOT funded by U.S. DOD or U.S. Military, and
    • U.S. government does NOT have a published City-Pair Agreement for your travel route. Note that the .

The GSA's City Pair Program offers government negotiated fares for flights between certain cities. City-Pair Agreement discounted fares are only available to Federal Government employees; however, if a city-pair agreement is in effect, you may not claim an Open Skies exception and must fly on a US flag carrier or US code share carrier. Before booking flights, check Airfares City-Pair Search before booking flights to determine if a city-pair agreement is in effect. After entering your departure and arrival cities, the search tool will either display the city pair agreement fares, or will report "There are no awards for the requested city-pair," in which case the Open Skies Exemption can be used.

The searchable database for city-pair routes can be found here:

Travel to Canada and Mexico

Airline travel to Canada and Mexico must comply with the Fly America Act. Air Canada and Westjet are operated by Candian based airlines, and Aeromexico is operated by a Mexican based airline; therefore, these airlines do not qualify as an allowable airline under the Fly America Act. See U.S. General Service Administration’s FAQ related to Air Canada and Westjet.

Other Exceptions to the Fly America Act

  • You are involuntarily rerouted
  • Medical or safety reasons
  • Use of a U.S. carrier will unreasonably delay your travel time, by more than 24 hours
  • A U.S. flag air carrier does not offer service on a particular leg of your trip; however, a U.S. carrier must be used on every portion of the route where it provides service unless, when compared to using a foreign air carrier, such use would:
    • Increase the number of aircraft changes outside the U.S. by two or more
    • Extend travel time by six hours or more
    • Require a connecting time of four hours or more outside of the U.S.
    • For short distance travel, when the flight time from origin to destination is less than 3 hours and the use of a U.S. flag carrier doubles the time enroute.

All exceptions to the Fly America Act must documented. The CU Boulder Fly America Act Waiver form is available for this use.

Reference Resources

University of Colorado Resources

U.S. Government Resources


If you have questions, contact Penny Mathews, Compliance Manager in OCG, and Evan Blaisdell, Compliance/Financial Reporting Supervisor in CCO.