'Other Than Economy/Coach' Accommodations: Frequently asked questions
1. How soon can I submit my request for 'other than economy/coach' accommodations or special economy seating?
Keeping in mind that medical documentation must be current and dated within six months of travel, requests for 'other than economy/coach' accommodations and requests for special economy/coach class accommodations (i.e., economy class ticket requiring the payment of a premium above the economy class rate, for example, for extra leg room, or for more than one contiguous economy class seat) should be submitted to the DoDEA OI&IR as soon as the traveler determines that he/she is going to travel on Return from Overseas for Separation, RAT, PCS or TDY orders. A copy of completed travel orders is required to be part of the package that is forwarded to the appropriate authorizing/approving official (AO). In case of emergency, requests for 'other than economy/coach' accommodations will be processed without completed travel orders up to the DoDEA Director's level. Processing time for this travel benefit extensive and can take over 10 weeks, therefore, it is important to apply early. The 10 weeks process will begin once the traveler has submitted all the required documentation.
2. What do I need to provide in order to request 'other than economy/coach' accommodations or special economy seating and to obtain an attendant, if required?
- a. Licensed Medical Practitioner's Statement completed by competent medical authority (i.e., licensed medical practitioner servicing the traveler) must: 1) attest to the existence of the traveler's medical disability/special need, 2) provide documentation to support his/her diagnosis and travel accommodation recommendation, 3) document that the traveler's medical disability/special need necessitates (for a specific time period or on a permanent basis) the accommodation of special economy seating or 'other than economy/coach' accommodations, and 4) where applicable, an attendant. To obtain 'other than economy/coach' accommodations or special economy seating, both the traveler and the licensed medical practitioner must document the unique reason why lower cost economy/coach class seating cannot be used to meet the traveler's/dependent's requirements. This means that to qualify for 'other than economy/coach' accommodations (business class), the traveler must establish that 'bulkhead' seating or aisle seating, which the traveler must negotiate independently with the airline, and special economy seating (e.g., extra leg room requiring the payment of a premium price above the economy/coach class rate, or more than one adjoining economy/coach seat) will not meet his or her needs. To qualify for special economy seating, the traveler must document that 'bulkhead' or aisle seating, which the traveler must negotiate independently with the airline, will not meet his or her medical needs. The medical practitioner's documentation must: 1) be legible, preferably typed, 2) be written in English, 3) dated within six months of travel, (do not provide outdated medical documentation), 4) signed and imprinted with physician's stamp (in the absence of a stamp, letterhead imprinted with the physician's name and practice information) and contact information, (if the stamp or letterhead is not provided,
- the form will be considered incomplete and will be returned to the submitting employee. Incomplete forms will result in delay of processing and
- approval decisions), 5) if applicable, the medical certification should refer to generic drug names or U.S. brand names, not local country brand names, 6) diagnosis or procedures must be spelled out (no acronyms or initials will be accepted), and 7) the licensed medical practitioner and the traveler must also establish the traveler's need for an attendant, if the traveler requires an attendant. b. Travelers Request for Premium-Class Travel that includes:
- 1) Travel fare amount in $ US (to and from the home of record) for economy/coach class, 'other than economy/coach' accommodations and/or special seating (rounded to the nearest dollar). Travelers should request quotes from their local Commercial Travel Office (CTO).
- 2) Ticket issuing location (name and location of CTO).
- The licensed medical practitioner and the traveler must each sign and date their respective Licensed Medical Practitioner's Statement and Traveler's Request for Premium-Class Travel form. The completed documents are official statements, and there are criminal and civil penalties for signing and submitting a false official statement.
- d. Copy of completed travel orders (Return from Overseas for Separation, RAT, PCS, or TDY).
3. What are the steps for approval?
- The traveler submits a request for travel upgrade by providing to the DoDEA OI&IR the following: Licensed Medical Practitioner's Statement (dated within six months of travel), Traveler's Request for Premium-Class Travel form, and travel orders. OI&IR reviews the package for completeness and processes it forward. If information is missing, OI&IR will contact the traveler.
- a. The package is reviewed by the DoDEA Office of General Counsel. Request for 'other than economy/coach' accommodations are also reviewed by the Office of the DoD General Counsel.
- b. Reviewed by the DoDEA Director, who decides requests for special economy seating, and attendant, if required, and makes recommendations for 'other than economy/coach' accommodations and attendant, if required, to the AO Assistant Secretary of Defense (Readiness & Force Management). The AO makes a decision on the request for 'other than economy/coach' accommodations, and attendant if required.
- c. For Return from Overseas for Separation, RAT and/or PCS orders, DLA will be provided with a copy of the approval for amendment of the travel orders authorizing 'other than economy/coach' accommodations or special economy seating. For TDY travelers will be provided with a copy of the approval and the traveler will be responsible for providing a copy to their respective travel office for amendment of travel orders.
4. How long does it take to process my request?
The entire process may take over ten weeks. The ten week estimate is contingent on all required documentation being submitted from the outset. However, the time frame may be shortened in emergency cases only.
5. Am I entitled to a rest stop in route?
The JTR at par. 3520-A1 (Restrictions and Limitations) Stopover, Rest Stop, or Overnight Rest Period states:
"The traveler/dependent is not eligible for business class accommodations at GOV'T expense, if an:
a. En route stopover, regardless of who pays the expenses during stopover, is an overnight stay; or
b. En route stop is authorized, or
c. Overnight rest period occurs at the TDY location before beginning work."
6. What do I do in case of an emergency?
Request medical documentation from your doctor and contact the DoDEA OI&IR immediately. Only if extenuating circumstances prevent advance authorization, the traveler must obtain written approval from the 'other than economy/coach' accommodations AO (or the DoDEA Director for special economy seating) within 7 days of travel completion. Failure to do so may result in the traveler being personally financially responsible for costs over the standard economy/coach class airfare.
7. What if I am unable to get approval in advance?
It is extremely difficult to obtain approval after-the-fact and it should only occur in dire, extreme emergencies. If extenuating circumstances or emergency situations prevent advanced authorization, the traveler must obtain written approval from the appropriate 'other than economy/coach' AO or for special economy seating the DoDEA Director within 7 days of travel completion. Failure to receive the appropriate authorization/approval for 'other than economy/coach' accommodations or special economy seating either before or after travel may result in the traveler being personally financially responsible for costs over the standard economy/coach class airfare. Poor planning does not constitute an emergency.
8. Can my spouse or dependent children accompany me in 'other than economy/coach' accommodations if my request is approved?
The standard of "incapable of traveling alone" is a difficult one to meet and must be fully documented by the licensed medical practitioner. The JTR at par. 2110-J4 states: "An attendant who is authorized transportation under par. 7815, may be authorized/approved for 'other than economy/coach' accommodations only when the attended traveler is authorized 'other than economy/coach' accommodations use and requires attendant services en route." The JTR at par 2110-J5 also states: "Authority for a family member to use 'other than economy/coach' accommodations due to a disability or special need does not authorize the entire family to use 'other than economy/coach' accommodations. 'Other than economy/coach' authority is limited to the disabled traveler and attendant (if required)..." The licensed medical practitioner must explain why an attendant is required, if the traveler is incapable of traveling alone.
U.S. Department of Transportation 14 CFR part 382, Nondiscrimination On The Basis Of Disability In Air Travel, to assist any passenger requiring special needs. Federal regulation requires the carrier (US and foreign carriers who use US airports) to assist persons with disabilities and facilitate access to every area that passengers without disabilities frequent such as moving around the terminal, to and from the gate, boarding and disembarking the aircraft, transporting them to the baggage claim area, to include rest room stops, etc. Assistance is also provided while on the carrier to include wheelchair access to handicap accessible lavatories. The airlines only request 24 hour advance notice that a person with special needs is traveling. It is the traveler's responsibility to contact the carrier.
9. Can I appeal a denial for 'other than economy/coach' accommodations?
Travelers can provide OI&IR additional medical documentation (using Licensed Medical Practitioner's Statement) dated within six months of travel and request that OI&IR conduct a re-review. The re-review process is the same as steps a and b as described above in question number 3.
Travelers who disagree with a decision of denial and are covered by a negotiated grievance procedure, must use the grievance procedure to appeal decisions regarding a denial of accommodations.
Travelers not covered by a negotiated grievance procedure, may file an appeal to the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals at the address listed below.
The Civilian Board of Contract Appeals
1800 F Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20405