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Pitt has updated its travel policies

  • University News

In an effort to make travel easier for faculty, staff and students who are taking a trip on behalf of the University of Pittsburgh, Pitt’s COVID-19 Standards and Guidelines related to travel have been updated. Most notably, travelers are no longer required to book travel using the University’s contracted travel agency, Anthony Travel, and the Concur online booking tool.

As of May 1, 2022, travel booking fees — $10 to use the Concur online booking tool, $25 to book travel with an Anthony Travel agent and the 3% foreign currency transaction fee when using the University Travel Card — will no longer be charged.

Additionally, students booking travel in connection with an academic program using their own funds will not be charged the $5 booking fee if they choose to use Anthony Travel to access Pitt discounts.

University members are still required to follow other COVID-19 Standards and Guidelines for travel, such as registering international travel, which provides travel safety information and facilitates assistance for in-travel health and other emergencies. 

Changes made in response to faculty requests

The Senior Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer’s office worked with the University leadership to update the guidelines in response to the changing status of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as requests from faculty members.

Robin Kear, University Senate president, said she received consistent complaints about Anthony Travel’s restrictions and fees as travel increased following the lifting of global COVID-19-related restrictions.

“I heard many comments that reflected people’s frustration with the requirements. I appreciate the willingness of the chancellor and the CFO’s office to work with the University Senate on this issue.”

Challenges associated with travel are not unique to Pitt. Labor shortages have caused reductions in flight schedules, airline cancellations have doubled and travel agencies that lost staff during the pandemic are still hiring to meet demand.

Pitt’s travel program experienced similar issues, with the University’s travel volume tripling from January through March and airline cancellations doubling during the same period. In response, Anthony Travel added temporary “surge” staff along with experienced agents; however, there were still peak demand periods when response times could not keep up with the high demand for support.

The near-term outlook for air travel is likely to be further challenged. Inflation and the war in Ukraine have caused fuel prices to jump, resulting in significantly higher airfare costs. And summer vacation travelers will further strain an already stressed system.

Tips for booking travel

The Concur online booking tool, Anthony Travel, and the University Travel Card are still the preferred methods to book and pay for travel, since they leverage University-negotiated discounts. These methods also reduce audit and compliance risks with federal or state regulatory agencies especially those that monitor grants.

When are arranging travel, Purchase, Pay and Travel recommends considering the following:

  1. As with any travel, book early and be flexible with airlines and travel times.
  2. Take advantage of Concur’s self-booking tool via the My Pitt portal. Using Concur automatically registers your travel with iSOS, transfers booking information to your expense report and offers University-negotiated discounts for the University’s most frequent destinations. 
  3. If you need agent assistance for complex travel and you cannot reach Anthony Travel, or you cannot find the flights or other travel services using the Concur online booking tool, you may book using other platforms. Please be aware that other travel agencies will charge a fee and there are often added costs at checkout for baggage, seat upgrades, priority boarding, etc. when you book outside of Concur or Anthony Travel.
  4. If you are not booking via Concur or Anthony Travel, here’s how to manually register your travel with iSOS.

Or, avoid travel hassles altogether and host a remote conference

One thing the pandemic has taught us is that some meetings can be done virtually. If you are organizing a conference or event anywhere in the world and want participants to avoid travel altogether, the University has negotiated several contracts for discounted virtual conference services. Find more information on the Purchase, Pay and Travel site.

A new travel card is coming

Later this year, the University will also roll out a new VISA travel card program from J.P.Morgan Chase. The new card will carry a 0% foreign exchange fee which will reduce costs for Pitt’s international travelers. While the new program will not be implemented until fall 2022, departments will not be charged the 3% fee for foreign currency transactions on the current card program effective May 1, 2022.