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Canceling University-Related Travel

In the current climate amid concerns related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), there has been an increase in the need to cancel or reschedule travel internationally and domestically.  Many conference organizations are taking precautionary measures and canceling conferences within the United States.  In addition, many travelers are not comfortable traveling during this time.  

Below are guidelines we have developed for faculty and staff related to travel if you are a traveler or the proxy for a traveler needing to cancel or reschedule travel. 

Handling Cancellations

If a conference you were scheduled to attend has been cancelled, or if you need to cancel other University-related travel, please take the following steps:

  1. If your conference was cancelled, contact the conference organization and request instructions for how to obtain a refund of your conference fees. 
  2. If you have purchased a flight and/or booked a hotel room, contact the travel agency or provider that you booked through. The travel agency or provider will assist you with the cancellation of your flight and/or hotel arrangements.  Minimizing the cost should be the goal. 

Flex Travel Policies

The travel agency or provider will advise if the airline has adopted a flex travel policy and be able to confirm the amount of your refund.  Note that the flex policy may not support all charges associated with canceling your travel so there may be cost associated with the request. 

  • If you want to confirm if the airline you booked has adopted the flex travel policy, you can visit  Northwestern's Travel Program website. Once on the page, find the appropriate airline, click on the link and review the airlines policy. 
  • Please visit the  Northwestern Travel Agencies  page to review the contact information for Northwestern University’s preferred travel partners which are Egencia, Travel 100 Group, and Intra World Travel. They will do whatever they can to facilitate changes to or cancellation of travel plans in the most cost effective way (airline waivers, etc.). 

If your itinerary isn’t eligible for a refund, the airline may provide you with a credit in the amount of the existing booking to be used within one year of the original booking date. 

Costs and Reimbursements

Every effort should be made to minimize the costs associated with canceling or changing travel plans.  Any costs that cannot be avoided will be covered by the University if it is for official business. Reimbursements will be made for expenses according to the travel and entertainment policy. 

At this time, schools and units are expected to absorb unanticipated expenses within their existing operating budgets. Departments should work with their Dean’s Offices to discuss any additional funds that may be available, or any school-wide policies that are being put in place to address concerns connected to the virus. 

In addition, all Dean’s Offices are able to leverage the Resource Planning Process to request additional support for significant operating expense increases through the Resource Planning Process.  If a Dean’s office deems it necessary, they can submit an urgent request to  Budget and Planning. 

Students that paid personally for Northwestern affiliated travel who receive credit for canceled travel will not be reimbursed by the University.

Additional Assistance 

  • If you booked travel through one of Northwestern’s three contracted agencies (Egencia, Intra World Travel or Travel 100 Group) and cannot successfully negotiate a cancellation or change, contact Procurement and Payment Services at 847-491-8120 or  procurement@northwestern.edu. 
  • If you I have unrecoverable travel costs associated with your canceled or shortened trip abroad, call the airline first to pursue a refund. If an airline requires proof of cancellation, a University message may be appropriate. For example, staff or faculty that have to cancel summer business-related flights can provide as reference the April 23, 2020 message, “Summer Programs and Activities Will Be Remote.”