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For those traveling on University business, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Policy 1504 on Transportation Expenses and Mileage Rates allows for reimbursement of cancellation and change fees if the “cancellation or change is made at the direction of and for the convenience of the department.” The policy goes on to say: “However, in the event of … critical circumstances beyond the control of the employee, the department will be obligated to pay the penalties and charges.”  The current coronavirus outbreak meets these requirements. 

For travel that has yet to be booked, the purchase of trip insurance is not recommended since trip cancellation insurance does not provide coverage in all situations.  Travelers should use the university’s authorized travel agencies where possible, because these relationships can provide additional support and flexibility.  See UNC-CH’s list of authorized travel agencies.

We encourage travelers to discuss upcoming travel plans with their manager to determine whether travel is necessary and if there are alternative methods to participate in existing obligations (Zoom, Skype, etc…)

Travelers or travel preparers who have questions regarding travel impacted by coronavirus should contact

In all cases, travelers must contact the agency, airline, or hotel as soon as they know they will not be traveling in order to reduce cancellation penalties.

Can I be reimbursed for my trip if I cancel due to concerns about the coronavirus?

Non-Sponsored Funds

If UNC-CH has restricted travel to a certain destination, then UNC-CH will reimburse airfare, room charges, and conference registration fees that are not refunded or covered by a penalty waiver from the airlines or hotel.

If a traveler has booked travel to a non-restricted destination, but the traveler elects to cancel their trip due to individual safety concerns, UNC-CH will reimburse cancellation, change fees or similar charges at the discretion of the department.

Sponsored Funds

The Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) has been closely monitoring updates from our sponsors in relation to proposal and award management concerns resulting from COVID-19. Currently, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has updated guidance in Notice NOT-OD-20-086 to allow flexibilities to applicants and recipients of federal financial assistance. In this guidance, flexibilities for travel related costs are as follows: Non-refundable costs associated with grant-related travel that has been cancelled due to COVID-19 may be charged to the NIH award if they would have otherwise been allowable. See NIH GPS 7.9.1 for detailed information on the allowability of travel expenses. 

For updates on flexibilities or guidance from other sponsors, please refer to OSR news or email for further assistance.

How do you cancel the trip?

Booked Through an Authorized Travel Agency:

Contact the agency directly for assistance canceling the trip, regardless of ticket type.

Booked Directly with the Airline/Vendor:

If booked directly with the airline, hotel, etc., contact the vendor as soon as possible to cancel the trip. In some cases, the airlines and hotels may waive cancellation penalties. If you have purchased a nonrefundable ticket directly through the airline and no penalty waiver exists, you will be given a “credit” (minus any cancellation penalty) which can be used for a future UNC-CH business trip.  Unused tickets cannot be used for personal travel.

Conference Registration:

Contact the event registration office or association to see if they will grant a refund for the conference, even if the conference was not cancelled. If UNC-CH has already reimbursed for registration fees, any refunds must be returned to UNC-CH.

Travel FAQs

Should I purchase trip insurance?
No, the Coronavirus is now a known event so trip cancellation insurance will not be able to be utilized
What if I cannot get a refund for my hotel room?
UNC-CH will reimburse hotel cancellation charges for restricted destinations. If the traveler elects to cancel their trip to a non-restricted destination due to personal safety concerns, UNC-CH will reimburse the cancellation at the discretion of the department.
What if my trip was combined business and personal?
UNC-CH will reimburse for only those expenses that were related to UNC-CH business.
What about students or guests for whom we have booked travel?
The steps to cancel a trip are the same as stated above for UNC-CH travelers.  If the airline ticket was booked with a UNC-CH authorized travel agency and no penalty waiver exists for the ticket, the credit will reside with the travel agency and may only be used by the student or guest for future travel to or on behalf of UNC-CH.
What about students or guests who have booked their own travel and are owed reimbursement?
The steps to cancel a trip are the same as stated above for UNC-CH travelers.  If the student or guest purchased a nonrefundable ticket and no penalty waiver exists, UNC-CH will reimburse them at the discretion of the Department.
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