As of a few years ago, if you are an employee of my university, you must purchase airline tickets through the singular university-approved vendor. That is, if want your ticket reimbursed before the trip; if you dare buy a ticket in any other way, you have to wait until after the trip to get reimbursed.

Somebody lined their filthy pockets with this deal.

For domestic flights, you can use the online reservation system (based on the Concur platform, which I take is quite common), but then at the end there’s an agent who checks the reservation and finalizes it, then skims a fee. What annoys me awfully is that a) every time you call or email them, they charge an additional fee (even if all the calls are in regards to the same trip); b) you cannot book international flights, no matter how simple, through the online tool, you have to call or email the agency; c) you have to use the agency even though you can get lower prices pretty much anywhere online (I like Kayak for price comparison). If I want to take the better deal found elsewhere — because, you know, it’s my grant money and it doesn’t grow on trees, and we as PIs are supposed to be good stewards of these funds — I have to use personal funds and then wait until after the trip to get reimbursed; that’s fine for domestic flights where it’s OK to buy a ticket 2-3 weeks before the trip, but not for overseas travel.

I have two complicated, multi-city international trips this summer; I have no intention of having several thousand dollars sitting on my credit cards or having to be taken from my savings while I wait for reimbursement more than half a year from now. So I contacted the agency with the preferred itinerary. We have exchanged several emails regarding this trip. Every leg is more expensive than found elsewhere, and that’s sans fee; I am dying to find out how much of a fee the whole ordeal will incur.

And that’s why we can’t have nice things.


  1. Given how much money they spend on processes intended to keep us from wasting money on hookers and blow, might it be cheaper to just let us spend some of the money on hookers and blow?

  2. This is horrible. There’s definitely some backdoor shady stuff going on. Luckily I don’t have to deal with this for travel, but it reminds me of VWR: I could order a vacuum chamber directly from a random vendor, but because of some backdoor dealings I have to pay VWR to order the thing for me and VWR pockets a 15% mark-up for a few clicks of the mouse. Unfortunately, the people with the oversight power also make the decisions about purchasing power.

  3. Oh no, you are concurred too? Here I was thinking it was just our local stupidity.

    We have two agents through concur, and for now, we are getting away with not using them for local travel charged on credit card. I even heard that in some cases people were able to fight them back by showing a cheaper ticket bought online. Do you not have corporate credit card that you can use for travel?

  4. we are connexed over here… same situation that reeks of under-the-table deals for people way above my pay grade.

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