I travel a fair amount on business; sometimes this is paid for by my employer, other times by third parties. The travel (train/plane) tickets may be paid for on account or by me and then expensed. Sometimes the travel plans go wrong and there's a delay; in these cases, there's often refunds or compensation available (e.g. EC261 or delay-repay). Am I allowed to claim these, or is this tantamount to claiming expenses twice? Can I keep the money, or do I have to offer it to the travel-funder?

Some additional parameters:

  • Often the travel has been paid for in advance (in the UK we can claim expenses as soon as we pay, we don't (usually) have to wait until after travel). Even when not, the time limits for expense and compensation claims tend to preclude awaiting the outcome of the compensation claim and adjusting the expense claim accordingly.
  • In some cases, e.g. EC261, the money is explicitly compensation for inconvenience rather than a refund and explicitly accrues to the traveller. Nevertheless, the business may have suffered consequences (e.g. missed meeting), as well as the traveller (sat on an aircraft for hours, late home).
  • In other cases, e.g. delay-repay, "compensation" and "refund" are used interchangeably, but the payouts are based on the price you paid, making it more of a refund.
  • I have never seen an official organisational policy on this matter (in travel-expenses rules for several organisations); for employer-funded travel, my previous supervisor was happy for me to keep it (as I'd suffered the fun of being sat in airports/railway stations due to delays; not sure whether the finance dept. would have agreed with him...). That doesn't provide a general rule that helps when third parties are paying, however.
  • I think this is something that you will have to ask your company about. While there may not be an official written policy, it is still within their right to define how those expenses are handled. The only exception might be on whether they can require you to hand-over delay compensation which is intended to compensate for the traveler's time and not for ticket costs, but that is complicated enough to require legal expertise to answer.
    – David K
    Mar 24, 2018 at 20:39
  • "The only exception might be on whether they can require you to hand-over delay compensation which is intended to compensate" - That was, I guess, the nub of my question - where's the line between refund and compensation, and how can one decide what's compensated (me for spending the night in the airport, or my employer because of a missed meeting)? I appreciate that that may be too specialist for an online Q&A, though! Mar 24, 2018 at 20:43
  • You might have more luck posing this over at Travel, though there I would ask about whether the delay compensation is considered a ticket refund or not, not about the workplace ethics aspect.
    – David K
    Mar 24, 2018 at 20:51
  • I don't think this is too specialised and it's an interesting question, I just don't think there's really a way to answer it. I'd bet it would vary by industry, company and team whether these compensations should go to the employee or the employer.
    – Lilienthal
    Mar 24, 2018 at 23:51
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1 Answer 1


These are all good questions and subject to interpretation. The best way to handle this is to have rules that govern all the details and edge cases. If there aren't any, you can make them yourselves and communicate them up front for review and comment. Along the lines of

"Here is how I will handle expenses for some unusual cases that are currently not fully covered in our policies . Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns or if you want me to do something differently"

Most likely, you will get an answer like "um, sure, that sounds fine". Then follow your own rules. If you get any comments or push back adjust as needed.

Occasionally you will run into a case that's not covered yet, but the same approach will work. Communicate to the funding entity "here is what happened and here is how I am going to handle this because of XYZ. Please let me know if you have any issues with that or if you want me to do something different".

The key elements of this approach are

  1. Over-communicate. Be open and transparent about what you do and why. Keep a complete paper trail
  2. Don't ask for permission or what specifically to do. Just do consistently what you feel is right and follow rule #1. "Is this okay ?" often turns into a quagmire with non answers like "Um, I don't know" or "let me check with XYZ". On the other hand "Please let me know if that's not ok" turns the burden around: you have green light until someone actively disagrees.
  3. Give the affected party plenty of opportunity to adjust or disagree. If they do, work this into the process until everyone is happy or stops complaining.

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