Frequent flier bill flies out of House committee

The House Government Reform Committee Wednesday approved by voice vote legislation that would allow federal employees to keep frequent flier miles earned on official travel for personal use.

Reps. Dan Burton, R-Ind., and Connie Morella, R-Md., introduced H.R. 2456 on July 11, in the hopes that the measure could be used as a retention tool in federal agencies.

In most cases, federal employees are not allowed to keep for personal use any frequent flier miles earned during trips taken for official government business. However, momentum for repealing that rule has grown in the past few months. In May, the General Accounting Office put its weight behind overturning the ban, saying that enabling employees to keep their miles would help agencies compete with the private sector for talent.

Under the new legislation, federal workers could keep their miles as long as the frequent flier programs used were obtained under the same terms as provided to the general public and cost the government no extra money. Other frequent traveler benefit programs, such as hotel point programs and car rental point programs would also be covered under the bill. The bill would be retroactive, allowing federal employees to keep and use miles earned prior to the bill's enactment.

"In the private sector, businesses let their employees keep frequent flier miles," said Burton, the committee's chairman. "It's good employee relations. A lot of the time, employees have to travel on their own time. It also helps companies hold on to their good employees. That's the approach the federal government ought to take."

The Bush administration added language in its proposed fiscal 2002 defense authorization bill that repeals restrictions on the personal use of frequent flier miles for both military and civilian employees.

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