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School system not taking advantage of frequent flier miles

By Greg Gelpi

Clayton County school officials are reimbursed for travel costs when they fly on business, but they don't pass along the benefits of air miles to the school system.

Air miles can be turned in for free airfares, which could help the school system, which slashed areas of the budget and eliminated teaching positions in light of state funding cuts.

Chief Financial Officer Lee Davis said that the school system doesn't have a policy for air miles, but it may need to look into getting one.

"To the best of my knowledge, we have never kept track at all," Davis said. "I guess we could look into doing that."

So far this fiscal year, school board members have flown to Orlando, Fla., and Washington, D.C. Last year, trips included a conference in San Francisco.

Recruiting trips have brought school officials around the world to Puerto Rico and the Philippines.

John Kennedy, the public information officer for Delta Airlines, said travelers can earn air miles for every trip they take on Delta Airlines and can redeem those miles in for free trips.

Air miles are calculated by the number of miles flown from one airport to another. By air, it is 17,420 miles roundtrip from Atlanta to Manila, Philippines, for one person.

Through Delta's SkyTeam Awards program, fliers could earn a free trip from Atlanta to anywhere in the continental United States, Alaska and Canada by flying 25,000 miles.

Companies and businesses can't enroll in Delta's air miles program, but individuals from companies and businesses can.

"I doubt anyone accrues enough frequent flier miles to get a cup of coffee," said Jack Warren, administrative assistant for policy and legislation.

Although the school system has no policy regarding frequent flier miles, Warren, said that his opinion is that the school system should benefit from school travel, rather than the individual benefiting.

"The travel is for the good of the school district and the good of the county," Warren said. "It has never been an issue brought up by the board of education."

He would use the air miles to "defray the cost to the district" if he had another trip to take, he said. Warren said that the school bases its policies on state regulations and that to his knowledge there are no state regulations regarding frequent flier miles.