Pete Buttigieg often flies on taxpayer-funded private jets, flight data shows
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, a supporter of increased government action to reduce carbon emissions, has flown at least 18 flights using taxpayer-funded private jets since taking office, Fox News Digital has learned.
Buttigieg traveled around the country — visiting Florida, Ohio and New Hampshire, among other states — and out of the country using a fleet of private jets operated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), according to tracking data. flights reviewed by Fox News Digital. The flight records align with Buttigieg’s schedule of external and public engagements obtained by government watchdog group Americans for Public Trust (APT).
Buttigieg’s predecessor, Elaine Chao, who was appointee by former President Donald Trump, was criticized for using the same jets seven times in 2017, costing taxpayers nearly $94,000, Politico reported. era. And Trump-appointed Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was forced to resign after apparently flying 26 private jets in the same year, costing taxpayers an estimated $1.2 million.
Bipartisan House Oversight and Reform Committee leaders had opened an investigation into several senior Trump administration officials’ use of government-owned and private planes for travel days before Price submitted his letter of resignation. resignation.
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“Everyday Americans are faced with the flight [cancellations] and long wait times because Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg completely mismanaged air travel,” APT executive director Caitlin Sutherland told Fox News Digital. .”
“And for someone as holy as you on reducing emissions, Buttigieg certainly doesn’t seem to care about the pollution caused by his literal jet-setting,” she continued. “This is hypocrisy at its best, and these troubling expenditures on taxpayers must be addressed immediately.”
Although the exact cost of Buttigieg’s flights to taxpayers is unclear, the FAA charged federal agencies about $5,000 an hour to use its fleet, The Washington Post reported as part of the investigation by the Congress on trips by Trump officials in 2017.
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According to flight data, Buttigieg has used two taxpayer-funded Cessna 560XL private jets for trips in the 22 months since President Joe Biden selected him to lead the Department of Transportation (DOT). The FAA also operates a Gulfstream IV jet.
In one instance where he used government-run private jets, Buttigieg flew back and forth from Washington, DC, to Las Vegas to promote public works projects in Nevada in August 2021.
In another example, Buttigieg used a private jet to travel to several states in August as part of a tour highlighting grants authorized under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. He flew to Florida, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Ohio, Nevada and New Hampshire on the trip titled “Building a Better America Tour”.
The states Buttigieg visited were widely considered pivotal states in recent federal elections. Asked about his decision to go to those particular states, he noted that Oklahoma was not a swing state and said “there was a great story” to tell about the infrastructure grant he was promoting there, Politico reported.
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“We go to places that demonstrate the range of things you can do with good transportation dollars,” he said.
And, in late September, Buttigieg used a private FAA jet for a round trip to Montreal. During the visit, he attended a conference of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Buttigieg also attended a ceremony on the trip hosted by a major Canadian gay rights organization where he received a prestigious award for his “contributions to the advancement of LGBTQ rights”.
Price was partially forced to resign for using private government jets for both personal and business travel.
“Secretary Buttigieg travels primarily by commercial airline and has directed that travel and logistics decisions be based on the efficient and responsible use of taxpayer dollars,” a DOT spokesperson told Fox News Digital. “Because commercial air travel is generally the cheapest way for the Secretary and his staff to travel, 108 of the 126 flights for DOT travel he took were on commercial airlines.”
“However, there are instances where it is more efficient and/or less costly for the secretary and accompanying personnel to fly on an FAA 9-seater aircraft rather than on commercial flights,” the carrier continued. -word. “Using the FAA aircraft in limited, specific cases has maximized efficiency and saved thousands of taxpayer dollars.”
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The spokesperson did not share information on how much money the agency saved taxpayers, but commercial flights from airports in the Washington, D.C. area to Montreal, Las Vegas, Minneapolis and d Other cities Buttigieg visited via private jet are available daily.
Federal law requires that official travel be conducted using the most expeditious means of transportation that is “practical” and “proportionate to the nature and purpose” of said official’s duties. Walter Shaub, the former head of the US Office of Government Ethics, told Politico in 2017 that federal regulations also state that “taxpayers should not pay more than necessary” for official transportation.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Condé Nast Traveler last month, Buttigieg explained how he likes to arrive at airports an hour early and “sets up pre-screening and cleaning” to avoid delays. He did not mention his use of private jet travel, but said his trip was “a bit more complicated with the security arrangements”.
Over the summer, lawmakers including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-California, criticized the DOT for not doing more to combat rising passenger delays. commercial flights. Airlines have reported an increase in delays over the past 12 months.
Additionally, the Transport Secretary has been a strong supporter of climate action and has repeatedly warned of the dangers posed by man-made global warming. He particularly advocated for policies that would shift the US economy to green energy and reduce fossil fuel emissions.
However, private jet travel is by far the most carbon-intensive mode of transportation. Private jets are 10 times more carbon-intensive than commercial planes and 50 times more carbon-intensive than trains, according to a 2021 report by the Transport & Environment group.
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“The climate crisis is here today, threatening the lives and livelihoods of Americans, our homes and businesses, and even the way we travel and operate our federal agencies,” Buttigieg said last year after his agency released its climate adaptation and resilience plan. “The good news is we know what to do about it, and America is fully capable of rising to the occasion.”
“As we work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent the worst consequences of climate change, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s plan will help ensure that our transportation infrastructure, policies, and programs are more resilient to the impacts that our country is already facing,” he said. added.
Buttigieg attended a 2021 United Nations climate summit in the UK where he engaged in climate negotiations with other world leaders and pushed decarbonisation policies. He remarked at the event that aviation is a “significant contributor to climate change”.