Pete Buttigieg often flies on taxpayer-funded private jets, flight records show

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, a proponent of tougher government measures to curb carbon emissions, has made at least 18 flights using taxpayer-funded private jets since taking office.

Buttigieg has traveled around the country – to 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 flight tracking data. The flight records match Buttigieg’s schedule of foreign and public events obtained by the government-controlled group Americans for Public Trust (APT).

Buttigieg’s predecessor, Elaine Chao, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, was criticized for using the same planes seven times in 2017, costing taxpayers nearly $94,000, Politico reported. And Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, a Trump appointee, was forced to resign after reportedly taking 26 private flights that year at a cost to taxpayers of $1.2 million.

Bipartisan leaders on the House Oversight and Reform Committee launched an investigation into the use of government and private jets by several senior Trump administration officials just days before Price tendered his resignation. .


Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieu speaks at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on September 14.
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya/File)

“Americans face flight every day [cancellations] and long wait times because Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg completely mismanaged air travel,” said Caitlin Sutherland, executive director of APT. “However, he will address these issues by moving taxpayer-funded private jets to destinations where commercial airlines are affordable options. avoids all.”

“And for someone who’s holier-than-thou about emissions reduction, Buttigie doesn’t ignore the pollution caused by his literal jet-setting,” he continued. “This is hypocrisy at its finest, and this alarming cost to taxpayers must be investigated immediately.”

While the exact cost to the taxpayer of Buttigieg’s flights is unknown, the FAA charged federal agencies about $5,000 an hour to use its fleet, the Washington Post reported during a congressional investigation into Trump officials’ 2017 travel. .


Buttigieg has used two taxpayer-funded Cessna 560XL private jets for travel in the 22 months since President Joe Biden selected him to head the Department of Transportation (DOT), according to flight records. The FAA also operates the Gulfstream IV jet.

In one example of his use of government-operated private jets, Buttigieg flew back from Washington to Las Vegas in August 2021 to promote public works projects in Nevada.

President Biden, left, shakes hands with Buttigieg during an event at the White House on June 25, 2021.

President Biden, left, shakes hands with Buttigieg during an event at the White House on June 25, 2021.
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/File)

In another example, Buttigieg used a private jet to fly 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 during his “Building a Better America” ​​tour.

The states Buttigieg visited were largely considered swing states in recent federal elections. When asked about his decision to travel to those states, he noted that Oklahoma is not a swing state and that he had “a great story to tell” about an infrastructure grant he was promoting there, Politico reported.


“We go to places that show what you can do with good transportation dollars,” he said.

In late September, Buttigieg used an FAA private jet to travel to Montreal. During the visit, he participated in the conference of the International Organization of Civil Aviation.

Buttigieg also attended a ceremony during a tour organized by Canada’s largest gay rights organization, where he received a prestigious award for his “contributions to the advancement of LGBTQ rights.”

Price was pressured to resign in part because he used state-owned private jets for trips that combined personal and professional use.

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was forced to resign in 2017 over his use of private jets for trips that combined personal and private travel.

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was forced to resign in 2017 over his use of private jets for trips that combined personal and private travel.
(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, file)

“Secretary Buttigieg travels primarily on a commercial airline and has directed that travel and logistics decisions be based on the efficient and responsible use of taxpayer dollars,” a DOT spokesperson said. “Given that commercial air travel is generally the cheapest method of travel for the Secretary and his staff, 108 of the 126 flights he took for DOT trips were on commercial airlines.”

“However, there are some circumstances where it would be more efficient and/or less expensive for the Secretary and accompanying staff to fly on a 9-seat FAA aircraft rather than on a commercial flight,” the spokesperson said. “Using FAA aircraft in limited, specific situations has helped improve efficiency and save thousands of taxpayer dollars.”


A spokeswoman did not say how much the agency saved taxpayers, but there are daily commercial flights from airports in Washington to Montreal, Las Vegas, Minneapolis and other cities Buttigieg has visited.

Federal law requires that official travel be made using the most expeditious means of transportation that is “practicable” and “suitable for the purpose” of that official’s duties. Walter Schaub, the former head of the US Office of Government Ethics, told Politico in 2017 that federal rules “shouldn’t pay more than necessary for taxpayers” to pay 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 “pre-check and clear” to avoid delays. He did not mention that he used private jet travel, but said his trip was “a little more complicated with security.”

Over the summer, lawmakers including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., criticized the DOT for not doing more to combat the increase in commercial flight delays. Airlines have reported an increase in delays over the past 12 months.

Buttigieg was able to get taxpayer-funded private jets, while commercial airlines reported record delays.

Buttigieg was able to get taxpayer-funded private jets, while commercial airlines reported record delays.

In addition, the transportation secretary has been an active supporter of climate action and has repeatedly warned of the dangers of human-caused global warming. He has particularly supported policies to transition the US economy to green energy and reduce fossil fuel emissions.

Private jet travel is the most carbon-intensive mode of transportation. Private jets use 10 times more carbon than commercial planes and 50 times more than trains, according to a 2021 report from the Transport and Environment Group.

“Today, the climate crisis threatens the lives and livelihoods of Americans, our homes and businesses, even the way we travel and run our federal agencies,” Buttigieg said last year after his agency released a plan for climate adaptation and resilience. “The good news is that we know what to do about it, and America is fully capable of rising to the occasion.”

“While we work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent the worst effects of climate change, the US Department of Transportation’s plan will help ensure our transportation infrastructure, policies and programs are more resilient to the climate impacts our nation faces. will help,” he said. added.

Buttigieg attended the 2021 United Nations climate summit in the UK, where he held climate talks with other world leaders and promoted decarbonisation policies. During the event, he noted that aviation “makes a big contribution to climate change.”

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