Editorial: Gold-Plated Travel Should Not Be Standard Government Issue

By Jonathan Spira on 19 February 2018
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One government official’s penchant for flying first-class has caught the attention of the media, government watchdogs, and other politicians. Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator, along with his aides have put forth the dubious argument that he must fly up front because he is not safe in economy. Apparently, people haven’t been very nice to him in the rear of the plane.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had some incidents” he said in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader earlier in February.

The EPA says that Pruitt has flown in first- and business-class cabins over the past year because it is safer. Over a short period in June, the EPA purchased a $1,641.43 first-class ticket for Pruitt to fly from Washington, D.C. to New York City. After brief appearances on two television programs, he stayed overnight and flew back the next day. A few days later, he and several staff members flew to New York on a military jet in order to catch a commercial flight to Rome. The cost of that jaunt? $36,068.50. The transatlantic ticket then cost $7,003.52, according to EPA records, bringing the total for this period to almost $90,000, according to the Washington Post.

Many elected officials wouldn’t be caught dead up front.

“I would be embarrassed to get on a plane, sit down in first class, and have my constituents pass me by and see me,” said Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana in an interview with Politico. Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska echoed the sentiment.

Pruitt disagrees.

“We’ve reached the point where there’s not much civility,” he said referring to conditions in coach, he said. One may only wonder if by “lack of civility” he was referring to a toddler kicking the back of his seat.

There are some situations where a Cabinet official would be allowed to purchase a premium seat, namely for travel 14 hours or more so that the official would be rested for meetings attended soon after landing.

The flight, however, from the District to New York’s La Guardia Airport, was perhaps 35 minutes in the air.

The trend from the Trump Administration has been gold-plated travel. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his wife made headlines for their trips on military planes in lieu of far cheaper commercial options. President Trump’s former health and human services secretary, Tom Price, had to resign after coming under fire for expensive air travel, and most recently, the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, David Shulkin, was roundly criticized for allowing the government to purchase his wife a $4,000 business-class ticket to Europe to accompany him to a conference on veterans’ issues after it was revealed that the couple spent more than half of the trip sightseeing.

We fully agree that civility needs to be restored in the air and airlines have taken steps to change policies and guidelines to restore the so-called friendly skies. But the fiction that it’s simply not safe for officials to travel in coach is a slippery slope and they should be required to purchase coach seats except for exceptionally long trips, with the option to purchase an upgrade at their own expense, even if they use miles to do so.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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