WASHINGTON – He’s the secretary of (private) transportation.
Pete Buttigieg has flown 18 times on taxpayer-funded private jets since taking office early last year – a practice that caused an outcry forcing one of former President Donald Trump’s Cabinet officials to resign his position five years ago.
Buttigieg’s travel habits were first reported Monday by Fox News Digital, which cited flight tracking data obtained by the watchdog group Americans for Public Trust.
According to the report, Buttigieg has used two taxpayer-funded Cessna 560XL jets managed by the Federal Aviation Administration for trips to states including Nevada, Florida, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Ohio and New Hampshire.
Fox News also reported that Buttigieg used a private plane to travel to Montreal in September to attend an International Civil Aviation Organization conference.
“Every day Americans face flight cancellations and long wait times because Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has completely mismanaged air travel,” APT Executive Director Caitlin Sutherland said in a statement. “Yet, he gets to avoid all that by taking taxpayer-funded private jets to destinations with readily available commercial airline options.
“And for someone so holier-than-thou on reducing emissions, Buttigieg sure doesn’t seem to mind the pollution caused by his literal jet-setting,” Sutherland added. “This is hypocrisy at its finest, and these troubling expenses to taxpayers must come under immediate scrutiny.”
Buttigieg’s predecessor as transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, was criticized for using the same fleet seven times in 2017, which Politico reported at the time had cost taxpayers roughly $94,000.
That same year, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned after he was revealed to have taken 26 private jet flights, costing taxpayers about $1.2 million.
While the exact cost of Buttigieg’s flights is unclear, the Washington Post reported during the controversy over Price and Chao’s travel that the FAA charges federal agencies roughly $5,000 per hour to use the private jet fleet.
A Department of Transportation spokesperson told Fox News Digital that Buttigieg uses the private fleet for a small percentage of his official travel.
“Secretary Buttigieg mostly travels by commercial airline, and has directed that travel and logistical decisions be grounded in efficient and responsible use of taxpayer dollars,” the rep said. “Given that commercial air travel is usually the cheapest way for the Secretary and his staff to travel, 108 of the 126 flights for DOT trips he has taken have been on commercial airlines.”
“However, there are some cases where it is more efficient and/or less expensive for the Secretary and accompanying personnel to fly on a 9-seater FAA plane rather than commercial flights,” the spokesperson added. “Use of the FAA plane in limited, specific cases has helped to maximize efficiency and save thousands of taxpayer dollars.”
Buttigieg, who unsuccessfully sought the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination and has been discussed as a potential 2024 contender if President Biden does not seek a second term, is not the only administration official whose travel habits have come under scrutiny.
John Kerry, the White House’s special envoy for climate, has been criticized over his family’s use of a private jet — which emits far more carbon dioxide than commercial aircraft.