Trump’s EPA Administrator: Flying Coach Would Risk My Life

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt flies Delta even when the government has a contract fare with another airline and flies first class due to ‘exceptional security circumstances’. His government travel forms claim coach would be unsafe for him. And as a result he has no problem meeting minimum spend requirements for Delta SkyMiles elite status.

When I stand at the gate before a long haul flight and watch the upgrade list on the monitor as the minutes count down towards boarding my blood pressure rises, I begin to sweat, and the stress overcomes me. The risk of flying coach is unhealthy for me, too. But I don’t have someone ready and willing to fork over higher than contracted fares to avoid it.

And Pruitt is having the government shell out even on short domestic flights, something cabinet secretaries have historically eschewed.

On Monday, June 5, accompanied by his personal security detail, Pruitt settled into his $1,641.43 first-class seat for a short flight from the District to New York City.

…In a two-day period last July, he spent $4,443 for separate round-trips to Birmingham and Atlanta for visits that included a power plant and farm tour. On at least four occasions, he has spent between $2,000 and $2,600 on first-class airfare to official meetings or tours near Tulsa, where he lives.

…Pruitt’s other first-class trips include a $4,680.04 itinerary to Salt Lake City, Minneapolis and Little Rock to promote the unraveling of a controversial Obama administration water regulation. Another multi-city ticket, which included stops in Colorado, Iowa, North Dakota and Texas, cost $10,830, according to the vouchers, not including lodging and incidentals.

…On May 11, the administrator delivered the keynote address to the Heritage Foundation’s Resource Bank Meeting in Colorado Springs; the conservative group covered his lodging, but the ticket cost $2,903.56. A week later, he flew to Tulsa to tour the Brainerd Chemical Co. and stayed the weekend, for a flight cost of $1,980.34.

All of these trips have cleared federal ethics paperwork because while federal rules say he’s supposed to “consider the least expensive class of travel” his agency can

authorize first-class travel in rare instances, such as a flight of 14 hours or more, a medical disability or when “exceptional security circumstances” mean “use of coach class accommodations would endanger your life or government property.”

Pruitt’s spokesperson says he receives more death threats than his predecessors, though doesn’t explain how first class keeps him safer than coach.

  • This ought to be read as an indictment of his administration’s TSA, since he must not have confidence in their ability to keep weapons off of aircraft.

  • He travels with a security detail, class of service notwithstanding.

Last year the Secretary of Health and Human Services charted a private jet from DC to Philadelphia claiming that the United flight operating at the same time wasn’t convenient, and apparently also that Amtrak wasn’t an option. Meanwhile the federal government reportedly pays the maximum legal amount for rooms at Prestident Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

(HT: Dennis L.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Thanks for publicizing Pruitt’s wasteful behavior. He’s like Trump. Absolutely no sense of shame and an attitude of entitlement.

  2. Thanks for this, Gary. This is an interesting way to drain the swamp.

    F from DC to NYC is just wasteful… for the whopping 40 minute flight that it is.

    Back in the days when AA had the “One World Explorer” fare, I had an almost-complete trip booked in J to Asia and back. The only thing I needed to do was add the last segment from JFK to DCA (in F, natch.) The first agent I spoke to absolutely refused to do it, because “it’s not worth the miles. Hun, it’s a short flight, coach will be just fine.” (I had to HUCA that one.)

    If that segment is so short that the agent wouldn’t even let me book it with miles, taxpayers shouldn’t be footing this bill.

  3. He’d probably be safe in Delta economy. Not sure I’d risk United, though.

    Seriously, though. Although my politics are not aligned with Mr. Pruitt’s (or Prices’, or. . . ) but I did take these people’s claims that they were opposed to wasteful government spending at face value. Feh.

    Also, he’s much more exposed in the front of the plane. For security reasons, he should fly in the very last row.

  4. There are certainly a number of unhinged leftists who would like to see any member of the Trump admin dead.

  5. You know, I actually have no problem with cabinet secretaries flying first class. I’ve worked for large companies where anyone at a very high level can do this and I don’t have an issue if the government had a similar plan. But I’d like to see the policy officially put in place and not be a matter of skirting contracted fares by making dubious safety claims.

  6. I get that timing constraints may minimize flight options, and that the Administrator’s role is not a pleasant one and therefore making a first class seat justifiable; but how do you spend $1,641.43 flying from I’m assuming DCA to LGA/JFK/EWR.

    I can’t find a fare in ‘F’ on Delta for more than $827.

    Now a round-trip ‘F’ ticket is $1,646.60 — co-incidentally similar. So either the Administrator has a sucky-travel agent or the article’s author was looking to shape the reader’s impression.

  7. There are plenty of publicly exposed individuals out there that have far more security concerns than Pruitt or majority of Trump’s cabinet who does fly coach, including Ivanka Trump.

    IMHO, only the President, VP, Sec of State should be allowed to fly private while the rest should fly lowest priced coach ticket (on non-mission critical trips) and if they want to fly first they are more than welcome to pay the difference.

    The problem with the Federal Ethics guideline is they leave that subjective decision up to the agency (in Pruitt’s case the individual) to determine this rather than having an independent group to evaluate and determine the security risk.

  8. There cannot be global warming with an entire administration full of snowflakes.

    The fiscal conservatives will return to fiscal conservatism immediately upon the inauguration of a Democratic administration.

  9. Your blatant bias is appalling. I don’t recall you having a problem with Obama admin officials flying in private jets, or Obama’s massive entourage on his many vacation jaunts, yet you make a big deal about Pruitt flying in first class? Really? That’s the best you can come up with? Don’t you have anything of actual substance to concern yourself with? Sad.

  10. I agree, put him in the last row. It’s the safest.
    Wait never mind, he should fly in a locked lavatory instead.

  11. Shame on Gary for picking on poor Pruitt. Like we should be surprised by this administration? We know Trump and his billionaire cabinet has only the little guy and hand picked women abusers and Only democrats and those admitting it can be guilty of sexual harassment/assault. And the tax bill is a windfall for big corporations and the wealthy while most get only crumbs and a skyrocketing deficit. No worries. Trump, on the other hand says he will personally suffer. We must take this weasel’s word for that because he has never released tax returns. It’s the longest audit ever. Trump is a lying, pussy-grabbing, draft-dodging, Putin-loving POS. But all of that’s okay. So come up with some real news Gary. Nothing to see here. Move along.

  12. I’m actually sympathetic to Pruitt on this one. There are a lot of people out there who have made noises about killing him. All it takes is one. My guess is that he DOESN’T trust TSA. Do you, Gary?

  13. Security is a total BS excuse. In coach you can have two members of a security detail sit next to you instead of one- it’s more secure!

    That being said, I’m not totally opposed to cabinet secretaries flying domestic F. The real crime is how much they paid. Get a better travel agent, geez.

    At least he’s not flying private on the taxpayer dime, like Tom Price, Steven Mnuchin, and Ryan Zinke.

  14. I had a friend once who miraculously survived a car wreck. (He had been drunk.) after that, his behavior got even crazier. More DUIs. More crashes. I think being told by a doctor that he was a medical miracle made him think the rules didn’t apply to him.

    I mention this because Trump’s administration is the same way. They were supposed to lose. That’s what all the polls and media said. Instead, he won! All of his people are acting like the rules don’t apply. Security clearances? Extravagant travel? Why does it matter? We won, they say. Nothing can stop us.

    They will loot the store until 2020 or perhaps 2024.

  15. I hope that the republicans never come into power ever again after this. They are shameless traitors. Impeach, prosecute, and lock them all up!

  16. How does flying first class is safer than coach? you are travelling in the same plane with the same people. Maybe he things the curtain that sometimes they deploy between coach and first will keep him safe?

  17. So the British Royal family flies in BA coach.

    Meanwhile a political appointee in the US requires First class for a DCA-NYC flight? And claims security as a concern BEHIND TSA CHECKPOINTS?!

    What a pathetic excuse for a country we have become.

    I’m sure glad we got rid of that wasteful aristocracy back in ’76…

  18. Somebody explain how he’s more secure by himself in first rather than in coach with 2 bodyguards?

    Heck, if someone really did want to do some harm to him, he’s just given them a blueprint–HE’S FLYING ALONE IN FIRST, THE ONLY TIME HIS BODYGUARDS AREN’T RIGHT NEXT TO HIM!

  19. Three potential scenarios:
    1 – He’s the vanguard of a new dawn that opponents genuinely want to snuff out.
    2 – He’s an asshole and people wish bad things would happen to him.
    3 – He’s full of shit and looking for an excuse to cheat the American people.

  20. (1) Scott Pruitt shut down the practice of “sue and settle” used by the EPA to enact controversial regulations. According to 1/23/18 Washington Examiner, this regulatory scheme has cost the taxpayers $68 billion since 2005 and has an annual cost of $26 billion. Using basic financial evaluation $26 billion/3% risk free rate of return = $867 billion. Wow. Just on this one change along, they should fly Pruitt around on a private jet. (2) The Clean Power Plan regulatory scheme by the EPA in the Obama administration would have meant the much of the USA generation structure would have to be bulldozed to make way for so called “clean” and massively more expensive forms of power. For this reason, in 2016, every single utility was projecting massive capex needs which are passed dollar for dollar to the consumer. If you doubt my comment, download the 10K of any public utility and look for their capital spending plans. I know because I have analyzed many utilities. Moreover, the Clean Power Act would have required massive investments in the electrical grid. This would have most likely led to numerous brown outs and blackouts according to most experts. Furthermore, 26 states (more than half) were challenging the Clean Power Plan as unconstitutional because it does not fall under the purview of the EPA under the Clean Air Act. In other words, the Clean Air Act does not give the EPA the jurisdiction to run the entire USA economy. In my opinion, Pruitt’s rollback of the Clean Power Plan will save the economy trillions. Therefore, they should perhaps give him a private helicopter too. And maybe even lifetime use of a private jet, just like Roger Goodell, head hancho of the NFL.

    Trump’s room rates. Seriously. Don’t sweat the small stuff. The stupid Congress and President just passed a 4+ trillion budget with a $1 trillion dollar on a bi-partisan basis. This is nuts. There is lots of blame to go around. WTH. We are still paying the interest on WW1. My great great great Grandchildren will still be paying for this spending, if our country does not go bankrupt before then.

  21. @roomrates:

    Pruitt’s “no sense of shame and an attitude of entitlement” pales in comparison to the Clintons and their years of fleecing the American taxpayer.

    Thank God the Hillary sank in deep waters, her wide and ugly stern falling below the surface of “The Foundation’s” murky waters and corruption.

  22. I love how pressed you people still about about the American people deciding to give the elites and their imported pets a big, fat middle finger.

    Sorry ’bout it Gary.

  23. Change the law for airlines using federally taxpayer funded airports to require US based airlines to charge the published 21 day advanced purchase nonrefundable coach fare for cabinet members and congressional members with 1 or 2 security detail, for any empty seats they choose on the plane. I am sure the airlines would love this since they get more opportunity to pander to political elites.
    To simplify things among competing airlines, and disincentivize any unnecessary travel, do not allow airlines or officials to accrue or award frequent flyer status accumulated on government funded travel.

  24. The transitioning of America from democracy to kleptocracy is in full swing. Take whatever you want and blatantly lie about it. Enough gullible fools will believe it..

  25. “And Pruitt is having the government shell out even on short domestic flights, something cabinet secretaries have historically eschewed.”

    This is utter nonsense, the idea that cabinet level officials have regularly been flying economy the past 15 years is laughable. I’m all against government waste but don’t act like the Trump admin is the first to do this. Nancy Pelosi spent $2mm in just 2 yrs in taxpayer funds on private Air Force flights:

  26. @WilliamC – Yep, Clinton fleeced America so much, he left us with a budget surplus.

    1 year in, and Trump stacks his White House full of Bankers and focuses his tax cut on the rich.

    Yep, you’re really objective.

  27. @Brian Whether you like it or not (I certainly don’t), Pelosi is elected by the people whom she represents at least. Cabinet officials are well-connected political appointees who are personally accountable only to the President – not voters. Should voters in her district elect her? I wish they wouldn’t. But they do.

  28. @Ronnie DC:

    When the FBI shows up, just say:

    1) I don’t want to answer your questions
    2) I’m represented by a lawyer

    Then STFU.

  29. Going, going, gone. Am so tired of these sorts of articles and the ridiculous, uninformed, ugly replies. Amen to WR.

    The next click is “unsubscribe”.

  30. If all Senators , Congress men and administration officers were required to fly coach or pay the difference themselves we would have minimum seat width and pitch regulations in no time . They would care more about reducing the misery if they had to share the misery .
    As for Pruitt , his appointment and his policies are both a big middle finger to American citizens .

  31. Yes Jim F above. I could care less about the safety of Trump’s White Supremacists. I detest racists and all they stand for

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