Earlier in the week I wrote about the pretty outrageous domestic first class fares the EPA Administrator travels on. He’s loyal to Delta even when the federal government has awarded a city pair contract to another airline. And he pays full fare first even for the Delta Shuttle between New York and DC.
A former EPA executive pointed out to me that the Administrator has ‘anti-terrorism responsibilities’ and always flies with security. This EPA Administrator says his security needs are unique, though, and justify first class travel because of death threats and first class is safer than coach. (It seems to me that reserving the back of the coach cabin for himself and his security detail would mean never having their back to potential assailants.)
There’s been much hand wringing though over his flying Emirates business class Milan – New York in June. (HT: @pcpontificates)
CBS News has learned that @EPAScottPruitt flew business class on @emirates returning from Milan in June — one of the world's most exclusive biz class cabins. Ticket cost at least $7k; trip's flights cost over $43k bc of MilAir flight. More on @CBSEveningNews
— Julianna Goldman (@juliannagoldman) February 13, 2018
I’m really not sure why this flight raises such a fuss.
- We know that Delta is his preferred airline and they fly the route non-stop. I’d find his choice of Delta more suspect (that he was ignoring price on a highly competitive route that also offers American, United, and Alitalia service). If he chose not to fly Delta there had to be a reason (such as price or schedule).
- There is no GSA city pair contract awarded for New York – Milan service, so he wasn’t ignoring federal procedures.
- In fact paperwork for the trip indicates the Emirates flight was the only schedule that would work. He was in Bologna, Milan is the closest international airport, and he had to return to the U.S. same day as he had to attend a cabinet meeting the next day.
- Emirates is the preferred carrier of the federal government for Washington DC – Dubai travel. This is compliant with the Fly America Act because the contract is awarded to JetBlue for its codeshare on Emirates.
- JetBlue codeshares with Emirates for New York JFK – Milan. If he were on the JetBlue codeshare for the flight there would be no question at all about its appropriateness under the Fly America Act and wouldn’t need to qualify for an exemption.
- US-EU Open Skies creates certain exemptions to the Fly America Act as well, although it would take someone more knowledgeable than I am to know with certainty whether the Fly America Act exceptions apply only to EU-based airlines or to flights of non-US airlines between the US and EU.
Emirates A380 Business Class, American Airlines Offers a Better Product on the Route
Emirates A380 Business Class Seat
Many readers pointed out that high level executives ought to fly in premium cabins, and that they believed this should apply to the federal government as well as the private sector. I have a problem with paid first class DC – New York, I really don’t have an issue with it transatlantic — and won’t mistake policy disagreements (questioning the value of a given trip) for disagreements about how a given trip is taken or purchased.
The Emirates flight in question, of course, is one of two flights in particular that have been singled out by lobbyists for Delta, American and United as one they don’t want the government to allow. It’s one thing they claim to have to compete on flights to the Mideast or connections to India and Pakistan (something US airlines barely do, even through joint ventures) and quite another to have to compete directly on ‘fifth freedom’ routes.
However if Emirates business class was cheaper I’d certainly prefer that the EPA Administrator fly Emirates than take more of my money and give it to Delta, United, and American each already earning profits in the billions and benefiting from myriad subsidies to begin with.
Which points to the underlying problem with the Fly America Act — it redistributes money from the median taxpayer and gives it to shareholders of US airlines which fly internationally or which codeshare with foreign carriers — codesharing itself being another dubious anti-consumer practice.