Budget Bill Calls Out Administration First Class Travel – But Doesn’t Do Anything

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt flies Delta even when the government has a contract fare with another airline and flies first class even on short domestic hops 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.

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.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, which will be voted on today to substantially increase spending on both Republican and Democrat priorities and avoid a government shut down, includes language to subtly call out the Administration’s overuse of premium cabin airline travel — without actually doing anything about it.

Section 524 on page 223 says,

None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to purchase first class or premium airline travel in contravention of sections 301–10.122 through 301–10.124 of title 41 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

The budget bill takes the time to say that spending being appropriated here cannot be used to buy premium cabin airline tickets… except as permitted in current regulations. In other words, government employees are not allowed to spend money to do anything they’re already not allowed to do.

9 CFR 301-10.123(a)(3) specifically sets the terms under which employees may travel in premium cabins due to security concerns — exactly what’s used to justify first class travel by administration cabinet secretaries now.

Once again a demonstration that politics is not about policy, since policy is not changing as a result of language being inserted into this law.

(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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Wait just a minute. Let me see if I understanding this correctly. Government employees get to fly non-contract carriers, fly in premium classes AND keep the frequent flyer miles on airfare the taxpayers are paying?

  2. Just ask Jean-Marie Simon and Sheila Jackson Lee I’m sure they have opinions on this issue 🙂

  3. I have no issue with senior government officials flying premium cabins. A tiny amount of money in thecgrand scheme of things.

  4. The issue isn’t what these guys are doing so much as that they’re engaging to contortionism to circumvent the rules that apply to everyone else.

    That said, these rules are an exercise in stepping over dollars to pick up pennies.

    If we really wanted a government that’s efficient and competent, making it suck to work for the government is pretty much the last thing we ought to be doing.

    As long as the government pays less than the private sector and then burdens workers with rules designed to make politicians feel better, we’ll get what we’re getting now…those lacking the drive or skills to be successful in the private sector.

  5. Many years ago I was OK with the idea of government employees flying business class but also, many years ago the gap between the wealthiest and the rest of us wasn’t as wide. Currently we have government officials who decry “waste, fraud and abuse” and fly on private jets? So now I say, no. I do not support them doing this. I don’t know anyone who is allowed to fly first class or on private jets and I don’t think my lawmakers / government employees should either. 20 years ago government workers in general did make a lot less than the private sector, now government jobs look really good when compared to a lot of private sector jobs. Just saying you don’t need perks on top of a decent salary, if you need to fly first class or private jets to explain to the Ameican people how the department you run should cut its budget to serve less people while you pull in way more money annually than 85% of the Ameican people, i am not going to listen.

  6. It’s not government rank and file employees who are suddenly playing fast and loose with the longstanding Federal Travel Regulations and flying premium class or on non-contract carriers, only a few, political appointees. A civil servant’s travel would never be approved if they tried booking a premium flight of under 15 hours – unless, perhaps, they were flying a valuable piece of art or intangible. Even then, employees ( as in non political appointees) can’t be approved for official travel paid for by taxpayer dollars (as in the system won’t book a seat) in a premium cabin without layers of people signing off in advance of the ticket being purchased. And the same goes for medical accommodations- you can’t claim a bad back requires a flat seat for even a 12 hour flight without a slew of dr’s notes. As for the HHS Secretary flying to Philly when he could walk to DC’s Union Station faster than drive to National Airport… that’s just waste and fraud. They could add a private rail car to AMTRAK for less. But the NE Regional train suffices for Joe Biden & some current members of Congress.

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