EXCLUSIVE: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg took a government-managed jet to New York City in April for a radio interview and two brief meetings before returning hours later, Fox News Digital has learned.
On April 7, Buttigieg flew on a government jet operated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C., to a small executive airport near New York City, according to internal agency calendars obtained by Americans for Public Trust (APT) and shared with Fox News Digital. Later that same day, Buttigieg returned to Washington, D.C., on the same jet, a Cessna Citation 560XL, to attend a White House meeting.
During the short trip, Buttigieg had a 40-minute meeting with Deborah Archer, the president of the American Civil Liberties Union, and a 20-minute meeting with Department of Transportation (DOT) employees, his calendar showed. He was also interviewed for nearly an hour on the radio program ‘Breakfast Club.’
While he took a government jet for the trip, Buttigieg traveled again to New York City via commercial airline one day later on April 8 before returning to Washington, D.C., via train in the evening. During the April 8 trip, the transportation secretary attended a convention hosted by the National Action Network, a civil rights group founded by MSNBC host Rev. Al Sharpton, and was interviewed on daytime talk show ‘The View.’
When asked about Buttigieg’s various transportation choices over the course of the two days in April, the DOT blamed a last-minute White House meeting. The agency also asserted that it was charged just $228 per flight for Buttigieg’s seat on the FAA jet, making it the most cost-effective mode of transportation available.
‘Secretary Buttigieg’s seat on the FAA aircraft on April 7 cost $228 each way,’ a DOT spokesperson told Fox News Digital in an email. ‘Due to a late-notice schedule change, he had to travel back to Washington for a White House meeting which fell during a previously planned two-day trip to New York.’
‘He used the department’s aircraft to travel on April 7 because this was more efficient and less expensive than a last-minute airline ticket,’ the spokesperson continued. ‘The next day, he flew back to New York on American Airlines to resume his planned appearances and meetings there, and then used Amtrak to return that night to Washington.’
In response to follow-up questions from Fox News Digital inquiring about the overall cost of the two flights, the spokesperson reiterated that the ‘total cost of the Secretary’s seat on the flight’ was $228.
The plane, though, would have burned an estimated $1,060 worth of fuel, according to Energy Information Administration data from April.
And previous DOT records released during the Trump administration showed the FAA charged the DOT $2,095 total for a flight from Washington, D.C., to the New York City area, and a return flight on the same jet in June 2017. The amount charged at the time amounted to about $232 per seat since the jet seats nine.
By comparison, American Airlines charges government officials $48 to travel between the two cities, according to the General Services Administration which has contracts with various airlines under its City Pair Program. The program is designed to ensure low prices for official federal government travel.
Meanwhile, Buttigieg’s predecessor Elaine Chao, who led the DOT throughout the Trump administration, was criticized after it was revealed she used government-managed planes on seven occasions in 2017, costing taxpayers about $94,000. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was forced to resign after it was reported he had cost taxpayers more than $1 million using government jets.
Buttigieg has received similar criticism over the last month following recent Fox News reports showing how he has taken at least 18 flights on FAA planes since taking office in early 2021. In addition to the high taxpayer costs of traveling on government planes, private jet travel is the most carbon-intensive mode of transportation available.
‘When we’re making a decision about what kind of aircraft to use, we weigh a lot of things,’ Buttigieg told Fox News host Bret Baier in an interview last week. ‘[Climate impacts are] one of the things we consider. So is saving taxpayers money.’
When pressed on whether he would reimburse the federal government for travel costs associated with his husband Chasten’s travels on government jets, he said ‘of course not.’
‘As the self-described ‘second-biggest fan of rail in the administration’ only behind the President, it’s laughable Secretary Buttigieg flew private to New York City to meet with the head of a liberal dark money group instead of taking Amtrak,’ APT executive director Caitlin Sutherland told Fox News Digital.
‘He clearly thinks his time is more valuable than the taxpayers, who are left not only dealing with the fallout of his travel mismanagement but are also left footing the bill for his taxpayer-funded jet,’ Sutherland continued. ‘Despite admonishing the American public to reduce their carbon footprint, Buttigieg is once again prioritizing his convenience over the environment.’
During Buttigieg’s tenure, the DOT has dealt with multiple crises related to widespread commercial airline delays and cancellations. Southwest, one of the largest airlines in the nation, canceled about 15,000 flights in late December amid the peak holiday travel season.
Buttigieg also raised eyebrows in 2019 when his presidential campaign spent about $300,000 on private jet travel, more than any other candidate, The Associated Press reported.