Buttigieg’s flights on US government jets were in compliance with federal rules, Reuters reports

© Reuters. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg listens as U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the airline industry and consumer protections from the South Court Auditorium on the White House grounds in Washington, U.S., May 8, 2023. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. government watchdog said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s use of government aircraft on eight trips complied with all federal rules.

An assessment by the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released Wednesday also found that his predecessor Elaine Chao’s flights on FAA-operated planes also complied with federal requirements.

The report said the department “followed federal regulations, policies, and procedures regarding official travel by secretaries on DOT aircraft from January 2017 through June 2023.”

Buttigieg’s eight trips included 22 flight segments on department aircraft, accounting for 11.6% of his official travel through June 30, compared to Chao’s 7.3%. A spokesman for Chao declined to comment.

The FAA operates a fleet of 38 aircraft for aviation safety training; flight control; supporting research, development, testing and evaluation; and critical incident response.

Buttigieg said in September that he had taken a total of 600 airline flights since taking office.

A spokesman for Buttigieg said the US transportation secretary had “mandated that travel and logistics decisions be based on the efficient and responsible use of taxpayer dollars.” The OIG report said Buttigieg last used government aircraft for a June trip to Mexico City to meet with the Mexican president and to attend a September 2022 meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal. The Ministry of Transport has listed safety and communication needs for both roads.

Buttigieg’s government flights cost a total of about $59,000, while Chao’s flights cost $98,508, including $70,000 for travel to the 2017 Paris Air Show. The report added that there were no cases of non-federal officials aboard the DOT plane during the transportation secretaries’ official trip .

The spokesman added, “The majority of cases where an FAA aircraft was used actually saved taxpayer money, including cases that were required for exceptional scheduling needs.”

A 1992 White House memorandum allows senior government officials to travel on government aircraft, but with restrictions.

The review, which began in February, was requested by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who questioned whether there had been any violations of Department of Transportation policy.