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Are Top EU Officials Using Private Jets Too Often?

In recent months, the subject of high-ranking government officials travelling by private jet has been all over the news. It all started with a comment by the European Commission President, who has since been labelled "entitled" by the public.

But are we focusing on the right thing in this story? Read on more to find out more about why private jet charters have been making big news...

The Juncker Controversy

Earlier in the year Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission President, publicly expressed his annoyance about how, unlike other world leaders, he does not have a private jet.

The former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, complained: "When I was talking to Donald Trump, I was constantly looking at my watch so that I wouldn't miss my flight home. Trump kept saying, 'Your plane can wait!' He didn't realise that I didn't have my own aeroplane."

These comments have not gained Juncker much favour, particularly as he was infamously involved in a number of unresolved financial scandals and Commission figures show that he used private jets for almost half of his official visits last year, chartering 21 flights (out of 43) between January and November 2018.

How Often do EU Officials Charter Flights?

In 2012, the European Commission paid €12.6m (around $13,800,000) for an air deal that gave them access to what they dubbed "air taxis" – a fleet of six jets to fly their high-ranking officials around the world.

Mr Juncker and his Commission chiefs often fly via a private charter between Belgium and France to attend the European Parliament each month, all of which is paid for by European taxpayers. We're unsure of the total cost of this, but it's alleged that one of Juncker's overnight trips to Tunisia last year came to a total of £32,000 (almost $40,000). The Commission refused to give the exact figure for the 13-man trip.

How Does This Compare to The Big Picture?

It's not clear exactly how many private jet flights are chartered each year but business aviation, as it's typically referred, brings over $215 billion into the economy annually in the USA and is responsible for over a million jobs according to Forbes.

Although private jets are often associated with rich celebrities and top-ranking government officials, the article goes on to detail that this isn't always the case. Over 15,000 flights per year are for humanitarian reasons. After the Haiti earthquake in 2010, there were 715 private flights rescuing over 3,800 people and bringing millions of pounds worth of critical supplies to the island.

Should we be Focusing on the EU Government's Travel Habits?

It seems that flying by private jet has become a controversial topic thanks to the high-ranking government officials who use them as "air taxis" rather than booking commercial flights. However, Forbes argues that private jet travel is not only greener than the public may think, but also that many flights are chartered for good causes.

The public fail to hear about the flights used for humanitarian reasons, as well as the jobs it creates in small countries that aren't reached by commercial airlines. So in future, we should probably focus on what government officials are doing rather than how they are travelling.

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