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This site is the inspiration of a former reporter/photographer for one of New England's largest daily newspapers and for various magazines. The intent is to direct readers to interesting political articles, and we urge you to visit the source sites. Any comments may be noted on site or directed to KarisChaf at gmail.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

EXography: Federal agencies spend millions on first-class flights -- By Michal Conger and Luke Rosiak, The Washington Examiner

 Transportation flew first class from D.C. to Guam for $12,202 when coach would have cost only $2,168.

What can $4,367 buy? For one NASA employee, it bought a business-class flight from Frankfurt, Germany, to Vienna, Austria. Coach-class fare for the same flight was $39.

The federal government spent millions of dollars on thousands of upgraded flights for employees in 2012 and 2013, paying many times more for business and first-class seats than the same flights would have cost in coach or the government-contracted rate.

Premium travel reports from 14 federal agencies documenting the flights show these agencies alone spent an estimated $8.7 million on 1,903 upgraded flights in those two years. That was about $6.4 million more than the same coach and government-rate flights would have cost.

The agencies spent $5.7 million in 2012, almost double the $3 million they paid for premium travel in 2013.

The cost of coach and government-rate flights is approximate because several agencies either reported estimates for some coach fare or didn't report them at all.

Agencies report their premium travel expenses to the General Services Administration each year. These reports were obtained by the Washington Examiner through Freedom of Information Act requests.

The federal government contracts with airlines for specific carriers and prices that are mandatory when available, a Labor Department spokesman said.

Exceptions for business or first class are made for specific criteria.

The most common reasons across agencies for such "premium" flights in 2012 and 2013 were medical necessities and flights with more than 14 hours of travel time.

Other reasons include special security risks, no coach flights available within 24 hours of arrival or departure time, overall cost savings, unsanitary coach accommodations on a foreign carrier, and a vague exception for upgrades "required for agency mission."

The Defense Department topped the 14 agencies, paying about $4.5 million for 784 flights, compared to the $3.1 million cost of the same coach flights.

The most commonly claimed exception for DOD flights was "required for agency mission," according to the DOD report.

One such flight was a trip from Washington, D.C., to Brussels, Belgium, which cost $6,612 instead of $863.

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