Seven members of President Trump’s Cabinet told Scripps News they do not fly on private jets paid for by taxpayers.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price drew attention for taking five private jet flights on official business last week instead of flying commercially. His staff said using a private plane allowed him to maximize his time on the ground managing hurricane preparation and recovery efforts.
“Commercial travel is not always feasible,” Price spokeswoman Charmaine Yoest said.
We asked other members of the president’s Cabinet if they travel for official business on private jets, instead of taking a commercial flight or government plane. The responses show a different approach to private jet use, varying by agency.
Cabinet secretaries who have not flown taxpayer-funded private jets include HUD Secretary Ben Carson, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, according to their spokespeople.
Perdue has flown to disaster sites on military aircraft and to remote areas on forest service aircraft, his office said.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao “insists on flying commercial and does so whenever possible,” a department spokeswoman said. In some cases she will use a government plane if security is a concern or if commercial options are not available.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos pays for all of her travel out of pocket, her spokeswoman said, except for one $183 round-trip Amtrak ticket from Washington to Philadelphia paid for by the government. In July, Forbes reported DeVos is worth $1 billion.
Linda McMahon, head of the Small Business Administration, flies on both commercial and private flights, SBA spokesman Terry Sutherland said. On the “rare occasion” McMahon travels on a private flight, she has covered the difference in cost out-of-pocket between private and commercial flights, Sutherland said.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross usually flies commercial flights but he and his staff will sometimes take a private plane in Ross’ own personal “jet share” program. In those cases, Ross covers the entire cost himself, a Commerce spokesman said.
Other Cabinet agencies did not immediately respond to inquiries about whether their secretaries fly private jets as part of their duties.