More Than $10,000 Per Airline Ticket For International Travel For Members of Congress — Paid by Taxpayers

“M ost taxpayers will never pay $10,000 in flights for an overseas trip, but in the year prior to the 2016 election, taxpayers paid for 557 such trips that each cost more than $10,000 for a member of Congress or a staffer”, according to this article written by Paul Singer for USA TODAY. “Those five-digit global itineraries made up 40% of all individual congressional trips for which travel costs were publicly reported. By comparison, less than 0.2% of tickets purchased by the general public through U.S. travel agencies in 2015 and 2016 were more than $10,000, according to the Airlines Reporting Corp.”

More Than $10,000 Per Airline Ticket For International Travel For Members of Congress — Paid by Taxpayers

When members of Congress decide to travel internationally, the travel is arranged by the State Department of the United States; and the United States Treasury pays the bills — meaning that there is little incentive for lawmakers to keep travel costs at a minimum.

Not included are hundreds of other trips for which the military provides transportation — the Pentagon simply absorbs the costs of the flights — as the costs of using those military aircraft are never disclosed.

A bill was introduced by Paul A. Gosar of the fourth district in Arizona — co-sponsored initially by Raul Ruiz of the 36th district in California; Walter Jones of the third district in North Carolina; and John Barrow of the twelfth district in Georgia — on Friday, May 9, 2014 in an effort to stop fellow members of the House of Representatives from using taxpayer funds to fly as passengers in the first class cabin aboard airplanes.

“This bill is a continuation of my efforts to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government,” Gosar said in this article. “It’s a very simple bill. All it does is prohibit members of Congress from using taxpayer funds to purchase first class airfare. At a time of massive deficits and with a national debt in excess of $17 trillion, members of Congress should not be using taxpayers’ hard-earned money to buy luxury airline seats. If members of our military can’t fly first class using taxpayer funds, neither should members of Congress.”

The bill — which was known as the If Our Military Has to Fly Coach Then so Should Congress Act or H.R. 4632 — unfortunately never became law.


Come to think of it, there are many passengers who will give up their premium class seats for members of the military. How many passengers would do the same for a lawmaker?

I suppose that four members of Congress — two Republicans and two Democrats — made at least some sort of an attempt to correct this situation is of small solace.

As I have never worked for the government, I am uncertain as to whether or not airlines charge a government rate for airfares. I know that lodging companies do have special government rates available…

…but I have to assume that when an international flight costs more than $10,000.00, the class of service is most likely business class or first class — my assumption emanates from the federal government of the United States having a history of overpaying for items such as hammers for $435.00 each as a result of wacky accounting methods — I personally do not see the necessity for lawmakers to fly as passengers in any class of service other than economy class.

If you are a citizen of the United States, these are your tax dollars at work — assuming that the reasons for all of the flights taken by lawmakers were completely legitimate. Think about that the next time you are seated in a packed economy class cabin aboard an airplane on an international flight in the future.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

9 thoughts on “More Than $10,000 Per Airline Ticket For International Travel For Members of Congress — Paid by Taxpayers”

  1. Charlie says:

    The upside of requiring them to fly economy instead of premium cabins (besides the cash savings!) would be that there would probably be quite a few less junkets! Another cost savings and forces them to deal more with their constituents. 🙂

  2. Vincent Fox says:

    Less than 6 million total.

    We are about to spend 20+ billion on a wall, 50+ billion on the war machine, and trillions on the next war.

    If out of those 557 flights, even one of them were some urgent negotiation that saved us a bit on the big ticket items then it’ll be worth it.

    1. Brian S says:

      But that’s a false argument. The issue isn’t whether or not the trips are necessary, the issue is the cost of the ticket. They can go negotiate while flying economy. (And if they can’t negotiate a lower priced airline ticket maybe they shouldn’t be negotiating a mid-east peace treaty?)

  3. GUWonder says:

    For some perspective, look at the costs of the new US President’s travels even compared to his predecessor:

    The new US President is a big spender compared to the Obama, and the American taxpayers are going to pay for it more than we already have.

  4. Erick says:

    I have not worked for the US government, but I have worked for organizations which have received government grant funding. The grants had very strict requirements when it came to travel, and was not always best for the bottom line, such as following the Fly America Act. While this often required us to pay more for a ticket, at least it was support the US aviation industry. HOWEVER, these grants also would NEVER allow for a first/business class ticket even if it was less than the economy ticket. I thought this was very shortsighted, and I find it a wild injustice that law-makers don’t have to follow the same restrictions… But when you have the ability to give yourself a raise every year, you are obviously calling the shots and don’t need to answer to anyone else.

  5. JAXBA says:

    The travel agency I work for does Fed Govt bookings (not for Congress) and we advise on Fly America compliance, etc. Most fares purchased for GOV travel are without penalty – not necessarily full fare but often close to it.

    I only get to see a portion of the travel arrangements for just a couple of Departments but they spend thousands and thousands and thousands every day.

    What really annoys me is when there’s a perfectly good low level booking code with a GOV rate yet the traveller wants Y class so they can try and upgrade.

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