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Tags: HHS | Kathleen Sebelius | first class | business class | flights

Report: HHS Executives Spent $31M on 7,000 Luxury Flights

Tuesday, 20 January 2015 10:41 AM EST

Hundreds of Department of Health and Human Services executives are flying the friendly skies first class at great cost to the taxpayers.

They spent a staggering $31 million on 7,000 first class and business class flights between 2009 and 2013, including 253 trips with a one-way ticket costing $15,000, according to The Washington Examiner.

Records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that although supervisors could have traveled economy on many of the trips, they instead preferred to fly in style and luxury.

The cost of upgrading their flights to first or business class was $13.6 million to taxpayers, increasing the total from a possible $4.9 million to $18.5 million, the newspaper said, noting that half of the records listed the cost of a coach ticket alongside first class.

Although federal workers can fly business or first class if the flight is longer than 14 hours, only 1,400 of the 7,000 flights were on those long-distance trips.

In 5,100 cases, the government executives upgraded because of "a medical disability," the Examiner reported.

The other reasons for enjoying wide airplane seats included unexplained "exceptional security circumstances," sold-out coach tickets, a non-federal source footing the bill, or that first class or business class was "required because of agency mission."

Former Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took 14 first class or business class trips totaling $56,000, including flights to and within India and from Paris to Vietnam, the Examiner said.

Executives with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which manages the Affordable Care Act, took 50 upgraded flights, including a $3,000 journey from Baltimore to a conference in Phoenix.

The agency's superiors also flew business class from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Charleston, South Carolina, for $1,000 each way instead of just driving three hours.

Executives with the Food and Drug Administration also enjoyed flying in style, with a bill totaling $14 million for 2,000 upgraded flights.

One first-class flight cost $26,469, with the employee citing medical disability as the reason for the upgrade. Another flight to Germany cost $23,000, with the executive also claiming he was medically infirm.

FDA inspector David Heiar reportedly traveled to India on a $30,000 round-trip ticket with the taxpayer footing the bill. Also, FDA Inspector Robert Horan flew to Hong Kong for $21,427 when economy would have cost just $5,021. Another inspector went to Australia for $12,344 when coach was a meager $543.

Officials at the Department of Defense also like to travel first class with 784 such flights during 2012 and 2013, while the Department of Commerce had 635 during those two years, the Examiner reported.

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HHS executives spent a staggering $31 million on 7,000 first class and business class flights between 2009 and 2013.
HHS, Kathleen Sebelius, first class, business class, flights
Tuesday, 20 January 2015 10:41 AM
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