Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has used government planes instead of cheaper commercial airline flights seven times in the past eight months, according to The Washington Post, the latest revelation involving Trump administration officials' use of expensive air travel at taxpayers' expense.
The Post reported Thursday that Chao used the government planes to fly to Paris for an annual air show and to Sardinia for a meeting of industrialized democracies. Other destinations included cities within an hour's flight of Washington.
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The Federal Aviation Administration, which is part of the Transportation Department, maintains a fleet of planes, including a Gulfstream IV business jet. Besides the Gulfstream, Chao also used a Cessna business jet that the FAA charges other government agencies about $5,000 an hour to fly.
The planes are housed at a hangar at Reagan National Airport close to Washington. One of the benefits for officials who use the planes is that they are able to avoid airport security lines. Past transportation secretaries also occasionally made use of the planes, and they are often used to transport accident investigators to air crash sites.
Chao is the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. She didn't immediately reply to questions from The Associated Press. Her office said in a previous statement that she tries to fly commercial when possible, and uses government planes when commercial flights aren't available or for "security protocols."
Separately, a report by the Treasury Department's inspector general says that Secretary Steven Mnuchin did not violate any law in the seven trips he has taken on government airplanes but did fail to provide enough proof of why he needed to use the more expensive modes of travel. Mnuchin's travel requests included one, later withdrawn, for a government plane for use on his European honeymoon.