The head of the US Department of Health and Human Services has been using expensive private jets to travel on official business, Politico reported on Tuesday night, and one of his recent trips included two stops in New England that would have cost far less via commercial flights.
Tom Price — a former member of the House of Representatives who in 2009 tweeted “Congress doesn’t need to have private jets” — took five “corporate-style jet” flights between Sept. 13 and 15, including stops in Waterville, Maine, and Portsmouth, N.H.
Price’s full itinerary over the three days, Politico reported, was Washington, D.C., to Maine (Sept. 13), Maine to New Hampshire (Sept. 14), and New Hampshire back to Washington (Sept. 14), followed by a round trip from Washington to Philadelphia on Sept. 15. The news outlet reported that charter-flight operators it interviewed estimated the cost of the itinerary to be more than $60,000.
Price flew from Washington’s Dulles International Airport to Waterville, Maine, on Sept. 13, Politico reported, to participate in a Q&A session with the CEO of ahenahealth, a Watertown, Mass.-based health care technology company. The Sept. 14 chat with Jonathan S. Bush took place at the Point Lookout Resort in Northport, about 50 miles from the Waterville airport.
Later on Sept. 14, Price flew from Waterville to Portsmouth International Airport, Politico reported. He visited the Goodwin Community Health Center in Somersworth, N.H., about 15 miles from the airport.
After visiting the health center, Price flew back to Dulles from Portsmouth.
Commercial flights between Washington, D.C., and New England and between major New England cities like Portland and Boston can usually be found for less than $500, and in the case of flights to an from Washington, often in the $100 to $200 range.
One charter company contacted by Politico “estimated that an itinerary modeled on Price’s three-flight trip between Washington, Maine, and New Hampshire would cost about $40,000.”
Price declined to comment to Politico, and his agency also “declined to confirm details of the flights or respond to questions about who paid for them, with a spokesperson saying only that Price sometimes charters planes when commercial flights aren’t feasible,” the news outlet reported.
On Sept. 15, Price used a private jet to travel back and forth from Washington to Philadelphia, a distance of about 140 miles, a trip that would have cost several hundred dollars per person by plane or less than $100 per person by train, Politico reported.
“By contrast,” Politico reported, “the cost of chartering the plane was roughly $25,000, according to Ultimate Jet Charters, which owns the Embraer 135LR twin jet that ferried Price and about 10 other people to” an event in Philadelphia.
Price, who served in the House as a representative for Georgia from 2005 until his appointment to President Trump’s Cabinet in February, has been “a frequent critic of federal spending who has been developing a plan for departmentwide cost savings,” Politico said.Brian J. White can be reached at email@example.com.