GE’s ex-CEO reportedly had an empty jet fly behind him — just in case he needed it

Former General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt in 2016.
Former General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt in 2016.(Steven Senne/AP/File)

It’s common for CEOs to travel by private jet. But in a rare twist on the corporate perk, former General Electric chief executive Jeff Immelt sometimes had an empty jet follow him — just in case his plane broke down.

The revelation came in a Wall Street Journal report published Wednesday that takes a hard look at Immelt’s tenure and how the company plans to tighten its belt going forward.

According to the report, the company had a plan not to draw attention to the two-jet practice by parking the planes far away from each other and instructing the crews not to talk about it.


A GE spokeswoman told the Journal that the “two planes were used on limited occasions for business-critical or security purposes.”

The report comes after Immelt stepped down from the company in June, an earlier-than-expected departure.

John Flannery, a 30-year company veteran, has since taken the reins as CEO, and has vowed to scrutinize the company to find ways he can cut costs.

In October, Flannery took steps to separate himself from his predecessor by shaking up the company’s management team, leading to the departure of at least four top executives. He also decided to sell off the company’s jets based at Hanscom Field in Bedford, and the company has also reportedly frozen hiring for certain positions and warned employees to expect budget cuts.

Flannery is also doing away with executives’ company cars and is canceling a swanky Florida retreat for GE’s top brass, according to the Journal report.

The company is expected to unveil the full details of Flannery’s cost-cutting plans to investors in November.

The Journal report also comes as GE is building a new headquarters along Boston’s Fort Point Channel. However, the company has already pushed back the expected opening of one of its buildings from 2019 to 2021 to save money. The project is now split into two phases, with two older brick buildings — together dubbed North Point — expected to open in the first half of 2019.


A rendering of GE’s new Boston headquarters.
A rendering of GE’s new Boston headquarters.(GENSLER ARCHITECTURE)

Jon Chesto of the Globe staff contributed to this report.