USA Today Questions Business Aviation

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The Cost Of Flying ...

While some people may wonder if CEOs and chairmen of the board really need to fly in luxurious corporate jets, USA Today decided to research this subject in a different vein. In its August 5 edition, the newspaper published an article highlighting the highest use of corporate aircraft defined by company and operating costs incurred on an annual basis. Among companies that allow executives to use corporate aircraft, 140 CEOs were cited as using $50,000 or more worth of company-paid flight time in 2002, an increase of more than 50 percent from 2001. Working our way up the corporate pyramid, the paper reported 40 of these executives flew $100,000 or more, a 33 percent increase from 2001. While business aviation is an important resource for many companies during these trying and unreliable times via the airlines, USA Today seemed to concentrate its focus on the so-called "abuse" of this valuable mode of transportation. "Jet access is also a way to reward executives with a perk whose true cost flies below the radar of most shareholders and corporate watchdogs," the newspaper said.

... Singling Out The Abusers? ...

USA Today went on to list a half dozen companies and CEOs it described as the most excessive users of business aviation. While AVweb chose not to list these companies, those interested in reading more about them can access the article here. The paper also went on to list the other "perks" these executives gained in addition to their travel benefits. Unfortunately, the article did not expand on the many benefits business aviation brings to these companies and the economics often considered in its use.

... NBAA Responds

As expected, some in the business aviation community did not appreciate the overall tone of the article. In a letter to Carol Stevens, USA Today's editorial page editor, NBAA President Shelley A. Longmuir described her disappointment with the editorial. "Gary Strauss' August 5 article on corporate aviation ignores the economic drivers and benefits of this important transportation sector -- a highly competitive, market-based system directly fueled by consumer choice. Business aviation is arguably more important as part of the nation's transportation mix and consumer choice in the post 9/11 environment than ever before because of the increased need for security and the efficiency," she wrote.

Longmuir added, "The article also ignored the demonstrated and over-arching benefits of business aviation, all born of a marketplace need for increased corporate efficiency. In this heightened environment of corporate transparency and shareholder accountability, business aviation continues to grow."