Government spends £18.5 million on flights in one year


    • First Whitehall-wide report on flights spending reveals that last year a total of over £18.5 million was spent on flights by Government departments.


    • More than half - £10.6 million - went on first class and business class seats.


    • The total bill for public sector flights, including quangos and other bodies, is almost £70 million a year.


    • The Department of Transport is unable to say how much it spends on air travel.

Download the full report (PDF).


New research from the TaxPayers' Alliance reveals that despite Government rhetoric about cost efficiency and reducing carbon emissions, 13 Whitehall departments spent over £18.5 million last year on air travel. The report, compiled using the Freedom of Information Act and Parliamentary Questions, also uncovers the fact that the majority of Whitehall's spending on flights goes on first class and business class tickets, paid for at taxpayers' expense. Previous attempts to obtain data on Whitehall flights spending, through MPs' questions or official requests, have been regularly rebuffed, and the only previous estimates have been back-calculated from Government carbon offsetting statistics.
Seven other departments failed or even refused to provide information about their air travel expenditure, and have even failed to provide this information in response to Parliamentary questions. It is remarkable that they are so untransparent. Given their responsibility to monitor the cost and environmental impact of their travel, it is remarkable that they apparently do not keep easily accessible records on this activity. In particular, departments such as the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which are likely to travel a lot, and the Department of Transport, which has a special interest in the issue, should be monitoring and publishing this information as a matter of course.

Key Findings

    • In 2007-08 13 out of the 20 Government Departments spent over £18.5 million on air travel, slightly down from the £20 million in 2006-07. Total public sector spending on air travel is likely to be over £70 million, according to the Office of Government Commerce.


    • Of the 2007-08 total, £10.6 million went on business and first class flights. In 2006-07, the spend on business and first class seats was £11.5 million.


    • Ministers travelled overseas 429 times in 2007-08. These trips (including the cost of flights and accommodation for ministers and their officials) cost the taxpayer £3.3 million.


    • The Department for International Development was the biggest flyer among those studied, spending over £6.8 million in both 2006-07 and 2007-08.


    • The Department for Work and Pensions was the second biggest spender, with officials taking at least 18,230 flights in 2007-08, at a cost of over £3.3 million. The Pensions Agency alone took 5,617 flights, at a cost of £1.1 million.


    • Brussels, Luxembourg and Washington were the top overseas destinations in both years, and the majority of flights were to either Europe or the USA. In total, Ministers visited over 60 countries in 2007-08.


    • The RAF and No 32 (the Royal) Squadron carried Ministers and officials over 50 times. The vast majority of the total bill went on standard scheduled flights.

Ben Farrugia, a Policy Analyst at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:


"Departments need to be doing all they can to limit their expensive air travel. These figures show that too much is being spent on business class seats, and many departments are making unnecessary journeys abroad. With better management money could be saved. Flying should always be the last option, not the first."


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