Embargoed: 00:01 Saturday 22 May 2021
With international travel now resuming, the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) have found that government departments spent £1,267,954 on first and business class flights before the covid-19 lockdowns began.
Across government departments, business class flights came to a total of £1,256,561 in 2019-20, making the average ticket price £2,882. This included the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) four flights from London to Beijing, China, costing £19,527 and four flights from London to Bengaluru, India costing £16,218. These flights alone would have produced 27.44 tonnes of carbon emissions, and the combined distance is almost the same as flying around the world twice.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) purchased two first class flights, costing £11,393, and was the only department to do so. This is despite Cabinet Office business travel policy principles still stipulating that “no public sector personnel should be travelling first class, irrespective of grade, entitlement or distance.”
Premium economy flights came to a total of £68,229 for 38 flights across 7 departments. These included flights to destinations such as Sydney, Australia and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
With lockdown moving the majority of work meetings online, the TaxPayers’ Alliance is calling on government departments to reduce their carbon footprint and the cost of flights by restricting travel to essential journeys only.
Government departments booked at least 271,507 domestic and international flights over the 2019-20 financial year, costing a total of £102,031,408.
- The Ministry of Defence, which booked numerically the largest number of flights at a total of 237,815, included flights booked via the MOD travel contract (with civilian airlines), which incorporates and includes civilians, military, military families and contractors.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) was the only Whitehall ministry to purchase first class flights, with two purchased for £11,393. This involved one flight on the 13 June 2019 to Tokyo at a cost of £4,538 and another on the 24 April 2019 to Montreal costing £6,854. Both flights departed from London Heathrow.
The Department for Transport purchased 286 business class flights at a cost of £760,411 – the highest number of any department. This included domestic flights from London to locations such as Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) purchased 19 premium economy flights – the highest number of any department – at a cost of £27,503. These included flights to destinations such as Sydney, Australia and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The department also spent a further £86,144 on 27 business class flights. This included £19,527 spent on four flights from London to Beijing, China and £16,218 on four flights from London to Bengaluru, India.
- The Wales Office booked 36 per cent of their 33 flights in business class costing a total of £46,034. The remaining 64 per cent of flights were purchased in economy class costing £3,012.
The Scotland Office purchased 100 per cent of their 789 flights in economy class, costing £89,750.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:
"Taxpayers expect ministers and officials to keep their feet on the ground.
"Some travel is unavoidable, but when many are holding their meetings online, departments can practice what they preach and do the same.
“Flying halfway around the world should be the last resort.”
TPA spokesmen are available for live and pre-recorded broadcast interviews via 07795 084 113 (no texts)
Media Campaign Manager, TaxPayers' Alliance
24-hour media hotline: 07795 084 113 (no texts)
Notes to editors:
Founded in 2004 by Matthew Elliott and Andrew Allum, the TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) campaigns to reform taxes and public services, cut waste and speak up for British taxpayers. Find out more at www.taxpayersalliance.com.
TaxPayers' Alliance's advisory council.
- The TaxPayers’ Alliance have revealed local authorities spent at least £90,000 on trips abroad in 2019-20.