Between Sept. 13 and Sept. 15, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price took five private jet flights for official business, which cost tens of thousands of dollars more than commercial flights would have—a "sharp departure" from the practices of his predecessors, per Politico, and also an odd move for someone who has frequently criticized federal spending. Politico delves into the flights, finding that, for at least one jaunt that likely cost about $25,000 (between Washington, DC, and Philadelphia), a much cheaper United Airlines flight (hundreds of dollars for a ticket, not tens of thousands) was available at almost exactly the same departure time out of Dulles. There were also similar commercial flights available from the other two DC-area airports, four Amtrak trains (one of which would have cost just $72 per person), or of course, Price's party could have driven the 125 miles.
Price wouldn't comment and HHS spokespeople wouldn't confirm details of the flights or say who paid, but the three organizations that hosted Price (the flights took him to a Q&A discussion at a Maine resort as well as community health centers, with a trip back to DC in between all that for an announcement) confirm they did not pay for Price's travel costs. Charter operators estimate the costs for the five flights amounted to at least $60,000. An HHS spokesperson would only say that charter planes are sometimes used "when commercial aircraft cannot reasonably accommodate travel requirements," but no one would explain why commercial travel was considered to be unfeasible in this instance. Current and former staffers say, anonymously, that Price often travels via private jet, a move ethics experts say is a dubious use of taxpayer funding. Democrats have vowed to investigate. Politico's full piece here. (Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin requested to use a government plane for his honeymoon.)