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If You've Been Using The Corporate Jet, Consider Yourself On Notice

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During the height of the financial crisis, like when the shit was really hitting the fan, one thing that was considered a serious faux pas, perhaps even more so than giving out bonuses, was use of the corporate jet by Chief Executives. And not just for pleasure trips but for business, too. If anyone so much as even entertained the thought of boarding that thing for work purposes they'd be shot dead by something worse than a gun- public opinion. Now, though, enough time has passed that one would consider it acceptable to use the plane from time to time, perhaps even to expedite travel to weekend homes where one is still on the clock, right? WRONG, BITCHES! The Wall Street Journal's been watching you and is here to blow up your spot.

A Wall Street Journal review of FAA flight records found that dozens of jets operated by publicly traded corporations made 30% or more of their trips to or from resort destinations, sometimes more than 50%. Often, these were places where their top executives own homes. The review covered nearly every jet flight in the U.S. over the four-year period from 2007 to 2010.

Scared yet? You should be, particularly if your name is, for instance, Ian Cumming. Journal's got something special for you.

In 2009, Leucadia National Corp., a New York City-based conglomerate, reported less than $30,000 on personal flying for Chairman Ian Cumming. FAA records show Leucadia's four jets that year spent 220 hours flying to or from Jackson Hole, Wyo., and New York's Hamptons, both locations where Mr. Cumming owns homes. Those flights alone would have cost $708,000, according to Journal calculations using hourly operating-cost estimates provided by Conklin & de Decker Aviation Information, a consulting firm.

Doing work while out of town (via the company's dime)? Attempting to avoid being assaulted? Journal don't care.

Stewart Reifler, an attorney at Vedder Price in New York who represents executives in negotiating pay packages, said the cost of truly personal trips should be reported, but said it is hard to distinguish a CEO's work time from his leisure time. "Even if they go to a resort," he said, "they're still reviewing papers, looking at their BlackBerrys and talking on the phone. You just can't compartmentalize these guys' lives."...Companies that allow use of their aircraft cite a variety of reasons. Yum Brands Inc., which owns Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell, said in regulatory filings that CEO David Novak and his wife are required to use company aircraft for personal and business travel in part because "Mr. Novak has been physically assaulted while traveling."

As for those of you who thought you could fly under the radar? Think again!

Many companies prefer to keep their aircraft movements hidden, using an FAA-approved program that allows plane owners to "block" their flights from websites that display air traffic. More than 650 jets operated by U.S. public corporations recently had their flights blocked, the Journal found, including all of EMC's and Leucadia's jets, and two of Comcast's...To analyze corporate flying patterns, the Journal obtained, via a Freedom of Information Act request, records of every private aircraft flight recorded in the FAA's air-traffic system from 2007 through 2010. These included flights previously blocked from public view. The Journal calculated the percentage of each plane's flights to a list of 300 locales it determined were more likely to be leisure destinations than business. That excluded major cities such as Miami, New York and Paris, and included spots like Palm Beach, Aspen, Colo., and the Bahamas. The list wasn't exhaustive, and was meant to serve as a rough proxy for potential leisure travel.

If the phrase "The list wasn't exhaustive" sent shivers down your spine, good- it was meant to. "The list wasn't exhaustive" means there's more in store. You're all being watching and next time, no one gets a pass.

Corporate Jet Set: Leisure Vs. Pleasure [WSJ]


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