According to a leaked internal calendar, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, flew on a military plane to Europe last spring so that they could attend the Fifth Invictus Games.
According to a calendar obtained by Americans for Public Trust (APT), Buttigieg took a “MilAir Flight” from Joint Base Andrews to Rotterdam, Netherlands, on April 15 and returned two days later. Media coverage and photos from the event suggest that the transportation secretary and his spouse visited the Netherlands.
Days before the April Invictus Games, President Biden announced that Buttigieg would lead a presidential delegation that included lawmakers and fellow administration officials. In 2014, Prince Harry established the event as a multi-sport competition for injured, ill, or injured service members and veterans. In 2009, Buttigieg enlisted in the United States Navy Reserve and served a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
A presidential delegation has attended each of the Invictus Games since 2014, including in 2018.
A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation released a separate statement emphasizing the significance of the Invictus Games. Still, they did not address whether Mayor Buttigieg would reimburse the government for her husband’s travel expenses or the cost to taxpayers.
After it was revealed that former HHS Secretary Tom Price had spent more than $1 million on taxpayer-funded private jet and military aircraft travel, former President Donald Trump accepted Price’s resignation in 2017. The former HHS secretary reimbursed the government after it was revealed that Price’s wife had accompanied him on military aircraft during overseas trips.
If Buttigieg has reimbursed the government for his husband’s travel expenses is still being determined. According to a 2017 report from Politico, Price spent more than $500,000 on his international flights on military aircraft. Former Obama administration Cabinet member Kathleen Sebelius said she never took a military plane for an international trip.
Since taking office, Buttigieg has reportedly used a private government jet at least 18 times, according to a report from December. Following the release of the information, critics of Buttigieg seized on his apparent hypocrisy by pointing out that he has called for stringent measures to combat climate change and reduce carbon emissions. Flying in a private jet produces the most greenhouse gas emissions among all modes of transportation.
There was a lot of backlash against Price and Buttigieg’s predecessor, Elaine Chao, who both used FAA-managed jets frequently during their time in office during the Trump administration (FAA). It has been reported that the FAA once charged other government agencies around $6,000 per day to use its aircraft.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) reacted to the report last month by writing a letter to DOT IG Eric Soskin requesting an investigation.
Meanwhile, the Transportation Department has dealt with crises related to widespread commercial airline delays and cancellations during Buttigieg’s tenure. Late in December, Southwest, the largest airline in the United States, canceled around 15,000 flights during the busiest travel period.