A Congressman with far too much time on his hands who I will not even dignify by naming has introduced a bill entitled, “If Our Military Has to Fly Coach Then so Should Congress Act.” His rationale is this–
Members of Congress are public servants and should not receive special privileges at the expense of hard working taxpayers…It’s wrong that Members of Congress can purchase luxury airfare with taxpayer money when many families in my district and across the county are struggling to make ends meet. This bipartisan, fiscally responsible bill will close a loophole that currently allows Members of Congress to buy first-class airfare using taxpayer funds. If our men and women in uniform are restricted from buying first-class air-fare, the same should apply to Congress.
Blah, blah, blah. I am surprised he did not throw in a line about the children or 9/11…
Only here’s the thing: his bill does nothing to prevent Members of Congress from flying in business or first class. Rather, it allows for a wide range of exceptions like this (full text of bill)–
Funds described in subsection (a) may be used for airline accommodations which are not coach-class accommodations for an individual described in subsection (a) if the use of the funds for such accommodations would be permitted under sections 301–10.121 through 301–10.125 of title 41 of the Code of Federal Regulations if the individual were an employee of an agency which is subject to chapter 301 of such title.
Blah, blah, blah. What that means is that Members of Congress can still buy business and first class tickets under the following conditions–
- The only space available
- Less expensive than coach class
- Flight length
- Security considerations
- Medical conditions
That will stop them Congressman! And, let’s not forget that most Members of Congress fly back to their District each weekend and have top-tier elite status, which often leads to first class upgrades anyway. That is no problem–
You may upgrade to other than coach-class accommodations at your personal expense, including through redemption of frequent flyer benefits.
I flew with former Ohio Congressman and “man of the people” Dennis Kucinich once on a flight from Denver to Los Angeles. He flies a lot too, but he was seated toward the back of the coach cabin. I didn’t ask him whether he turned down upgrades as a matter of principle, but I just cannot imagine even Congress plotting to buy full-fare first class tickets when they travel so that they can achieve Global Services and Concierge Key status.
And shouldn’t Members of Congress, just like any other frequent travelers, be able to enjoy the smalls perks of having to endure frequent travel in an airplane? Will forcing them to turn down upgrades make them any more likely to be more responsive to their constituents or read bills before supporting them?
One of my first jobs was working for former California Congressman Duncan Hunter, whose district was east of San Diego. Every Thursday or Friday he’d be on the evening United flight from Dulles to San Diego and back again on Monday or Tuesday on the redeye. He was a 1K and had a special United Congress rep that our office dealt with. He always bought coach tickets (YCA gov’t tickets) that allowed full flexibility to change flights and I had a chance once to look at the stack of boarding passes on his desk–he did not always get the upgrade and did not purchase business class ever.
Okay, so that’s just a couple anecdotes, but surely Members of Congress should be less concerned about trying to pander to the military and fiscal hawk voters with meaningless bills when there are more pressing matters at hand.
(tip of the hat to Gary)