U.S.-based chief executives flew a lot last year, as corporate spending on private planes hit a 10-year high.
Companies on the S&P 500 spent $41.3 million on private jets for their chief executives last year, according to the Financial Times citing data compiled by ISS Corporate Solutions, an investment advisory firm. It’s a 22% jump in spending from 2021, which was then a 10-year record as well.
Just over 5% of that total was spent by just one company: Meta. The Facebook- and Instagram-owner spent $2.3 million on flights for CEO Mark Zuckerberg, putting it at the biggest spender on private jets among S&P 500 companies.
But Meta spent even more on its other executives. The company paid over $4 million on private flights for Sheryl Sandberg, then Meta’s chief operating officer, according to the company’s annual report. (Sandberg stepped down as COO last August, and ceased to be an employee in September.) Meta also reported spending millions on personal security for both Zuckerberg and Sandberg.
Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Three other S&P 500 companies spent more than $1 million on private jets for the CEOs: Lockheed Martin, Las Vegas Sands and Netflix, according to the Financial Times.
Private aviation boom
Spending on private aviation jumped during the COVID pandemic. As commercial airlines cut routes, executives turned to charter companies to get them from place to place.
Yet charter companies, like their counterparts in commercial aviation, struggled with delays and shortages of planes and staff, pushing several business and executives to just buy their own private jets.
While private planes have always been a political flashpoint, they’ve re-emerged in recent months as a symbol of ostentatious wealth and a source of environmental damage.
In December, then-Twitter CEO Elon Musk controversially banned an account tracking the movements of his private jet, arguing that it was akin to sharing “assassination coordinates.” The billionaire is the most active user of private jets in the U.S., according to a report in May from the Institute for Policy Studies and the Patriotic Millionaires.
Climate activists are also taking aim at private jets due to their release of carbon emissions. In May, a hundred climate activists broke into Europe’s largest fair of private jets, sticking labels on planes showcased at the fair, warning that they would “kill our planet” and “fuel inequality.”
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