Personal use of corporate jets has soared 50%, costs companies $65M

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By Dan Sears

Executives using corporate jets for personal travel has soared 50% since the pandemic — a free perk that has cost their companies millions of dollars.

Companies in the S&P 500 spent $65 million for their high-ranking execs to use corporate jets for personal travel in 2022, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Early signs suggest the trend continued in 2023, a Wall Street Journal analysis found, though executive pay and perks aren’t typically reported until spring.

Operating a private jet is a costly endeavor, running companies anywhere from $1,100 to $1,900 per flight hour, not including maintenance fees and costs associated with storage and crews, according to private jet charter company LunaJets.

Despite the hefty bill, the number of big companies providing the perk has risen about 14% since 2019, The Journal reported.

As of 2022, 216 companies listed on the S&P 500 were offering corporate jets for executives’ personal use, per the outlet, citing figures from executive data firm Equilar show.

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Companies in the S&P 500 spent $65 million for personal travel on corporate jets — a 50% increase since 2019, according to The Wall Street Journal. Christopher Sadowski

The number of executives receiving free flights also grew nearly 25%, to 427, year-over-year in 2022.

Among the companies spending big bucks on corporate jets, Meta Platforms topped the list in 2022, spending $6.6 million on the perk for personal flights for its chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and his then-lieutenant, Sheryl Sandberg, The Journal found.

The figure marks a 55% increase from 2019.

Zuckerberg has been criticized for his company jet’s carbon footprint, though Meta has said that the private plane is necessary for “maintaining Mark’s safety while enabling him to go about his life with minimal disruption.”

Casino giant Las Vegas Sands had the second-largest bill, spending $3.2 million on flights for four C-suite honchos — more than double its annual expense in any year since 2015, per The Journal.

In addition, public utility company Exelon — owner of Chicago’s Commonwealth Edison utility — more than tripled its spending on freebie flights for executives since 2019.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta reportedly spent the most, or $6.6 million, on private plane trips for the CEO and his then-lieutenant, Sheryl Sandberg. AP

Aerospace company Lockheed Martin, Modelo Especial parent Constellation Brands and Tyson Foods also paid out handsome sums for personal flights in company aircraft soar in 2022 — $2.1 million, $1.9 million, and $1.8 million, respectively, The Journal reported.

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These so-called “personal flights” reportedly include trips companies can’t classify as business-related, such as flights to board meetings for other companies or commuting from faraway residences.

Some companies give their executives a fixed allowance for these flights, in hours or dollars — typically $25,000 per year — and require reimbursement beyond that threshold, according to the Journal.

PepsiCo is one of the companies that uses this model.

The number of executives being offered corporate plane use as a perk has grown nearly 25% year-over-year in 2022, The Journal reported. (Pictured: Zuckerberg’s private plane) @JxckSweeney

The New York-based food and beverage corporation spent $776,000 on personal flights for five executives in 2022 — double what it paid in 2019, The Journal reported, though two-thirds of 2022’s trips were subsidized by CEO Ramon Laguarta.

However, the sums have little financial impact on most giant corporations, the outlet said. For reference, Meta’s revenue in 2022 came in at $116 billion, meaning Zuckerberg and Sandberg’s $6.6 million worth of flights made a measly less-than-1% dent.

There was only one company in The Journal’s analysis whose spending on corporate jets was whittled down to $0 in 2022: Match Group, which named a new CEO earlier this month as it struggles with a decline in paying users.

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Its most popular subsidiary, Tinder, has seen a churn in each of the last four quarters, which has cut into its bottom line.

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