EPA Head: I Travel First-Class Because Coach Passengers Bully Me

EPA Head: I Travel First-Class Because Coach Passengers Bully Me

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency has broken months of silence about his frequent premium-class flights at taxpayer expense, saying he needs to fly first class because of unpleasant interactions with other travelers.

Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt has racked up thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded first-class travel.

Pruitt told the New Hampshire Union Leader he had some "incidents" on flights shortly after his appointment by President Donald Trump previous year. One of Pruitt's short domestic trips from Washington, DC to NY was booked first class for $1,600-six times the amount spent on the two media aides who came along and sat in coach. That figure does not account for the costs of Pruitt's round-the-clock security detail, which have not been disclosed. "We've reached the point where there's not much civility in the marketplace and it's created, you know, it's created some issues and the [security] detail, the level of protection is determined by the level of threat". He has also taken other measures like adding a soundproof $25,000 "privacy booth", allegedly to stop people from eavesdropping on his private conversations and having his office swept for hidden listening bugs for $3,000. Also on Tuesday, Politico reported Pruitt flew first class on an American Airlines flight from Washington, D.C., to Boston. "I'm not involved in any of those decisions", Pruitt told the Union Leader. Pruitt's ticket cost six times more than the coach seats purchased for Pruitt's two aides on the same flight. "And, so, ingress and egress off the plane. that's all decisions all made by our (security) detail team, by the chief of staff, by the administration".

Pruitt was asked about the issue following a Washington Post report on Sunday that detailed some of his travel expenses, including a $1,641.43 first-class seat for a short flight in June from Washington to New York City.

CBS News has learned that when Pruitt returned home from Milan on June 11, he flew on Emirates Airlines, whose business class cabins are some of the world's most luxurious, complete with an onboard lounge that promises what the airline calls a "truly unique journey". EPA's press office has repeatedly refused to comment on whether Pruitt was flying first class.

For instance, taxpayers paid at least $90,000 for Pruitt and a group of aides to travel during a brief stretch last June, on trips that included first-class flights for television interviews in NY and a visit with officials in Rome, where he toured the Vatican.

According to federal regulations, agencies can authorize first-class travel only in specific and rare circumstances, including if the flight is at least 14 hours, if the government official has a medical disability, or when security officers determine that the "use of coach class accommodations would endanger your life or government property", the Post reported.

According to records, Pruitt has traveled in at least four non-commercial flights totaling $58,000.

In January, the EPA's Office of Inspector General announced that it would be expanding its probe into Pruitt's travel habits to include all trips through the end of 2017.

Unlike most of us, he does it with federal tax money.