Washington Report: NBAA takes issue with USA Today

 - August 12, 2008, 5:02 AM

In a letter to USA Today, NBAA president Shelley Longmuir said the newspaper’s August 5 article on corporate aviation ignored the “demonstrated and over-arching benefits” of business aviation.

The article claimed that among companies that allow executives personal use of corporate aircraft, 140 CEOs ran up company-paid flight time worth $50,000 or more in 2002, up more than 50 percent from 2001. Of those, 40 “racked up” flight costs of at least $100,000, up 33 percent from 2001, according to the article.

USA Today said the numbers were based on its database analysis of all corporate annual statements in which companies reported executives’ use of corporate aircraft. Virtually all had the costs picked up at company expense, the article continued. And because the perks are taxable fringe benefits, many companies covered their CEOs’ flight-related taxes, too.

Longmuir pointed out that since 9/11, businesses have increased the use of company-owned aircraft for employee travel. “Due to security concerns, some companies have instituted policies that key employees (senior executives) use corporate aircraft for travel, including personal trips,” she countered. “Surveys indicate that of the thousands of flight hours logged per year by corporate executives, only a very small percentage may be for personal use consistent with company policy, and these hours represent just one component of an executive’s overall compensation.”

Even with heightened corporate transparency and shareholder accountability, Longmuir said business aviation continues to grow because of the demonstrated efficiency and flexibility corporate aircraft bring to corporations operating under growing expectations for financial performance and shareholder value.

“The ability to get to meetings and remote locations quickly and safely while providing an efficient work environment,” Longmuir wrote, “means that businesses can create a better bottom line.”