Brian Cowen: flights

MORE than €1.3m has been spent this year on flights in the government's two jets despite a supposed clampdown on overseas travel.

The total bill for the Gulfstream IV was €1.076m, with a further €308,000 spent on the smaller business jet.

The government's luxury Gulfstream has been in the air for a combined six days already this year at a cost of nearly €8,000 for every flying hour.

The Learjet, which is generally used for shorter hops to Europe, was airborne for 104 hours, with €2,950 in costs clocked up every 60 minutes.

The total cost of travel aboard the government jet over the past five years has now risen to €12.573m, the figures show.

Records of flights obtained by the Sunday Tribune show that by far the biggest bill came from the St Patrick's Day visit of the Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin to the US.

For that trip, the jet was in the air for a total of 1,420 minutes, the equivalent of almost 24 hours of flying time.

The total cost of the journey, priced at an hourly rate of €7,890, came to €186,730, detailed figures from
the Department of Defence show.

The next most expensive trip was the estimated €156,000 spent on bringing Martin to Africa.

A trip by the Taoiseach to the US in July cost €128,870 as he flew to Atlanta and White Plains in Georgia.

The only other trip, which attracted a near six-figure price tag, was Martin's visit to Egypt in February.

The bill for the foreign affairs minister's trip to Cairo and El Arish came to €92,050, with a total flying time for the mission of 700 minutes.