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HomeWirtschafts-News„Commitments taken to the point of absurdity“: Baerbock's private taxi? How often...

„Commitments taken to the point of absurdity“: Baerbock’s private taxi? How often she uses the air transport service and what it costs

Annalena Baerbock flew back to Germany from Copenhagen three hours earlier than planned in August 2022. According to a report in the “Bild” newspaper, the Federal Foreign Minister ordered an extra aircraft from the federal air transport service to Denmark, which is currently attracting criticism. After all, the Green politician had stressed upon taking office that she wanted to travel as environmentally friendly as possible.

“Typical green double standards: increase taxes on flight tickets, preach about climate protection and then exploit the air transport service for personal comfort. That’s not acceptable,” criticized, for example, CSU Secretary-General Martin Huber in “Bild” .

And CDU member Philipp Amthor also ranted: “Next time, the minister should read a few files or a book on international law and wait for her scheduled return flight.”

What is the air transport service anyway?

Is Baerbock going too far in using the air transport service? Is she using the planes as a kind of private taxi? The fact is: when the chancellor, a minister or a minister takes an official trip, he or she can rely on the air transport service of the German military. Just as Baerbock did.

“The fleet ensures the VIP, personnel, and material transport worldwide. In addition, the possibility of transporting the sick and injured, as well as flights within the framework of the Open Skies agreement,” is stated on the Bundeswehr website.

A whole range of aircraft is available for this purpose: including two Airbus A350s, two Airbus A319CJs, one Airbus A319 OH, one Airbus A321, two Airbus A321 LRs, three Bombardier Global 5000s, three Global 6000s, and three Cougar AS-532 helicopters.

In fact, many cabinet members use the air force for official trips – as shown by figures compiled by the German Press Agency in 2023. They stem from a response from the Ministry of Defense to a question from Left party member Sevim Dagdelen and other members of her faction.

Baerbock actually wanted to fly more commercial airlines

In the first 21 months of her tenure, representatives of the federal government traveled a total of 1184 times on the airplanes and helicopters of the German military. 246 flights were made by the Foreign Office – including Baerbock’s ministry. Bundeskanzler Olaf Scholz, as seen from the numbers, made the most use of the air transport service:

  • Chancellery (397 flights)
  • Foreign Office (246 flights)
  • Ministry of Defense (107 flights)
  • Ministry of the Interior (95 flights)
  • Ministry of Economy (94 flights)
  • Ministry of Finance (86 flights)

The advantage of the air transport service is clear: unlike regular commercial flights, the aircraft take off whenever they are needed. If a politician’s schedule changes- just as in the case of Baerbock – he or she can also fly on earlier than planned.

As reported by “t-online”, the Foreign Minister almost always uses the fleet of the Bundeswehr for official travel. It was Baerbock who wanted to keep CO2 emissions low and fly as much on scheduled flights as possible.

And further: “Due to the intense scheduling of the minister’s travels and appointments, there may be changes and program delays.”

Alone for empty flights between Cologne and Berlin 7 million euros per year

The Left Party member Sevim Dagdelen criticized, even before the procedures of 2022 were announced, that the government was not switching to commercial flights more strongly. “By using the air transport group excessively, the Ampel coalition government is making a mockery of its promises of prudent use of taxpayers’ money and environmental and climate protection,” she said.

In recent years, the air transport group has repeatedly made headlines due to mishaps. For example, Baerbock had to abort a trip to Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji in Abu Dhabi due to a defective landing flap.

According to a report by “Spiegel,” the failed Australia trip is said to have cost more than 100,000 euros.

It is hardly possible to find figures on how high the expenses for the air transport group are in total. However, in 2019, the “Spiegel” reported that alone the empty flights between Cologne and Berlin totaled seven million euros annually.

Other Foreign Ministers fly more scheduled flights

Government frequent flyers in the German Federal Government are reluctant to travel by scheduled flights because the planning effort is significantly greater. Also, in comparison to other capital city airports like London or Paris, there are relatively few direct flights from Berlin to abroad.

Perhaps for this reason, British Foreign Minister James Cleverly travels commercially significantly more often than his German counterpart. “Ministers must ensure that they always make efficient and cost-effective travel arrangements,” according to the ministerial code.

The fleet of the Royal Air Force for government flights is also significantly smaller than the German air transport group, with currently 16 aircraft. It includes only two Dassault 900LX and a VIP Voyager, which is also used by King Charles.

Similarly, the French government fleet, with an Airbus A330 and six small Falcon business aircraft, and Italy with three medium-sized Airbus A319 and three Falcon, are still small compared to the German fleet.

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