Jet-setting Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s use of taxpayer-subsidized private planes on more than a dozen occasions is now under investigation by his department’s inspector general.

A memo issued Monday by DOT watchdog Charles Ward revealed plans to audit Buttigieg’s use of Federal Aviation Administration planes for official trips.

The 41-year-old’s predecessor, Elaine Chao, will also face an audit over her use of the same government jets, according to Ward.

The probe comes at the request of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who asked the inspector general’s office in December to determine whether Buttigieg’s use of FAA jets for at least 18 domestic and international flights since taking office complies with federal rules and DOT policies and procedures. 

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg came under fire last year for his use of private planes at taxpayer’s expense.

“[W]e will conduct an audit to determine whether the Office of the Secretary complied with Federal regulations, policies, and procedures regarding executive travel on DOT aircraft,” Ward’s memo read. “The audit will focus on official trips taken since January 31, 2017. We plan to begin this audit shortly”.

A spokesperson for Buttigieg told The Post Monday that the former South Bend, Ind., mayor only used the private FAA planes when it was determined to be “more cost effective” than flying commercial. 

“We welcome this independent audit moving forward in order to put some of the false, outlandish, and cynical claims about the Secretary’s mode of travel to rest,” the spokesperson said.

“The fact remains that he flies commercially the vast majority of the time. The exceptions have been when the Department’s career ethics officials, who have served under both Democratic and Republican administrations, determined that the use of a 9-seat FAA plane would be either more cost effective or should be approved for exceptional scheduling or security reasons.” 

FAA plane.
A DOT spokesperson said that the use of a 9-seat FAA plane was more cost effective than flying commercial in most cases.
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Buttigieg himself welcomed the inspector general’s audit in a tweet posted on Monday

“Glad this will be reviewed independently so misleading narratives can be put to rest,” he said. 

“Bottom line: I mostly fly on commercial flights, in economy class. And when I do use our agency’s aircraft, it’s usually a situation where doing so saves taxpayer money,” Buttigieg reiterated. 

Each flight segment using the FAA’s fleet of planes is counted separately. So, according to DOT, Buttigieg’s 18 flight segments equal seven total trips that will be reviewed. 

The Transportation Department claims that in all but one trip, it was cheaper to use FAA aircraft than to fly commercially. The total cost of the flights for Buttigieg and his staff was $41,905.20, according to DOT.

Chao was criticized for using the same fleet seven times in 2017 at an estimated cost to taxpayers of roughly $94,000. That same year, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned after he was revealed to have taken 26 private jet flights, costing taxpayers about $1.2 million.

Elaine Chao.
Former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s use of the FAA’s private plane fleet will also be audited by the DOT’s inspector general.

Sen. Marco Rubio.
The DOT’s inspector general investigation into Buttigieg was spurred by Rubio.
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Buttigieg’s private plane trips included travel to Nevada, Florida, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Ohio and New Hampshire — as well as to Montreal in September 2022 to attend an International Civil Aviation Organization conference.

The transportation secretary has faced stiff criticism from Republicans in recent weeks over his handling of the Feb. 3 East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment that dumped toxic chemicals into the environment.

Rubio has since called on President Biden to fire Buttigieg in the wake of the derailment for what the senator called his “gross level of incompetence and apathy.”