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Wall Street on corporate jet fleet: no comment

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What else would we expect from this band of billion dollar beggars? Nothing is ever enough, especially when someone else is footing the bill. Citigroup somehow thinks that people will be impressed that the current CEO Vikram Pandit is reimbursing the company for his use of the private jet, as if this was something anyone else would never do. Drifting a Wall Street giant into nothingness is not what I would consider leadership worth millions in salary and benefits, but then again the board - including Robert Rubin - have not made too many brilliant decisions lately.

Let the commoners who are funding the bailout fly coach.

Insurance giant American International Group Inc., which has received about $150 billion in bailout money, has one of the largest fleets among bailout recipients, with seven planes, according to a review of Federal Aviation Administration records.

"Our aircraft are being used very sparingly right now," AIG spokesman Nicholas J. Ashooh said. "I'm not saying there's no use, but there's very minimal use."

To cut costs, AIG sold two jets earlier this year and is selling or canceling orders for four others.

Five other financial companies that got a combined $120 billion in government cash injections — Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley — all own aircraft for executive travel, according to regulatory filings earlier this year and interviews.

A cross-country trip in a mid-sized jet costs about $20,000 for fuel. Maintenance, storage and pilot fees put the cost far higher.

Many U.S. companies are giving up the perk. The inventory of used private jets was up 52 percent as of September, according to recent JPMorgan data on the health of the private aircraft industry.

A few big U.S. companies have shunned jet ownership. Chip maker Intel Corp., for example, requires executives and employees to fly commercial. Intel occasionally charters jets for executives on overseas trips for security reasons, though.
What would an article on corporate jets be without input from the private jet industry?
"The personal use of these planes is virtually indefensible at this point," said Patrick McGurn, special counsel at shareholder advisory firm RiskMetrics Group. "Once you're on the federal dole, the pressure is going to become immense on these firms to cut these costs."

Private jet manufacturers say the debate over executive travel has been overblown.

"What people don't understand is that business jets are mobile offices," said Robert N. Baugniet, Gulfstream's director of corporate communications. "If time has any value to you, then you'll understand why people use business jets."
Uh huh. I think most business travelers can appreciate the hassle factor of travel, not to mention the inability to work during the long hours of air travel. The issue is not whether you lose time or not, but whether a business can afford such luxury. When you're begging with hat in hand, extravagance should be among the first cuts but no, not on Wall Street. They're much more important than everyone else and they do have a lifestyle to maintain, you know.

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