Dozens of corporate jets operated by publicly traded companies made about a third or more of their trips to resort areas, often where their top executives own homes, on Thursday.
In a review of Federal Aviation Administration data from 2007 to 2010 that covered almost every jet flight in the U.S. over the four years, the newspaper found that the jets made 30 percent or more of their trips to resort destinations and in some cases up to 50 percent.
Corporations lease or own private jets as an efficient and more secure way to carry their executives to meetings in places far from their corporate headquarters. Personal trips on the jets can also can be part of a executive's compensation package.
But, the Wall Street Journal said, "The high percentage of trips to vacation destinations in a few cases suggests some companies' jets are frequently used by executives to make personal trips."
Amid weakness in the economy and widespread unemployment, corporate executives have been under intense scrutiny for how they spend their shareholder's investments, especially when it comes to executive pay and benefits. Many companies have begun requiring their executives to pay the company back for the costs of personal travel and some have banned using coporate jets for leisure trips altogether, the newspaper said.
Companies must disclose the full amount spent on personal-jet travel to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Personal jets are generally considered to be the most expensive executive expense.
The newspaper named a number of companies whose executives are taking personal trips on their shareholders' dime. Companies include computer-storage giant EMC Corp., oil-drilling company Nabors Industries, Ltd., consume-product company Jarden Corp. and cable-provider Comcast Corp.
(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft Corp. and Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal unit).
Ian Cumming, chairman of New York City-based conglomerate Leucadia National Corp. reported less than $30,000 on personal flying in 2009. Yet, Leucadia's jets spent 220 hours flying to or from two locations where the executive owns homes: Jackson hole, Wyo. and New York's Hamptons, according to FAA records. The Journal calculated hourly operating expenses and estimated these flights would have cost $708,000.
Leucadia declined to comment, the paper said.
EMC Corp. has said it allows CEO Joseph Tucci limited personal use of the plane, but the newspaper's analysis showed that over the past four years, one of EMC's five jets has made 393 trips to Cape Cod, Mass., the Jersey shore and the Florida Keys. Tucci has vacation homes in all of those areas.
Some companies allow executives to fly for a number of reasons.
CEO David Novak of Yum Brands Inc., which owns Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell, for example said he and his wife are required to fly the jet for personal and business travel because "Mr. Novak has been physically assaulted while traveling."