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Luxury Private Jets

Luxury private jets fill the world's skies on a daily basis, shuttling passengers to and from business centres, exotic vacation destinations, and diplomatic gatherings. Most people don't give much thought to these vehicles because the jets don't impact our everyday lives. But every now and again, someone famous will show up in a very expensive aircraft and earn the ire of the masses.

Take BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward for example. After an obligatory appearance before the U.S. Congress and a brief stint observing the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Hayward left control of the situation in the capable hands of new BP president Robert Dudley. Hayward then commenced on a multi-national tour in his Gulfstream jet to assure investors that his company remains stable.

A hungry American media out for blood blasted Hayward for using luxury private jets to cover the globe while his company wasn't able to contain the spill. He was also criticized for spending significant time yachting during the disaster. Now, is all this criticism warranted? You could make a case that that yacht issue is legitimate. But using the company Gulfstream to make the rounds is a necessary business expense.

The fact of the matter is that companies like BP buy luxury private jets for the travel use of senior executives. BP owned Hayward's jet long before the spill began, and has invested considerable money in it. To allow the jet to sit idle and send Hayward out commercially would have been a financial mistake. It would have added unnecessary cost to BP's bottom line while portraying Hayward as a weak fool. In this case, the private jet was the right thing to do.

Another example is French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy who is taking heat right now for going ahead with plans to purchase a new jet. The pricey 180 million A330 is among the best luxury private jets around, and is intended to replace two older ones in the French government's fleet. What has so many French citizens up in arms is the fact that Sarkozy recently brought the hammer down on several cabinet members for excessive spending on things like private jets. His claims of fiscal responsibility and the need to spend less rings hollow when he rewards himself with a new Airbus.

Is Sarkozy wrong for ordering the plane? That's entirely up to the citizens of his country to decide. Was Hayward wrong for flying his Gulfstream all over the world? That's a matter to be taken up by BP shareholders. At the end of the day the argument comes down what is, and is not, an appropriate use of luxury private jets. It's one thing for a corporation to purchase a luxury jet with money it has earned on its own. It's quite another for a government entity or charitable organization to spend money it has taken from other people on such luxury.

Regardless of the outcome of both situations, what goes on in the skies above is not likely to change. With every dawning day a fleet of luxury private jets will take to the air in a continuing mission of taking VIPs to their intended destinations. And you know what? The employees who build those planes and make that jet fuel will be eternally grateful.

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