American legislators have introduced laws that ban federal employees from using public money to buy first- or business class airline tickets.
Previously, the rules only allowed such travel for employees with security concerns, physical disabilities, and on flights lasting more than 14 hours.
But an investigation by the Government Accountability Office that found many employees were flaunting the regulations, with an estimated extra cost to taxpayers of $146m (£69.2m) between July 2005 and June 2006.
All federal civil servants must now justify first- and business class trips to departmental auditors, after investigators found 67% of business class travel was unauthorised, unjustified or both.
The biggest offenders were found to be presidential appointees and senior-level executives who, while making up just 0.5% of the entire federal workforce, accounted for 15% of such travel expenses.
In one example, nine employees from the Department of Justice flew business class to Frankfurt in Germany at a cost of $35,000 (£16,700). The employees sought to justify the travel by claiming the flight time was more than 14 hours in length.
However, the flights actually lasted less than 14 hours and if they had flown economy class the cost to the government would have been $31,000 (£14,800) less.
Bill sponsor Senator Norm Coleman said: “My legislation will help to protect taxpayers’ dollars by shining additional light on premium travel and giving Congress the necessary information to oversee government travel effectively.”
Earlier this year, Personnel Today exclusively revealed that UK civil servants were spending millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money on first class flights, rail tickets and taxis.