French Prime Minister Philippe Forced to Answer Questions Over Private Flight

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is being forced to answer numerous questions after he and a large delegation of more than 60 ministers and officials hired a private plane to fly them from Tokyo back to Paris on December 6. Critics are calling the flight, which reportedly cost taxpayers approximately 350,000 euros, an egregious example of government financial waste and criticizing Philippe for spending so much money just to get a good night’s sleep.

It seems the main issue at hand is that the Prime Minister and his 60-person delegation could have flown back to Paris on a French Air Force transport plane that was flying the same route from Tokyo to Paris at around the same time. This Air Force plane had already been used to transport the delegation from the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia to Japan a few days earlier, and the plane was already scheduled to fly the delegation back to France when Philippe made the decision to hire a private Airbus A340 instead.

In his defense, Philippe claims that the private plane was necessary in order to get him back to France earlier, and indeed, the private flight did land in Paris approximately two hours before the Air Force plane did. The reason that Philippe was in a hurry to get back was that President Emmanuel Macron was scheduled to leave France the same day, and it was essential that Philippe was back before Macron departed. However, Philippe also mentioned that the Air Force plane would have been too uncomfortable for such a long night flight. It seems that this last comment about the plane not being comfortable enough is the one that has gotten the Prime Minister into the most trouble and is being used against him to portray Philippe as out of touch with the people.

Similar criticisms were also directly at French President Macron recently after he held a lavish 40th birthday party celebration on the grounds of a royal palace. Although Macron’s office sought to play down the controversy by stating that the president and his wife paid for the celebration themselves, critics of Macron’s ruling party have used both this birthday bash and Philippe’s private charter flight to portray them as the party of the rich.

Of course, much of the criticisms are likely due mostly to party politics. After all, Philippe’s private plane cost approximately 30% less than the flight chartered by former Prime Minister Manuel Valls took in 2016, which didn’t create near the uproar. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how the public reacts and whether Philippe’s decision to charter the flight will come back to haunt him or his party.

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