In the first two years of their term in office, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and his ministers only completed a small portion of their foreign trips on scheduled airlines.

A response from the Federal Ministry of the Interior to a query from left-wing MP Sevim Dagdelen shows that the traffic light government spent well over two-thirds of its time traveling with the Bundeswehr’s air service, which has 16 aircraft of different sizes for transporting politicians.

Only five of the 19 cabinet members who have been in office continuously or temporarily since December 2021 did not use the Air Force for trips abroad: Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP, 19 scheduled flights to or from abroad), Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens, 31 scheduled flights), Construction Minister Clara Geywitz (SPD, 5 scheduled flights) as well as Family Minister Anne Spiegel (Greens, 2 scheduled flights), who resigned in April 2022, and her successor Lisa Paus (Greens, 12 scheduled flights).

Frequent flyer Scholz: More than 160 international flights in 21 months

On the other hand, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD), who resigned in January, were only traveling abroad to be ready to fly. For Scholz, the flights add up to 163 in the first 21 months of his term in office up to September 5th. Afterwards he was at the G20 summit in India, and on Sunday he wanted to go to the UN General Assembly in New York with his wife Britta Ernst.

During her year in office, Lambrecht made 25 trips abroad – all of which were also available to fly. Her successor Boris Pistorius (SPD) has flown on a scheduled flight once on his 18 trips so far. According to the information, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) traveled on scheduled flights three times on her 90 trips abroad. Another will follow in a few days when she flies back to Germany from the UN General Assembly in New York.

Even the Interior Minister rarely flies abroad

Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) and Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) also flew abroad primarily with the Air Force. Even for Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD), the list shows 34 trips abroad with the willingness to fly, but only two scheduled flights.

In order to respond to the parliamentary question, the Ministry of the Interior asked all departments about business trips abroad since December 8, 2021 – the day the government was sworn in in the Bundestag. Some ministries reported complete trips, sometimes with several flights, others only reported single flights. The bottom line is that the list shows 271 trips (some of them multiple flights) and 218 individual flights that are available to fly. This compares to 39 trips (some of them several flights) and 129 single scheduled flights. 11 further trips are stated as partly with scheduled flights and partly with flight readiness.

Left criticizes “excessive use” of flight availability

Left-wing MP Sevim Dagdelen criticized the government for not switching more to commercial flights. “With the excessive use of the flight availability, the traffic light government is reducing its promises to use tax money sparingly and to protect the environment and climate to absurdity,” she says.

Flight readiness has repeatedly hit the headlines in recent years because of mishaps. Most recently, Baerbock had to cancel a trip to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji in Abu Dhabi due to a defective landing flap. Nevertheless, the federal government’s frequent flyers in particular are reluctant to travel by scheduled flights because the planning effort is much greater. There are also relatively few direct flights abroad from Berlin compared to other capital airports such as London or Paris.

Other foreign ministers tend to fly the line

This is perhaps one of the reasons why British Foreign Minister James Cleverly travels significantly more frequently for commercial purposes than his German counterpart. “Ministers must ensure that they always make efficient and cost-effective travel arrangements,” is the requirement from the ministerial code. The Royal Air Force’s fleet for government flights is also significantly smaller than that of the German aviation service, which currently has 16 aircraft. It only includes two Dassault 900LXs and a VIP Voyager, which King Charles also travels with.

The French government fleet is also still small compared to the German one, with one Airbus A330 and six small Falcon business aircraft. The same applies to Italy with three medium-sized Airbus A319s and three Falcons.

Breakdowns are not a German specialty

By the way, governments of other economically strong countries also have problems with breakdowns. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was recently unable to fly home to Canada from the G20 summit in India two days late due to technical problems on his plane. The Canadian Airbus fleet was deployed in the early 1990s and has been causing problems for years. Nine new planes have now been ordered.