British Airways, bmi British Midland and Virgin confirmed to The Sunday Times (London) that they provide members of the British parliament with elite status cards usually reserved for their most valued customers.
As elite status can earn free travel up to 50-percent more quickly, MPs who take flights to and from their constituencies on expense, or travel widely on committee business, could be earning thousands of pounds worth of free travel a year.
A Commons travel office source told The Times that MPs were entitled “to do what the hell they like with the air miles.”
By contrast, civil servants and many businesses pool air perks from official business and put them toward future work trips.
Eric Joyce, the Labour MP for Falkirk West, who claimed #39,116 in travel expenses in 2003, said MPs received the same perk as other travelers: “It would be a story if they were doing it for MPs but not for others, but most MPs would qualify pretty quickly for one of these cards.”
However, in Germany, Australia and elsewhere, the question of what politicians do with their frequent flyer miles has become a hot issue.
Two prominent German politicians accused of using miles for personal trips had to resign from all their posts.
In Britain, MPs do not have to declare perks unless they exceed #550. This includes free parking at airports and train stations.
A spokesman for the parliamentary commissioner for standards told The Times: “If an MP was upgraded because of a card and the additional value of the upgrade was more than #550, then we would expect it to be declared.”