- Major US companies spent nearly $34 million on private jet travel for CEOs and chairs in 2021.
- Meta spent $1.6 million on CEO Mark Zuckerberg's private aircraft travel — the most of any company.
- Multiple companies said that concerns related to COVID-19 drove higher travel costs.
Top US companies spent more money last year on private jet travel than they have since 2012 — and spending on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg topped the list.
Companies represented in the S&P 500 spent nearly $34 million on private jet travel for CEOs and board members last year, according to a report from Financial Times which cites data from ISS Corporate Solutions.
The investment advising firm found that on average companies spent about $170,000 on private jets in 2021 — over a third more than the previous year.
The news comes as companies are facing criticism for a growing disparity between CEO pay packages versus that of an average employee. Earlier this month, a report from the Institute for Policy Studies found that top executives at 300 of America's lowest-paying companies made about 670 times more than their workers.
Several companies attributed the increase in private aircraft use to concerns over COVID-19. Discover Financial and Lockheed Martin have said they have allowed executives to expense private jet travel more freely since the pandemic started.
COVID-19 concerns may not be the only issue boosting private jet use. For many companies, private jets represent an essential measure of security for high-profile chief executives.
"Maintaining Mark's safety requires comprehensive and sophisticated resources," a Meta spokesperson told Insider. "Given the important role Mark plays at Meta and the threats to his safety arising from his role, Mark is required to use a private aircraft when traveling for all business and personal travel."
Last year, Protocol reported that CEO security costs skyrocketed in the wake of the pandemic. Though, security costs for other executives pale in comparison to the Facebook founder.
In 2021, Meta spent about $1.6 million on private aircrafts for Zuckerberg — part of a record $26.8 million that was spent on security for the billionaire and CEO. The expense was revealed in a regulatory filing earlier this year. In the Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Meta said Zuckerberg's role could compromise his safety.
"He is synonymous with Meta and, as a result, negative sentiment regarding our company is directly associated with, and often transferred to, Mr. Zuckerberg," the document said.
Meta was one of only three companies to spend over $1 million on private jets for its executives last year, including Tyson Foods and Lockheed Martin.
In 2021, Google allocated about $4.3 million to security for CEO Sundar Pichai, while Amazon spent about $1.6 million on Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and just under $600,000 on its new CEO Andy Jassy. Neither company were included in ISS Corporate Solutions list of the 15 companies that spent the most on private jets in 2021.