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Ethical Issues Raised by Retention and Use of Flight Privileges by FAA Employees

Date of Issuance:

Although flight privileges generally do not require disqualification under 18 U.S.C. § 208 from all matters involving the relevant air carrier, a Federal Aviation Administration employee who holds such flight privileges must disqualify him or herself from particular matters where FAA action may have a direct and predictable effect on the relevant air carrier’s ability to honor the employee’s flight privileges.

An employee with flight privileges and the airline that provided them have a “covered relationship” that must be analyzed under an Office of Government Ethics regulation (5 C.F.R. § 2635.502) to determine whether the employee’s participating in a matter involving that airline would create an “appearance problem.”  The regulation entrusts the agency and the employee to make that determination based on the facts of a particular case.

Although flight privileges could constitute a “payment” within the meaning of another OGE regulation (5 C.F.R. § 2635.503), and therefore must be analyzed under the regulation, they do not constitute an “extraordinary payment” under the described circumstances.

Flight privileges are not a type of interest that would qualify as “stock” or “any other securities interest” under a Department of Transportation regulation (5 C.F.R. § 6001.104(b)) that supplements the OGE impartiality regulations.

Updated July 9, 2014