For most of us, flying has become increasingly unpleasant. But not for the super-rich and the corporate executives.

These elite few don’t fly first class. They fly on their own private jets. They go to their own small private terminals. There’s no security screening. No baggies with three-ounce containers. No strangers rifling through their undergarments.

We’re paying a steep price for their privilege.

Private jets strain the air transport system, and they impose costs on taxpayers and other travelers because they don’t pay their fair share.

For example, a Boeing 757 flying from New York to Miami will pay $2,015 in taxes, while a Gulfstream private jet flying the same route and using the same air traffic system will pay only $236.

Instead of adding capacity to overcrowded airports, our tax dollars are going to improve small and remote airports that serve primarily private jets. Of the $7 billion in federal funds spent on airport improvement between 2005 and 2007, almost a third — $2.2 billion — went to upgrade airport facilities at elite destinations such as California’s Napa Valley Airport, Aspen’s Sardy Field and the Regional Airport in Pittsfield, Mass., that serves Tanglewood concert-goers.

On top of that, private jets pose a security risk. Almost seven years after 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledges that the limited screening of private jets is one of the nation’s serious security gaps.

Finally, at a time of growing awareness about climate change, private jet passengers leave a Godzilla-size carbon footprint that is more than 500 percent greater than a commercial passenger on a jumbo jet. An hour flying in a private jet burns as much fuel as an entire year of driving. And sometimes, the private jet is carrying only a couple of passengers. That just compounds the waste.

Let’s invest in a transportation infrastructure that is environmentally sustainable, creates good jobs, reduces the need for air travel, relieves air traffic congestion and serves all types of travelers.

We’d be much better off, for instance, if we built a high-speed rail system that everyone could use, instead of subsidizing private jet travel.

Congress should act to restore fairness to the system and limit the burdens of private jet travel on the environment and the rest of us.

Chuck Collins, an Institute for Policy Studies senior scholar, is co-author of a new report, High Flyers: How Private Jet Travel Is Straining the System, Warming the Planet, and Costing You Money. He wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues.

Chuck Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, where he directs the program on Inequality and the Common Good.

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