Qwest’s Mueller still flying high…

February 18, 2009

While some companies seem to be curtailing their use of the corporate jet over concerns over how that might look, footnoted frequent flyer Qwest (Q) just signed another agreement with CEO Ed Mueller to let him continue using the company’s two planes for the next two years.

The agreement, which was included in the 10K that Qwest filed late Friday, isn’t all that different from the one signed two years ago — the one that allowed Mueller’s family, including his step-daughter to use the plane to commute back and forth to high school. Back then, footnoted readers voted that disclosure as the worst footnote of 2007. Qwest’s stock has fallen about 50% since.

But here’s the real problem with time-sharing agreements, at least according to my go-to expert on all matters regarding corporate aviation: they’re essentially a legalistic-loophole that allows executives and their guests to fly for a lot less money. While companies typically note that the executive has to pay for a long list of items ranging from fuel and lubricants to lodging for the crew, it’s still a bargain. For example, under a time-sharing agreement, this expert figures a company may bill an executive $3K an hour for use of a GV, when the actual cost is closer to $8K an hour.

“”Time sharing arrangements are a sham and a shield that companies and executives use to fly for less,” this expert says. “The executive gets a tremendous savings and the company loses a lot of tax deductions.”

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