Investigation: LAX Officials Fly High On Your Dime

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — It’s a CBS2 investigation that’s already getting results from City Hall: Highly paid officials flying high on your money, traveling in luxury that most people can’t afford.

The Ashburn family from San Bernardino — is at LAX heading to Hawaii  — after searching online three weeks for the cheapest ticket.

“The most luck I have is usually when I bid on any website where you can bid on a price.”But that’s not the way it works for airport executives at LAX — where we found some spending tens of thousands of dollars of public money on business travel — flying business class!

Airport director Gina Marie Lindsey doesn’t see anything wrong with it. “If there’s a problem, I’m happy to address it. I don’t understand what the problem is,” she said.

If you fly in or out of LAX, Ontario, or Van Nuys airports, or even pay federal income taxes, part of your money goes to the airports. So we wanted to find out how airport executives were spending it, and found some of them traveling in luxuries most taxpayers can’t afford.

From January 1, 2010 through March of this year, we found airport senior executives flew business class…12 times. Spending more than $98,000 for business trips overseas.

Two of them went to the Airport Director.  Lindsey is one of the highest-paid officials in the city, making $326,000 a year. That’s more than the Mayor. And more than the Governor! But twice she flew business class with wider seats and luxurious amenities for big bucks.

More than $10,000 for a single round-trip to Dubai.

More than $9,800 for one round-trip ticket to London and Paris.

“If you’re flying internationally you can choose to fly business class,” she said.

You can also choose to fly coach?


Then when don’t you?

“It’s more comfortable to fly in business class.”

It’s more expensive as well.


Her deputy director, Michael Molina, went along for roughly the same fare.

We shopped around on the Internet and found economy tickets for the same itineraries as low as $1,700. That’s a savings of approximately $8,000 a ticket!

City policy says, “Air travel expenses are allowable only for the lowest regular fare available,” but there’s an exception for international, which says “the city will consider reimbursing business class.”

It’s an option Molina and Lindsey gladly accepted.

CBS 2 asked, “Why do you have to fly business class?”

“You don’t have to. But you’re allowed to. And yes, on these long flights business class is a more humane way to travel.”

It’s a more humane way to travel? What does that say to the traveling public that isn’t flying coach?

“I think we all agree, that, uh, there could have been a better choice of words,” the mayor said.

The mayor, who appointed Lindsey, may not have liked the wording but says he doesn’t have a problem with business class as long as the travel is necessary.

But Kris Vosburg of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association, an association that promotes taxpayer rights, says business class is wrong.

“This is a classic example of how government officials behave when it comes to spending other people’s money. Just because it’s legal, doesn’t make it right,”

Airport officials say the trips were to meet with representatives of foreign airlines and resulted in 19 new weekly flights by Alitalia, Iberia and Turkish Airlines. And additional service by Emirates Airlines.

Sure enough, Alitalia cut the ribbon at LAX for its first flight on June 5th of last year. But the problem is, the the trip to Europe was on June 10th of last year. But we discovered that two months earlier, on August 12th, the airline already made the announcement of additional flights to LAX.

CBS 2: “But they had announced these flights two months before you went to Dubai?”

“So should I have canceled the trip do you think?” asked Lindsey.

CBS2: “Maybe so.”

But she didn’t. Lindsey says they’ll continue to fly business class whenever they can.

CBS2: “What does this say to travelers who are trying to save money and you’re flying at $8-10,000 a ticket?”

Lindsey: “I don’t think it says anything to the flying public.”

But travelers like Esther Alley think so.

“Do they realize they we’re paying for our tickets? And that we have to pay for our luggage. And they’re spending $10,000 a trip? Are you really serious?” she asked.

Officials say the airport generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to the LA area — and their luxury travel is a drop in the bucket. But it’s a luxury most travelers can’t afford.

David Goldstein, CBS2 News


One Comment

  1. jj says:

    i don’t blame them for taking advantage of flying business class. More than six hours on a plane, that extra space is marvelous. poor choice in words, but I’ll gladly subsidize those tickets with my tax dollars.

    1. margaret says:

      Seriously? Why don’t you make a big fat donation to the City of LA and earmark it for her junkets. And post a copy of your check her so we can see that you will put your money where your mouth is.

    2. jeff says:

      jj, you have to be kidding me! These were completely unnecessary flights. She’s making 320k+ per year!! She clearly believes she deserves to fly comfortably. If she is such a great public servant, why doesn’t she subsidize her own comfort. City pays the low fare and she upgrades on her own dime. What an idiot she is in the interview. She should be fired. Even the mayor found it hard to respond to her comments.

    3. Idiots all around says:

      JJ is reall an LAX employee.

    4. Astonished says:

      Please tell me you were fishing for responses when you said that! Most L.A. Taxpayers aren’t flying anywhere, not even cattlecar class because they have bills to pay and fees and taxes that only seem to be going up! As far as I’m concerned she can pay for her own “Business Class” seats out of her own pocket! Oh and she can take a cut in pay like all the other city workers did (other than the elected and appointed elite)!

      1. Ron says:


        Or even better, she could LOSE her job, like so many NON-CITY/government workers, who didn’t have the option of taking a cut in pay or losing THEIR jobs !!!

    5. GEAH says:

      jj is Lindsay.

  2. swhitS says:

    I won’t! Get in line for coach like the rest of us. The people of LA are morons for allowing this garbage. No wonder we are broke and fire her a$$ she has a take all from the people attitude.

    1. OwnUp2It says:

      Not only that – fire the dipsh** that put her into the position!

  3. PeteM says:

    With that sort of salary, she should be subsidizing the taxpayers for their flights.

    1. JoAnna says:

      I agree with you. This witch thinks she is privaledged. What a pompous ass she is. She needs to get canned and go get a job where she actually has to work for a living.

  4. PeteM says:

    Hey jj, YOU pay for her flights out of YOUR damn pocket, not ours!

  5. Mp says:

    Some people can’t afford to eat either, yet these airport officials are buying food! Oh noes!! This story needs more exclamation points!!!! Seriously, we’re not going to see any reduction in costs if they fly coach. This woman is an executive with a large organization. Executives fly business class. She did NOT fly international first class which is a heck of a lot more expensive. 12 trips in a period of over one year is nothing anyway. I’d expect someone working in this job to fly a lot more.

    1. walljasper says:

      A fool and their money are soon parted.

      Obviously, you have also taken leave of your senses.

      My condolences.

  6. Rick W says:

    Do you know how short this woman is? Coach legroom is plenty for her!

  7. Onclewillie says:

    Well the attitude stinks. Whatever happened to a travel department that sought out the best traveling prices for employees? Sheesh, one person arranging LAX staff travel would pay for themselves in travel savings within a month.

    If these people want the perks that go to private enterprise executives, then let them leave the public sector. The airport director and her executive staff sound more like political rewards from the Mayor and not someone who actually works for a living.

    1. Chris in California says:

      I’ve always wondered why the city, or any city for that matter owns an airport. Shouldn’t they be private enterprises? I’ll bet service would get a lot better really fast if they had to compete.

  8. LT says:

    Somehow, this does not bother me at all. If I had a job that required a lot of air travel, business class would be a must. As a tax payer, I can honestly say this doesn’t bother me at all.

    1. Ron says:

      Nice of you to protect your mom. Are you kidding me? How about you pony up the difference of the lowest airfare(that was available) vs. business class and reimburse we taxpayers? I am sure she gives you a very nice allowance.

  9. ddd says:

    trivial expenses for a MAJOR organization and one of the world’s largest airports. Please use your time investigating more important subjects.

    1. Ron says:

      If he continues to dig, I bet he will uncover less trivial expenses.

  10. Zuma Times says:

    “They should try to get the lowest rate, but you can’t expect them to fly coach with screaming babies. I’m sure they’re doing business on their laptops while on board. And it’s a business trip on behalf of the city. Not like some of the other reports I’ve seen where it’s mainly personal travel under the guise of city business.

    1. Sanderson says:

      Are you sure this wasn’t personal, Zuma Times? She and her buddy flew over AFTER the contracts had been signed. WHY?? That makes no sense. LA World Airports needs to find a good travel agent because they are overpaying. Think about it, she admitted that both contracts had been signed BEFORE she went over there, so … she and her buddy did NOT go there on BUSINESS. AND, you think she was being wined and dined over here, before this business was finalized. YES. That’s business, right? Wrong.

    2. Common Man says:

      Sheep just following like zombies. that’s why they take advantage of the general public. A trip to dubai, yea that was a business trip. Dont forget the other expenses that came with that wonderful all expenses public paid vacation. .

  11. ruth says:

    This women and others who spend hard earned tax dollars should be fired! go fly in your business $10K flight on some corporate company’s dime, not on the peoples~ unacceptable. If you’re a public official reading this, do something and fire this women, or at least suspend her and fine her for all the money she’s taking away from all the teachers they are laying off in the city.

    I can’t believe she said it’s inhumane to travel economy~ well guess what, all the “inhumane” economy riding people who earned to their ticket with blood sweat and tears bought your stolen ticket- unprofessional, inconsiderate and selfish.

    1. ruth says:

      if our Governor Jerry brown can ride coach – these people can too. Maybe I should pay less taxes – we obviously pay more than enough to pay for $10K airline tickets – i hate this so much.

      I’ll take this women’s job for a forth of what she makes and do a better job~ too bad for corrupt networking.

  12. Zuma Times says:

    David, you should do an investigation into the billions of dollars in LACERS pension money that was lost in “overly risky, non-investment grade,” bogus projects and phony LLC’s. The city is on the hook out of the general fund for these losses, and now the city is reducing services, citywide and is headed toward bankruptcy. Check it out!

  13. rlnc says:

    This is a classic example of abuse by public officials. Some of these executives make six figure salaries and they expect us to pay the bill. Employees under their supervision are giving up their concessions in union contract negotiations, due to budget cuts, shouldn’t they give up their perks as well? There should be salary caps for all public officials and a limit on perks… If they don’t like it, then they should leave public office and return to the private sector. Public service should be driven by passion to serve the people and not greed!

  14. wow....... says:

    Are u kidding me…..with our current economy, this heartless rich hag has the nerve to say on record “its a more humane way to fly”……so what she really feels is that we are all animals if we look to fly coach because we “normal people” can’t use other peoples tax $$$ to fly business class….I think Villeragosa should fire her ass ASAP!!!!!!!! What a SMUG HAG!!!!!

    1. Ron says:

      Yes he should, but if it hasn’t already been exposed, it probably soon will, that he too, most likely travels business class.

      She is unbelievably arrogant.

      There needs to be a change of policy, to state that all government employees pay the difference between, the lowest fare and the fare they chose.

  15. Use The Resources Wisely says:

    I think the CBS Investigating team is running out of targets and stories to report. Maybe they should walk down Melrose or Santa Monica Blvd. and help combat all the healthcare fraud and start putting these fake shops on camera. That would save more taxpayer money.

    At least they are not flying on private/corporate jets.

  16. Fred says:

    Lindsey and Molina should be made ro reimburse the City for this type of travel. She cuts law enforcement funding, and uses the money to fly. This is a Joke. She should be fired for misappropriation of City funds. Off course, nothing will happen. This is just another example how the executives at LAX spend the taxpayers money.

    1. Chris in California says:

      Unfortunately she was following the rules. You cannot in good concience fire someone when they are following rules laid down by someone else. But you can darn sure make the rules better then watch for violations.

  17. Disgusted Angelino says:

    I do not understand how this type of abuse is allowed by a City that say it has no money. City employees are told to pay more into their retirement and medical. It is clear that employees like Lindsey and Molina are above any of the rules. I understand why Molina fly business class (he is so fat that he can’t fit in the coach seats). That is not our concern and he should go on a diet. Many fat travels are not allowed to fly because of their size. Did anyone tell Molina that he could not fly because he would take two seats?

    Lindsey is just an unhappy hag that loves to push people around. Most employees hate her guts because of her attitude. She displayed that attitude during the interview. Someone needs to tell her that her stupid smirk is unacceptable.

  18. brian says:

    judgment day is aproaching I hope and prey that LA will go bust you can steal like a thief but it will come back to haunt you she will eventually losse all her money and I hope the IRS will invsetigate all politicians but wait the IRS is also involved and pass the blame on to us GOD is very angry towards america and judgement will fall upon America as the pastor say in church you reap what you sow…

  19. Cruiser says:

    Good reporting. Frankly, they didn’t do anything wrong. It’s all according to the books.

  20. Liam says:

    I used to work for the City. I flew in Business on international flight to the Middle East. A Priceline coach ticket would not have worked – not refundable, no substitutes. And we had a last minute substitute.

    It was not a vacation. I left the office on Friday, packed Saturday, flew out on Sunday, my day “off.” 17 hours in the air, working during most of it. Arrival at 6:30 AM, first meeting was at 9:00 am. Meetings every day, well into the evening.

    With security checks, it was 21 hours at the airport and in flight, starting Saturday, my “day off.”. Arrived at LAX 5:00 PM Sunday, had to be at work on Monday AM. And, no, I didn’t get overtime – salaried employee.

    She is guilty of nothing more than not explaining it well. Or Goldstein is guilty of excessive editing while focusing on a non-story.

    1. rizno says:

      I hear what you are saying but it’s time for everyone who works for the city to “take one for the team” and start doing little things to reflect the realities of L.A.’s situation. Not by spending excessive money in areas like this and then cutting budgets in more beneficial areas.

  21. LAXPD Ofcr says:

    It’s funny how this is now being investigated.
    This issue has already been investigated by LAWA and the LAXPD two years ago when, then LAXPD Assistant Chief Errol Southers single handedly exhausted the departments annual 2 million dollar departmental travel expense account in less than one year. He resigned less than a year after it was discovered. It’s no wonder that he didn’t accept the TSA Directors position after he was appointed by Obama.

    1. Proud Bird says:

      Good riddens to all those greedy clowns padding their wallets before getting another gig. Now there is a new bunch. How many Asst Chiefs does LAX need! Totally out of control. There needs to be some independent oversight.

  22. Wang says:

    obviously most of you have never worked for a company that throws you in the air myrtle times a year. If you did, you would understand that Ms. Linsay is guilty of poor word choice. Having to take a flight that’s in excess of six hours, work through the flight, then immediately enter work meetings upon landing is grueling. Sitting in coach doesn’t cut it. Airlines call it business class for a reason. I don’t see anything wrong with the travel.
    Further, those of you concerned with teachers losing their jobs need to realize that her budget and the LAUSD budget have NOTHING to do with each other. Those of you concerned about law enforcement need to realize the airport director did NOT cut the police budget. The airport director had nothing to do with that budget either.

  23. Comanchepilot says:

    Why don’t they have a corporate travel agent and government rate deal? One can buy a round the world business class ticket for $3500 – so why don’t they use that? Plus – there are discount business class tickets all over the web from consolidators – if it is policy to all management to travel business class internationally why are they not using every trick in the book to minimize the cost?

  24. Tommy says:

    let’s see… Why would airport officials fly to dubai? Maybe it would be to meet with executives if emirates airlines, to try to get emirates to fly to los angeles. The airline is trying to be one if the world’s largest – we would want them to flu through LAX.
    Or maybe it’s to check out the state of the art airport that was recently built. Let’s face it, LAX looks pretty long in the tooth.anything to modernize LAX to get it on par with newer airports would be great. You can’t get great ideas for LAX without actually seeing how newer airports are run.

    1. Alert Two says:

      But they flew after the sale was made. Emirates already agreed to fly to LAX.
      Watch the video dip ship.

  25. Steve Friedman says:

    The City of Los Angeles, not to mention KCBS, should be glad that Gina Marie Lindsey is our Director of Airports. She was recruited to transform our dumpy third-world airport into a functional gateway that is not an complete embarassment on the global scale of airports. With her track record, she should be flying FIRST CLASS!!!! I hope that her future trips also include visits to world leading airports in Singapore, Hong Kong and Seoul — and the she continues to sit in the front cabin!! For the ocassional traveller, she may seem extravagent, but for someone that lists his career as a “Professional B747 Passenger”, her travel methodolgy makes perfectly good sense to me!! SEF

  26. Sanderson says:

    David Goldstein did a half-baked job with this ‘investigation.’ He could have and should have been more hard hitting with this appointee. He should have nailed her on flying to Dubai AFTER the contract was signed, and he should have made her explain why she went to London/Paris for Italia Airlines. Come on, Dave, do a complete job next time. I called City Hall to complain today, DID YOU? Take action and don’t let these people get away with charging US for their outlandish spending. Sure, it’s a long flight overseas – so pay for the upgrade out of your own pockets!

  27. km says:

    This woman is an arrogant witch. That’s obvious by her posture and grinning at your questions. It is the sense of ENTITLEMENT that drives these ego maniacs. More to the point, after seeing your report, I truly believe she sees herself as a cut above us peasants. It is disgusting and the Mayor should fire her—not grin like a Cheshire cat and make excuses.

    PS: LAXPD Assistant Chief Errol Southers (a former museum guard) is s crook as well. He spent LAX money self promoting himself until he was eventually run out of there.

  28. LBC says:

    I think a follow up investigation should look at how the other City department heads travel, or even how the mayor travels! Why focus on the airport director. Keep digging, don’t stop at the airport. I would love to see how DWP is traveling.

  29. sandrita mason says:

    Is it true that business class passengers subsidize coach passengers? If so, then that’s the subject of another expose. Those outraged airline passengers David interviewed should know what they would be paying for their cheap seats without such a subsidy.

  30. Remoman says:

    I couldn’t get over her sneering arrogance when watching the piece last night.

  31. dcinrc says:

    How hypocritical would that make Villagarosa look if he were to repromand her for her actions? Free sporting events, free concerts, upgraded plane tickets… I’d expect nothing from the mayor on this one.. No wonder he has to milk other entities to be able to make his payroll

  32. Stan says:

    OK, Lindsey’s a shrew; a real arrogant piece of work. But c’mon. These “taxpayer advocates” worried about misuse of public funds are total hypocrites. Where’s the outrage when an oil company or insurance company exec flies first class? We have to buy their products, just like we have to pay taxes (although taxes don’t pay for Lindsey’s tickets). But these people don’t have a problem with our dollars supporting private sector execs with all their obscene bonuses, etc.

  33. cc says:

    It is so sad how they spend tax payers money while most of us can’t even afford to fly..this lady needs to be fired once and for all this is the only way we are going to get rid of this corrupt city gorverment workers thank you for expossing how our tax money is been spend..

  34. Davina Garcia says:

    I was so disgusted as i just watched the piece On Lindsey from the airport flying business class. First of all she makes enough money to pay for her own fare but to sit there with her smug attitude and say it is more humane than coach class she should have to fly outside on the wing. She didn’t even make any apology for her insensitivity to the regular working public that do fly coach and end up paying her enormous salary. My husband and I are retired and had to make a choice this year of either going on a cruise or to put a new roof on our house. I am sure she will also get a huge pension with medical at the end of her employment. It is people like her with the don’t care attitude that brought California to it’s knees as it is now.

  35. Jefe says:

    Highly paid Public servants with a” F” you attitude need a quick dose of reality ,and get a job in the real world were the bottom line is more important the personal comfort. That Old Trukey neck needs to retire or bet let go

  36. Pamm says:

    Emirates has been flying from LAX for several years now, so this junket was not to attract the business! I work in the travel business and from this report I can see that the city needs to use a good corporate agency that will work to find the best airfare for their travel. Nobody pays the face value for business class, there’s discounted fares available! The city needs to re-think their travel policy and bring it in line with our economic crisis – either cap the allowance for business class, or just pay the coach fare and let the traveller pay the difference out of their pocket. I bet that would cut down on these junkets!

  37. Peter says:

    LEGALLY RIGHT but morally wrong.. no trace of guilt or remorse in her response. Her face displays her arrogance and the mayor just kinda shrugs it off. I hope Councilman Wendy Gruel investigates ALL City EXECUTIVES abusing this privilege, from the DWP, HARBOR, LAWA and ALL OTHER DEPARTMENTS We, the lowly CIty workers on the totem pole have been asked to cut our salaries by 25%.. take on furlough days and threaten us with further layoffs… while still serving as best we can and these MONSTERS just take and take and take… it doesn’t matter if we lose our jobs, our houses, our ability to stabilize our lives.. i..e, it is so frustrating to work for bosses like these. David Goldstein should investigates all employees and CIty positions specifically appointed by our “wise” :{ mayor… i shudder at the thought of what can of worms can be opened. and to the people defending these EXECUTIVES, lowest price for the lowest products in the best interest of the City. Both the CIty Charter and the LA Administrative Code mandate this principle. Somehow they find loopholes… God help us all.

  38. Peter says:

    i would place a large bet that this Lindsey will not get fired nor reprimanded by the mayor. The mayor’s response was worse than hers. She makes $326,855.00 I make $45K and the mayor’s furloughs will make it roughly around $35K… Try booking a flight on that salary.. I’ve read all the negative comments… the best one was HAG… sneering arrogance, witch, pompous ass. heartless, .. not enough words can describe her. .. and ii wonder how much she gets from concession booths from airports,, the Airlines, the vendors selling food and drinks.. it;s bad enough the economy fares are high – try finding a good meal at LAX for under $20. I can ony afford McDonald’s which is luckily on the same terminal as Southwest Airlines (cheaper than most airlines)

  39. anon says:

    Yea OFF WITH HER HEAD she’s terrible. What does she do again?

  40. Mr . Time says:

    This page reminds me of goofing off CBS reporters with NOTHING to do., except to burn time…

  41. BD West says:

    Why did the LAX Official take each trip AFTER the deal was struck? Sounds like a a possible quid-pro quo. (pay-off). Maybe the airline is the one trying to get the service at LAX? Maybe the LAX official is the one who OK’s the airline. What did she do in Dubai and Paris? First class hotel, nice meals, tourist outings? The answer could be found in knowing who paid for her stay? If this is a quid-pro-quo, the entire trip would be unethical and perhaps unlawful.

  42. Mines Field says:

    It all stems from the attitude and fact that this is a proprietary department and is not in the General Fund budget, so the taxpayer doesn’t pay for it. Well air travelers do and anyone who mails a letter. Some of those travelers are American taxpayers. So yes increased costs are paid by taxpayers.
    The added expense of these flights could have been used to purchase/replace a damaged worn out vehicle.

  43. Alert Two says:

    But they flew after the sale was made. Emirates already agreed to fly to LAX.
    Watch the video dip ship.

  44. SuzanneLA says:

    This woman makes in excess of $326,000 a year and still charges the taxpayers for her trips? This is a ripoff of the taxpayers with a smile. Thank you the Mayor who broke LA!!!

  45. AB says:

    Say what you will, but the way airlines treat us in coach *is* inhumane! I sure as hell wouldn’t fly coach to Dubai.

    That said, perhaps Emirates could have footed the bill as a goodwill gesture for a sealed deal? They have the $$$.

    1. Ron says:

      But then everyone would have KNOWN that is was a CONFLICT of INTEREST !!!

      She NEEDS to be FIRED !!!

  46. Tom says:

    Wow. Gina Marie Lindsey… really?! You arrogant, pompous ferret. Taxpayers are paying $10,000 or more for you to fly Business Class? Villaraigosa: you are a clown. Stand up and do something for Los Angeles and the taxpayers of Los Angeles County. This Gina Marie Lindsey needs to be pushed out of office. Pronto.

  47. Jim.I says:

    “Wow. Gina Marie Lindsey… really?! You arrogant, pompous ferret.”

    Ha! I love that phrase, “pompous ferret”. I am going to put that one in my repertoire.

  48. Billigflug Mallorca Frankfurt says:

    Odd Attention,request per ring increased entitle pleasure other immediately mark annual football star own closely no the transfer desk basis leave history separate aspect interest develop rise possible expectation meet audience intend eat late afraid component various phase only troop enough military river own land me drawing look field alone minute switch shop cover crowd influence emerge media concern battle every corporate offence basic propose enough family record possibly lot always front understand first anybody round appeal top point next bottle nature active must continue

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