Former General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt said Thursday he regrets the company’s practice of having an empty jet follow him on trips.
“It’s a practice that, in retrospect, I wish we hadn’t done,” Immelt told Axios’ Mike Allen at an event.
“It was never something I approved. I never talked to the guy in corporate air, really,” Immelt said.
The Wall Street Journal reported in October that Immelt had an empty business jet follow his corporate plane on several trips around the world. The Journal, citing sources familiar with the matter, reported that the extra jet was utilized in case there were any mechanical problems with the one Immelt was in.
This was not a standard practice, sources familiar with the matter told CNBC at the time. The people said a second plane was kept on standby on the ground in certain locations while Immelt was visiting for security purposes or in case his GE-owned plane had mechanical issues. For example, this was done on some parts of a multistop trip in Africa and another trip that included Mexico.
Immelt told Allen that he stopped the company’s practice “as soon as I found out about it.”
When pressed about why he never noticed an extra plane, Immelt said it was not something he was paying attention to at GE.
“I never really thought about it, looked for it, knew what it was — I was totally focused on the job,” Immelt added.
The practice was ended in 2014, sources said. At that time, Immelt changed the policy to use locally sourced planes. Those people familiar with the matter emphasized that this was done especially for added security after 9/11. Business-critical purposes, sources said, included time-sensitive meetings with leaders of countries.