P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz is defending his decision to fly first class on a return flight following a trade mission to India in March.


This was his first non-economy class ticket on government business, says Robert Ghiz. (CBC)

"When this one came up I remember, I said, 'I'm sure it will become an issue at some point,'" said Ghiz.

It became an issue in the legislature on Friday, when the Opposition demanded to know why the premier flew first class instead of economy, as Innovation Minister Allen Roach did.

Ghiz wasn't in the house to respond Friday, but told CBC News Monday he had to get back to Canada to prepare for meetings in Ottawa, and the first-class ticket was the only one available.

"I had to get back. I flew out at 3 o'clock in the morning from Banglore, and made it back," he said.

Ghiz realized the optics weren't great, considering his government is slashing jobs and cutting budgets.

The premier is not sure if there were an economy class tickets left for the following day. The first-class ticket cost $4,500 more than economy.

This is the first time as premier that he's bought a first-class ticket, said Ghiz.

"Every other time I booked economy. So the one time when I don't, everyone notices the huge cost," he said.

"Maybe if I had of booked business class every time since I've been premier, no one would have even noticed this time."

Government policy states Ghiz can fly business if it's more than three hours. The flight from Bangalore was 16 hours.

Ghiz said he'll continue to buy all his plane tickets in economy class unless, as was the case this time, there are no economy tickets left.

Shea flight costs $9,500

Another high-profile Island politician is making headlines for the cost of a trip to China.

Egmont MP Gail Shea billed Canadian taxpayers almost $9,500 for a flight she took to Beijing, China when she was minister of fisheries and oceans in 2010.

According to Air Canada's website, an Ottawa-Beijing return ticket, economy class, booked two weeks in advance, costs around $2,500.

Shea wasn't available Monday for an interview. Nancy Bishay, her director of communications, said Shea was in China to promote Canada's fish and seafood industry, and to clarify Ottawa's position on the seal hunt.

Bishay said all the minister's flights were in line with government guidelines.