The government has acquired a second plane painted in the colours of the Union flag to ferry the prime minister and other dignitaries around on short-haul trips.
The six-month-old Airbus A321 was captured at Stansted Airport at the weekend with the new red, white and blue paintwork, The Independent revealed.
Downing Street came under fire last year when it emerged Johson’s primary plane, the RAF Voyager, has been repainted with the Union flag at a cost to taxpayers of £900,000.
A government spokesperson insisted the second aircraft, which it said had been repainted with a “Global Britain livery”, represents “value for money”. They declined to comment on the cost of the lease or new paintwork.
The aircraft will be used by Johnson, ministers, and members of the royal family for short to medium-haul trips within Europe and the US. The RAF Voyager will continue to be used for trips further afield.
On Sunday a photo of the jet, which features the same livery as the RAF Voyager, with “United Kingdom” in gold font and a Union flag adorning the tail plane and “sharklet” wingtips, was posted on an aviation forum, and subsequently shared on social media.
A government spokesperson said: “Ministers and members of the royal household sometimes require the use of non-commercial air travel.
“The aircraft with its Global Britain livery will promote a strong image of the role the UK plays on the international stage when it is used by the prime minister, government ministers and senior members of the royal household.
“It also offers value for money compared to the ad-hoc hire of private planes.”
The spokesperson added that commercial flights were the “preferred option” for ministers and that costs were “taken into account in all travel decisions”, before adding details of the contract with leasee Titan Airways would be revealed at a later date.
Labour’s Clive Lewis, a former shadow minister for climate change, said the purchase sent the wrong message ahead of the Cop26 UN climate change conference later this year.
“Why does he need two planes?” he said. “This is all about ‘Global Britain’, it is about the projection of influence and power, and there are better ways to show leadership in the world than having a carbon footprint the size of a Yeti.
“All of us need to change how we live and how we operate, and why not show leadership from the top. Clearly the prime minister has to fly, but he should lead by example and use existing airlines.”
Stewart Hosie, the SNP’s shadow cabinet office minister, said: “It is staggering that Boris Johnson is wasting more public money on yet another Tory red, white and blue vanity project.
“It speaks volumes of the Tories’ priorities that it will throw taxpayers’ cash at a private Tory government jet and Union Jack paint job at the same time as imposing a public sector pay freeze, cuts to Universal Credit, and tax rises for millions of workers.”
Titan Airways has been contacted for comment.