Critics have attacked the Metropolitan Police for spending more than £8.5m on flights in less than three years as rising violent crime puts mounting strain on its resources.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that less than half of the seats bought by Britain’s largest force were economy class in the period.

Between April 2015 and December 2017, £8,577,748 was spent on 13,763 flights – averaging out at 13.7 journeys a day.

About half of the spending – £4,838,689 – was in premium cabins and £407,952 was spent on 114 first-class flights.

In 2011 to 2015, the total spent on all flights was almost £15m, on 20,200 tickets including a higher proportion of economy seats.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance, which obtained the data, called the most recent spending “shocking” during a spate of violence in the capital that has seen more than 60 people murdered so far this year and children as young as 13 years old shot over the bank holiday weekend.

But Scotland Yard said it purchases the most economical fare possible for the needs of the traveller and reason for the trip.

It is among the police forces making repeated calls for increased resources amid rising crime, demand and the terror threat, causing council tax contributions for the emergency services to be raised in London.

The Metropolitan Police previously said it would have to stop investigating some “low-level” crimes to make £400m of savings, while merging policing boroughs and closing stations to save money.

Duncan Simpson, a policy analyst at the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers are tired of hearing public authorities say they have no money left when we hear stories of wasteful spending on this scale. 

“It is completely unacceptable that we are taxed to pay for luxury flights that few of us could ever enjoy ourselves.

“Members of the police will, in the course of their duties, have to take flights occasionally, but it is difficult to understand why they should be travelling so expensively, especially at a time of budget constraints. 

“Of course taxpayers appreciate the dangerous work the police do on their behalf, but there are ways to bring down costs without hitting frontline services.”

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said overseas trips are authorised by senior officers and a business case for each one is examined to ensure the reasons for travel “are both appropriate and required”.

“The work of the MPS officers and staff can require them to travel abroad for investigative and operational reasons,” she added.

“The vast majority of flights undertaken are in the course of operational deployments, requiring immediate activity at the destination.

“Business class flights are usually only considered for flights in excess of six hours unless there are specific reasons otherwise.

“The MPS have consistently sought to reduce the cost of travel in recent years, in part due to implementation of a more effective booking service and an even greater emphasis on obtaining best value for money.”