$6 Million in Flight Costs for President Obama’s Final Trip: Likely Just the Tip of the Iceberg

This week President Obama wrapped up his final scheduled international trip with visits to Greece, Germany, and Peru. While many people around the country are filling up their gas tank or booking tickets for their Thanksgiving holiday travel, they may be surprised to learn how much of their tax dollars are required whenever the President travels overseas. It costs $188,118 per flight hour to operate the President’s specialized aircraft, Air Force One. This means taxpayers are on the hook for at least $6 million for the 35 hours of air time.


LegHours:MinutesAF1 Flight Cost
From Andrews to Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, Athens9h 30m$1,711,121
From Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, Athens to Tegel International Airport, Berlin3h 10m$570,374
From Tegel International Airport, Berlin to Jorge Chávez International Airport, Peru16h$2,881,888
From Jorge Chávez International Airport, Peru to Andrews6h 45m$1,215,797
Total35h 25m$6,379,180


Presidential travel also entails additional costs for staff per diems, hotel accommodations, administrative expenses across multiple departments and agencies, and the extensive security arrangements that go into protecting the leader of the free world. Costs for hotel accommodations abroad can be surprisingly expensive. In addition to providing rooms for the federal employees accompanying the President, entire floors of rooms are rented out to remain unused for added security. For example, when Vice President Biden traveled to Dublin, Ireland in June, the Department of State reserved 800 rooms for “Security, Communications, Logistics and Operations” at an estimated cost of $327 thousand. The hotel expenses for the President’s stops on his latest trip remain unknown, but costs for rooms in the hotel that were used in Berlin range from $265 to $5,900 per night. Adding to the total costs, the President’s protective limo, nicknamed “The Beast,” and other necessary cargo and equipment are transported via a C-17 Globemaster to each of his destinations.

Obama has now spent more days abroad than President George W. Bush, and is second only to Bill Clinton. This reflects the modern trend that sees recent Presidents travelling much more than their predecessors. The last three Presidents are the most-traveled. In fact, the last three POTUS’s have taken more trips abroad (a combined total of 156), than the combined total for all the Presidents from Eisenhower through George H. W. Bush (119). It will be interesting to see whether President-elect Trump follows or breaks this frequent-flyer trend.