The President’s Trip to Asia Cost Taxpayers $5 Million for Air Force One

Last week, President Obama made his last scheduled trip to Asia with visits in China and Laos, and a brief 2-hour stop at a U.S. air base in Japan. While the full cost of the trip is as yet unreported, expenses for Air Force One amounted to over $5 million.


Air Force One Costs for Obama's September 2016 Trip to Asia
TravelHours & MinutesAir Force One Flight Cost
Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii to Hangzhou, China.9h 45m$1,756,151
From Hangzhou China to Vientiane, Laos3h 10m$570,374
From Vientiane, Laos to Yokota Air Base, Japan5h$900,590
From Yokota Air Base, Japan to Anchorage, Alaska*5h 25m$975,639
From Anchorage, Alaska to Andrews Air Force Base4h 30m$810,531
Total27h 50m$5,013,284
*Air Force One flew over Anchorage but did not land. Travel times are as reported on the White House’s schedule.  

At the end of August, Obama left Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C. to attend the 2016 Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders in Hawaii. On September 2nd, he departed Hawaii to China for a G20 Summit and travelled on to become the first President to visit Laos. On the return, Air Force One stopped for two hours at a U.S. Air Base in Japan and flew back over Anchorage, Alaska and landed back in Washington early in the morning on the 9th of September.

The FY 2016 cost per flight hour to operate Air Force One is $180,118, however, as NTUF has chronicled, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the total costs incurred when the President visits another country. The Department of State eventually releases information on the cost of hotels for staff, most recently reporting a $611,420 tab for a recent Presidential trip to Spain. Security costs can be quite significant depending on the country visited and are understandably not released. While it makes sense for a lack of transparency regarding security costs, additional administrative and personnel costs remain largely hidden from taxpayers.

Obama’s travel to Asia marks his 39th international trip – tying him with President George W. Bush for the second most journeys abroad, but could pull ahead with a scheduled trip for a conference in Peru by the end of the year. Although he has racked up Air Force One “frequent flier miles,” Obama has made fewer visits on each of his trips than his predecessors and his trips are slightly shorter. He is third on the list of most countries visited and days spent abroad.

Presidential Trips Abroad: Historical Data
PresidentTripsVisitsNumber of Days
Bush, G.H.W.2560102
Bush, G.W.49140215
* Trips taken through September 9, 2016.

Additional information is available in our Presidential travel archive.