Air Force One Costs $179,750 Per Hour

With the cost of fuel rising, and airlines worrying more and more about their bottom lines, the price of an airline ticket keeps going up and up. Yesterday, United Continental (NYSE:UAL) announced a fare increase, and last week, Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) kick-started a fare-raising party by the rest of the major airlines by raising its fares.

Still, that’s nothing compared to the cost of flying Air Force One.

When considering fuel, repairs, maintenance, and other “flight consumables,” Air Force One, the president’s airplane, costs $179,750 per hour to fly. This cost doesn’t even include the pilot or other airmen’s salaries.

Why is this important to know? Because the president often uses the plane for campaign business as well as official government activities. In theory, whenever somebody flies to or from a campaign event, the incumbent president’s campaign is expected to pay the government back the equivalent cost of a first class commercial ticket.

What makes things murkier is the fact that presidents frequently mix election business with government business. For instance, Barack Obama flew to Florida today to give a speech at the University of Miami on his 2013 budget proposal. After the speech, he is scheduled to attend three fundraisers for his re-election campaign, two in a Miami suburb and one in Orlando that Air Force One will be flying out to. This whole trip will cost $674,000 in total.

Theoretically, there is a formula used when such situations occur to determine how much the campaign owes the government. In practice, though, it often becomes very difficult to determine how to split the bill. And even if a fair split could be made, or even on occasions when a flight is purely political and not government-related, the government is not able to recoup the full cost of that flight.

Is this a fair benefit for the president to have, or should presidents be held more strictly accountable for their campaign travel on Air Force One? Let us know what you think at, and read the full article at ABC News.

— Benjamin Nanamaker, InvestorPlace Money & Politics Editor

The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.

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