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Airline ticket cost rise, perks disappear while flying with the president has "Who-knew? " perks

By Dian Vujovich

Flying pretty much anywhere these days can cost an arm and a leg and a buck or two when using the toilet or requesting a blanket. Never mind the confusing array of fares and fees all commercial plane travelers are subject to.

That said, even if you’re president, vice president or first lady, fares aboard any of the Air Force fleet aren’t easy to decipher either when it comes to who is paying for what. But I’m pretty sure once on board aisle seats don’t cost extra and the refreshments are free.

According to a report published last week titled “Presidential Travel: Policy and Costs” from the Congressional Research Service, it’s the purpose of the trip that determines who pays for it— taxpayers or the individuals also taking the flight. And as with all things government related, determining the differences between what’s what and which is which can be confusing.

Basically, trips by the president, vice president, and first lady are either classified as official travel—that means the trip has to do with presidential duties and responsibilities; political travel—that’s party related and typically having to do with fundraising and campaigning; or a combo of the two. As for what the total costs for any flights are—including plane, fuel, per diem whatever’s– forget finding that bottom line. Figures aren’t available but ran into the multimillions of dollars based on data from 1992 and 2000.

In any event, White House staffers going along on official or unofficial travel trips have daily food and lodging allowances paid by the government, i.e., me and you the taxpayer. That is, unless the trip is purely a political one. In that case, those who aren’t considered pretty special members of the staff have to reimburse the gov whatever amount the comparable airfare would be had they flown on a commercial plane. Plus, pay for their own food, lodging and other expenses.

One exception: Secret Service agents. The report reads: “Secret Service agents are always considered to be on official travel and all their travel costs are paid by the government.”

If I’m interpreting that correctly, looks like that little hooker romp by some Agents in Cartagena last month was something we all paid for.

Whoa–talk about perks! I can’t even get a window seat without paying extra.

The full report is at: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RS21835.pdf.

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