President’s Day Special: Air Force One mandatory meal charges, ambassador economics, and Air Hillary

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A day late for the holiday, but wanted to share three US government travel-related articles:

No Brown-Bagging on the Big Bird looks at the frustration of junior White House staffers with meager pay getting hit with mandatory meal bills whether or not they eat. I hope Spirit Airlines did not see this article. (New York Magazine)

It is a curious fact of White House life that when flying on the Big Bird—a conveyance whose $180,000-per-hour bill is footed by the taxpayer when the plane is on official business—travelers do not get free meals. On foreign trips, the State Department foots the hospitality bill, and during campaign jaunts, Obama for America paid for anyone designated as political staff. But for the sizable retinue of functionaries on typical domestic flights, it’s their personal credit cards that will be charged—automatically, per ethics regulations, even if a staffer choses not to eat.


Regardless, each leg of travel ends up costing about $20, depending on how many meals are jammed in.

The Economics of Being a U.S. Ambassador (Bloomberg Businessweek):

The funds embassies receive from the U.S. Department of State don’t begin to cover the high costs of the frequent parties and dinners ambassadors are expected to host. Some wind up paying more than $1 million a year out of their own pockets…


In exchange, appointees get perks—beginning with the sought-after title of “ambassador.” In some Western European countries, they live in sprawling estates such as London’s Winfield House. Its 12-and-a-half acres of private gardens are exceeded only by those of Buckingham Palace. The ambassador to Italy can avail himself of a three-story, 5,000-bottle wine cellar at the Villa Taverna in Rome. American and Italian vintners and wine enthusiasts funded the $1.1 million cellar—accessible via catacombs—in hopes of encouraging conviviality and commerce between their countries.

The article reports that 31% of ambassadorships go to political appointees, often the very wealthy who can support the expenses and profit handsomely by the prestige and connections long after they have moved on.

A graphical representation of Hillary Clinton’s 2,088 hours in the air as secretary of state though I am more impressed with her country count, 112. (Washington Post)

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Levy Flight
Levy Flight
9 years ago