The first lady drew headlines for her decision to stay in New York during the start of Trump's presidency — in part because of the cost of the Secret Service posting at Trump Tower. Now, a report in The Wall Street Journal states that her travel to meet the president also added up dramatically, to more than $675,000. In fact, the most expensive flight Melania Trump took on the taxpayers' dime totaled more than $106,000. Yes, that's just one flight — and moreover, it was domestic.
The flight was on April 13, and Melania was flying from New York City to Palm Beach, Florida, where she was meeting President Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort to celebrate Easter. In order for the Air Force to pick her up at LaGuardia airport, the C-32A (kind of like a Boeing 757) left Joint Base Andrews outside Washington, D.C., with no one on board. It picked up the first lady at LaGuardia Airport and took her down to sunny Florida. Then, after she was safely on the tarmac, enjoying time with her husband, the military jet took off — again empty — and headed back to the base, near D.C.
The hourly cost to use the plane runs about $16,000, and the flight hours sending the plane back to the base are counted towards the total. These figures were obtained by the Journal using a public records request.
In total there were at least 21 flights that Melania took in the three months before she moved into the White House with Donald in June 2017. But there may have been more — the data was requested in May 2017, and only includes flights through April.
In addition to the flights that she was on, there were also the flights to LaGuardia and Palm Beach to pick her up. In total the Air Force went to LaGuardia 19 times and to Palm Beach another nine, the Journal reported.
Not all of these occurred on such a large jet. Many of the trips were on a C-37A or C-37B, two military versions of a Gulfstream private jet. Those come at a relative steal of just more than $10,000 per hour.
Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for Melania, defended the spending to the Journal.
It is no secret that Mrs. Trump lived in New York City the first few months of the administration so that her son could finish school. The trips mentioned in this story are examples of Mrs. Trump juggling dual roles — putting her son first while also fulfilling some of her duties as first lady.
The Air Force also defended the cost of flying Melania up and down the eastern seaboard — without actually acknowledging her role as a passenger. Spokeswoman Erika A. Yepsen declined to comment specifically about the first lady said the force's goal is to spend money wisely.
The Air Force works diligently to ensure it acts as a good steward of taxpayers' money while meeting the requirements of every mission it's assigned regardless of where the mission occurs, what the mission is or who the mission supports.
Since moving in with her husband, most of Melania's traveling has happened by his side, and that cost is even higher. Air Force One, by some estimates, can reach $180,118 per hour to fly. Yes, per hour.
Then, last week Melania chose not to attend the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland with President Trump. There's no word on whether her decision saved the taxpayers' any money, but a long-term plan not to take private trips could really add up. Over eight years, Michelle Obama never averaged as much per year as Melania did in 2017, but it added up to $2.8 million over eight years.
The first ladies do make first class look like quite the affordable alternative.