When presidents are in office, they get to enjoy travel on the luxurious Air Force One, which isn’t a single plane, but actually two customized Boeing 747s at the president’s disposal.
But how do former presidents fly when they leave office?
Former presidents almost always fly on private jets, so you will rarely find them on commercial airliners.
There are exceptions, though, such as Jimmy Carter who was seen flying on a Delta flight from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. for former President Trump’s inauguration.
Bill Clinton and Hilary Clinton have also flown commercial, though are insulated from the public as soon as they arrive at the airport and when on the plane.
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How Do Former Presidents Fly?
Due to the Former President’s Act (FPA) of 1958, former presidents and up to two of their designated staff can fly for free – and we’re all paying for it through our taxes.
The FPA caps travel costs at $1 million per former president and $500,000 per former president’s spouse.
The caveat is that this free travel is only allowed if a former president travels to a function that is related to their prior role as a former president – i.e. free travel for leisure is not covered.
After leaving office, former presidents can usually make millions from public speaking fees and book deals, so certainly aren’t short of money to pay to private air travel themselves.
They also receive a generous pension, with former president Donald Trump’s pension amounting to $221,400.
Former Presidents Can’t Usually Fly For Free
Former presidents can only fly for free if they are traveling to a function related to their capacity as a former president.
It’s not uncommon for the very wealthy friends of former presidents to offer their private jets for travel.
The Obamas, for example, have flown on Richard Branson’s private jet before.
Former Presidents Can’t Fly on Air Force One
Only the currently serving president can use Air Force One, so former presidents are not allowed to fly on Air Force One.
Former Presidents Aren’t Even Allowed to Drive
Former presidents are actually not allowed to drive.
According to former presidents, one of the worst things they have to deal with after leaving office is not being allowed to drive on public roads, which was implemented after John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
Instead, former presidents are chauffeured everywhere.
Ex-Presidents Can Choose to Have Lifelong Secret Service Protection
Former presidents and their spouses can receive Secret Service protection for the rest of their lives, and their children until they turn 16, if they want it.
Richard Nixon was the only president to have refused this protection as soon as he left office, stating that he preferred to use his own private security instead of using taxpayer’s money for his protection.
Former presidents may be protected by Secret Service agents, but do not get to travel in motorcades.
Only the president that currently serves in office rides in motorcades.
Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.
Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.
Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.