Obama changes planes for trip to White House

Trades in campaign jet for commercial jetliner
November 25, 2008 10:56:34 AM PST
Even though he raised more money than any candidate in U.S. history, president-elect and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) let the budget be his guide in deciding which airline to fly to Washington, D.C., for a meeting at the White House.During the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama flew around the nation on a chartered 757 known as "O-Force One." Since the campaign ended and Obama won the election a week ago, he needed something that looked a little more "dignified and presidential," according to aides.

Monday, Obama and top staff members flew from O'Hare Airport to Washington on a standard American Airlines Super MD-80. He took a seat in the regular first class cabin, according to a pool report.

American won the round-trip charter contract in a competitive bidding process done through a broker, according to airline spokesperson Mary Frances Fagan.

"We presented price package based on host of factors including type of aircraft, length of time the airplane was needed, where the plane was based, number of crew members involved, catering, fuel costs," said Fagan.

"I'd like to say we won because of the symbolism about being American Airlines with planes striped in red, white and blue, but the reality is that the decision was made based on a competitive bid and based on the needs of President-elect Obama and his team," she said.

American Airlines flight personnel staffed the cockpit and the cabin for the trip to Washington and back to Chicago. Michelle Obama, who accompanied the president-elect to the White House on Monday, flew separately, according to staff members.

It was not the first time Mr. Obama chose to use a commercial charter since setting a course for the White House. He flew to Springfield, Illinois, nearly two years ago on American Airlines to make the announcement of his historic campaign for president.

Although Mr. Obama is conducting administration business, he will not be sworn into office until January, at which time he will have use of Air Force One, the custom-built presidential 747. Air Force One is a military plane that has a spotless safety record.

The aircraft is outfitted with communications and cutting edge security equipment that commercial jetliners do not have, including missile defense systems and 87 different telephone lines, including 28 that are secure and encrypted with unlimited range.


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