First Lady Michelle Obama arrives in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2009 to lobby for Chicago as host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics. (AP Photo/Claus Bjoern Larsen, Polfoto)
( – President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are both traveling to Copenhagen this week to promote Chicago's bid to host to the 2016 Olympic Games--and they will be making the 3,979-mile trip on separate airplanes.

The first lady left on Tuesday night, while the president will leave for Denmark on Thursday night.

Taxpayers will pick up the tab for both jets ferrying the president and first lady separately to Europe.

“Everything they do, whether it’s signing pieces of legislation or flying around the world, everything is costing the taxpayer,” David Williams, vice president of policy for Citizens Against Government Waste, told “The taxpayer is picking up the tab for everything.”

The White House announced on Monday that the president would be joining his wife on this European trip, despite indicating earlier this month that the first lady would head up the U.S. Olympic Committee delegation to Copenhagen while Obama remained in the United States to continue pushing for his health care reform plan.

Back on Sept. 11, the White House announced that the first lady would travel to Denmark but not the president.

“President Obama informed IOC [International Olympic Committee] President Count Jacques Rogge today that the fight to pass health insurance reform keeps him from committing at this time to travel to Copenhagen on October 2, but he will continue to work to support Chicago’s bid along with the First Lady and Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the President, who will accompany the First Lady to Copenhagen,” the Sept. 11 announcement said.

Repeated calls and e-mails to the first lady’s press office to confirm whether she is traveling on her appointed aircraft or will use the second presidential Boeing 747 were not answered as this story went to press.

As reported earlier by, a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report cited two cost estimates for an hour of air travel by the president, vice president and first lady. One estimate comes from the White House Military Office, the other from the U.S. Air Force.

Using the CRS cost estimates and the inflation adjuster from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost for the one-way 7.5-hour trip from Washington, D.C. to Copenhagen on the first lady's plane would range from $29,532 (White House Military Office) to $107,717 (U.S. Air Force).

The cost for the president to fly Air Force One on the one-way 7.5-hour trip from Washington, D.C. to Copenhagen ranges from $343,448 (White House Military Office) to $567,089 (U.S. Air Force).

When asked by why the president decided to travel to Copenhagen, a White House spokesman said Obama did not think the short trip abroad would harm his efforts to promote health care reform.

“The president decided to make the brief trip to Copenhagen when it became clear that he could do so without negatively affecting his efforts on health care and the other important challenges facing this country,” spokesman Joshua Earnest told

According to the White House, the President will return to the United States on Friday afternoon. But it was unclear from the White House advisory when the First Lady would return.

When asked by why the president and first lady are traveling on separate planes, Earnest said: “Mrs. Obama is leading the delegation to Copenhagen, and leaves with [White House senior advisor] Valerie Jarrett on Tuesday evening. Mrs. Obama will speak during the presentation on Friday, and will make a deeply personal appeal to the voting members before introducing the president.”

“She will spend Wednesday and Thursday lobbying individual IOC members in Copenhagen,” Earnest said. “The president will be in Copenhagen on Friday morning and will add his voice to the formal presentation to the IOC.”

Also joining the president and first lady on the two planes are Chicagoans Oprah Winfrey, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Chicago joins Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil as the four cities being considered by the IOC.

Obama is the first U.S. president to make an in-person appeal to the IOC, but other world leaders have appeared before the committee to pitch their country as an Olympic venue. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair traveled to Singapore in 2004 when the 2012 games were awarded to London. In 2007, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin went to Guatemala City to win the 2014 games for the Russian city of Sochi.

Obama previously sent a letter to the IOC in support of Chicago, saying that the city would promise a “spectacular Olympic experience for one and all.”

Chicago’s Democratic Mayor Richard M. Daley, who is already in Copenhagen, said he was thrilled that the president and first lady would be joining him.

“President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama symbolize the hope, opportunity, and inspiration that make Chicago great,” Daley said in a statement, “and we are honored to have two of the city’s most accomplished residents leading our delegation in Copenhagen.”