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Private Jet Traffic for Inaugural Half of 2009's Record

Wednesday, 16 Jan 2013 | 9:44 AM ET
The 'Jet-Set Popularity Index'
CNBC's Robert Frank reports fewer private jets will fly to President Obama's inauguration this year.

President Barack Obama's last inauguration broke many records in Washington — including one for private jets.

In January of 2009, more than 700 private jets swarmed into the D.C. area to unload throngs of super-rich partygoers and Obama supporters, including Bruce Springsteen and Shakira.

The jet count marked a new record and showed how Obama had attracted throngs of millionaire and billionaire supporters even as he pledged to raise their taxes. There were so many jets that a runway at Washington Dulles International had to close so the jets could park.

This year, however, the Gulfstreams will be more scarce.

According to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, only 320 private jets are scheduled to land on local airfields for the inauguration next week. That's less than half of the 2009 inauguration total. Put another way, Obama's Jet-Setter Popularity Index has fallen by more than 50 percent.

(Read more: Private Jets Get Bigger, Faster, Cheaper)

A spokeswoman for the Airports Authority said that about 300 planes are scheduled to land at Dulles and 10 to 20 at Reagan International. She said the number is unlikely to change much before next week, since "most people have reserved their slots."

The president might be proud to know that there are fewer private jets coming to the ball this year and that he may not be polling as well among G550 owners. They're not exactly his base. He just raised their taxes, after all, and as part of his call to have the rich pay their "fair share" he singled out jet owners for getting unfair "tax breaks."

Still, the president needs the super-rich to help fund the inauguration — and he's courting them far more assiduously this time around as part of the fundraising effort. In 2009, inauguration donations were capped at $50,000 and corporate donors were banned.

(Read more: Has Obama Been Good for Millionaires?)

This time around, the inauguration committee is asking for donations of $250,000 or more per person and $1 million or more for companies. Those donors get "premium partner access" to the inauguration festivities, including four tickets to the inaugural ball, two bleacher seats to the parade, a VIP receptions and a "Candle Light Celebration" on the night before the inauguration.

It also includes a "Road Ahead" meeting with members of the president's finance team.

Now THAT may be worth the price of admission — even for the jet set.

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  • A reporter and editor, Robert Frank is a leading authority on the American wealthy for CNBC.