Saudi Billionaire Buys First Private Superjumbo A380

Travel Blog  •  Terry Ward  •  11.15.07 | 11:54 AM ET

imageOh, to travel like a Saudi prince. Or the wife of India’s richest man. I was driving home from Orlando’s airport a few days ago, having just booked a long haul flight in coach and already dreading the knees-in-my-teeth-feeling to come, when I heard an NPR segment about Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s purchase of his own personal A380 superjumbo jet (like the one pictured) to the tune of just over $300 million. According to an envy-inducing piece in the International Herald Tribune, the prince, worth an estimated $20 billion and the world’s 13th richest man, regularly travels with an entourage of around 50 people.

In a jet capable of carrying 900 people in an economy class seat configuration, those privileged travelers will have plenty of room to stretch out. From the story:

Prince Alwaleed has declined to discuss his plans for outfitting his superjumbo. But Lufthansa Technik, a subsidiary of Lufthansa Airlines based in Hamburg that designs and builds aircraft interiors, has already drawn up sample floor plans for a customized luxury A380.

The company’s computer models include a bedroom, office, bathroom and “wellness area” for the VIP in the back of the plane’s upper deck, along with two guest rooms equipped with their own showers. A private lounge with numerous divans, as well as a modern galley and buffet are laid out in the front section.

The main deck is reserved for meeting rooms, a dining room and a spacious royal lounge. The rear section would also feature first- and business-class style seats for courtiers, advisers and other staff.

And while the prince isn’t scheduled to take delivery of his “flying palace” until 2010, Airbus is confident more orders will come, the IHT reports:

“This is a very overt sign of the tremendous wealth that’s being created in the Middle East these days,” said Doug McVitie, managing director of Arran Aerospace, a consultancy in Dinan, France. With oil prices edging toward $100 a barrel, he said, building private jumbo jets for Arab customers “is definitely a growing market.”

Meanwhile, back in the real world, I missed my chance to spot an example of what Prince Alwaleed will be tooling around in when the A380 landed in Orlando (one of the few U.S. airports that can accommodate the superjumbo jet) yesterday as part of a worldwide publicity tour.

Sadly, the plane won’t be flying out of my city very soon, according to the story, as none of the three airlines at OIA that have placed orders for the A380s have any plans to use them on Orlando routes. Looks like it’s 747s for me for the forseeable future.

Related on World Hum:
* Luxury Jets Are a Girl’s Best Friend?
* A380 Debuts With a ‘Rocking Party at 40,000 Feet’
* Behemoth A380s Touch Down in U.S.

Photo by All Glory to the Hypnotoad, via Flickr (Creative Commons).


Terry Ward

Terry Ward is a Florida-based writer and a long-time contributor to World Hum.

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