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HIGH FLYER: An A380 of your own
The man who commissioned the plane, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Al Saud, was the first man in the world to order his own A380. Ranked #29 on the list of global billionaires by Forbes magazine and a member of the Saudi Royal Family, the prince made his money - his personal wealth is said to be over of US$25billion - from a lifetime of shrewd investments, including 50% ownership of London's Savoy Hotel, and a 7% stake in Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, the largest outside the Murdoch family. And in truth he probably didn't think his purchase is all that unusual. Why would you when you already own your own customised Boeing 747, an Airbus A231 and a Hawker Siddeley HS125 mini-jet to get to that next meeting, more than 200 cars including Rolls Royces, Lamborghinis and Ferraris and diamond-encrusted Ducati motorbike for when you're in a hurry on the ground in different parts of the world. Not to mention a 86m (280ft) mega motor-cruiser you can boast featured in the Bond movie Never Say Never Again (in which it was named Flying Saucer.)
Now it seems that before it has even taken to the skies the prince has sold the plane on. According to recent reports from Bloomberg newswire , CFO Shadi Sanbar has issued an official statement to the effect that the palace in the skies has been sold on as part of an investment plan via the prince's company, Kingdom Holdings. The selling price and the new owner have not been revealed.

We can guess that the total cost of the plane after its refit was around US$468m, which means theat whoever now owns the plane probably paid just under $500 million for it. Never mind ,what's a little loose change when you can be will be absolutely relaxed zooming off to places as far as 15,500km away - and with tanks sucking-up 320,000 litres of aviation fuel, not even having to think about stopping to refuel.

(Which we guess is the old adage: if you can afford to buy such a plane in the first place, those litres should be the least of your concerns.)

The A380 would normally carry around 550 passengers in Economy, Business and First Class, with some airlines also having a fourth Premium Economy category as well, and others going for all-Economy into which to cram 853 backsides.

But our proud billionaire won't have to worry about such crass sharing in his plane: he and his family will indulge in five luxury suites complete with king-size beds, handmade rugs, private lounges, and ensuites with full-size showers .

And there'll be First Class sleeper seats in private compartments for up to twenty business and other guests, lounging areas and a dining room ... as well as a Prayer Room where computers will automatically always have prayer mats facing towards Mecca.


Guests who go aboard at regular airports will enter through a normal door that will open into a large Entrance Hall with a wide spiral staircase, and a lift if you don't like stairs, going to the aircraft's upper deck. Where permitted at others, that lift will descend through the belly of the aircraft onto the ground below - with a red carpet automatically unfurling, and bathed by floodlights at night so these guests will feel they've arrived at a Hollywood premiere.

A fully-outfitted boardroom will boast screens showing real-time world markets, and a 12-place Perspex table will embrace touch screens built flat into it at every seat, plus internet and satellite phone...

Down in the aircraft's belly, empty cargo and luggage spaces are being turned into recreation zones including a Wellbeing Room with a "Magic Carpet" glass floor to stand on, or lounge around, to look down on the passing world below - with scents of forest and sea for added ambience.

And a concert lounge will have a stage and baby grand piano... with the prince owning a number of entertainment companies, top artists will perform for family and guests.

Finally a 'garage' in the plane's belly can take a Rolls Royce.

Business class isn't looking quite so great now is it?

David Ellis, additional reporting Lisa Edwards 16/2/13

An earlier version of this article first appeared in Global Travel Media, which delivers daily breaking news to the travel industry www.eglobaltravelmedia.com.au


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