You can dine in style in this elegantly appointed BBJ 1 cabin, a product of Winch Design.
You can dine in style in this elegantly appointed BBJ 1 cabin, a product of Winch Design.

The Sky's the Limit

From fern-covered “living walls” to furnishings encrusted with jewels and precious metals, there’s almost nothing the ultra-rich can’t order to make their private aircraft a home away from home. While business jet manufacturers draw the line at on-board hot tubs, swimming pools, and fireplaces due to safety concerns, amenities such as showers, luxurious lounges and staterooms, gyms, theater-style entertainment areas, and large dining rooms are all within easy reach and can be decorated in the most lavish styles. Here are descriptions of some of the most opulent private jets now flying or in the works.

The Royal Treatment

With Middle Eastern royal families awash in oil-based riches, the region is home to many of the world’s most luxuriously appointed private aircraft. 

For example, the largest of at least three (some sources say four) jumbo jets in the fleet of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei—the Boeing 747-8LQ Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) nicknamed “The Flying Palace”—cost approximately $100 million to purchase and $120 million to upgrade. In addition to gold trim, solid gold and Lalique crystal sinks, and gold-plated fixtures, the cabin decorations employ other precious metals, gems, and expensive woods and fabrics. Two-toned leather chairs and sofas provide luxurious seating for the sultan and his entourage while gold and lapis lazuli inlay bring a touch of royal treatment to tables and other horizontal surfaces. Lush blue, gold, and cream custom carpet enhances the cabin.

The sultan also has access to the Royal Brunei fleet, which includes at least one Airbus A340-200 configured in VIP format. Decorated in more subdued—but just as sumptuous—cream and gold tones, this aircraft features many of the same amenities as the sultan’s 747, such as a shower in the master bathroom and gold sinks. Tableware includes custom Baccarat crystal highball glasses with sterling silver bases that detach for polishing when the crystal is washed. 

Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, who is founder and CEO of the Riyadh-based Kingdom Holding Company, travels in a Boeing 747-400 that cost approximately $220 million to acquire and refurbish. Purchased in 2003, the former airliner once accommodated more than 400 passengers; now it includes two spacious bedrooms, a dining table for 14, several lounge areas, and a separate seating area for 50 associates. The master bath features a shower and gold-plated sinks. 

A cream-and-gold throne dominates the 747’s main lounge area, which is stylishly decorated with thick carpet, curved tables, plush sofas, and gold trim. Since YouTube videos show two versions of this area—including one with an obviously younger Prince Al-Waleed on an all-gold throne—and since a throne of this size would not fit in the prince’s other ride, a Hawker Siddeley 125 bizjet—the 747’s interior has obviously been upgraded within the past few years. 

An auxiliary 3,000-gallon fuel system, adding 1,500 nautical miles of range, was a key upgrade to the Sultan of Johor of Malaysia’s 737-800 BBJ, which was delivered in early 2016. Painted in gold and blue livery, the airplane’s bespoke interior by Edese Doret Industrial Designs of New York features gold trim with lapis lazuli inlay throughout the cabin to match the Sultan’s crest, which is displayed in the aircraft entranceway and adorned with precious gems. A gold-plated sink and fixtures adorn the galley, which incorporates a full-size dishwasher. 

A Sikorsky S-76B VIP helicopter—also bearing an Edese Doret interior using the same gold and lapis lazuli inlay motif—accompanied the BBJ delivery. 

All the President’s Jets

While President Donald Trump now uses the fleet of Boeing 747/757 VIP aircraft designated Air Force One whenever he’s on board, he still maintains his private fleet, which includes a Boeing 757 and Cessna Citation X that are used by members of his family and the Trump Organization.

A video posted by the company in 2011 provides a look at the 757, which Trump purchased used from Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen in 2010 and then refurbished. Upgrades include 24-karat gold-plated accessories such as seat belts, reclining controls, light fixtures, and armrest trim; audiovisual entertainment consoles at each sleeper seat; and a dining area with plush seats and gold-trimmed table. 

The main lounge features a 57-inch Sky Theater system, with more than 1,000 movies and 2,500 music CDs that can be accessed throughout the cabin from wireless touchscreen controllers. The guest area—furnished in cream fabrics, dark red wood panels, and gold trim—contains another theater system and a mohair divan that converts into a full-size bed. Trump’s bedroom features gold silk adorning the walls, a third theater system, and an adjoining master bathroom with shower and gold-plated sink. 

Even more opulent is the fleet of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. He owns at least three Boeing jumbo jets, including a 767-33A Extended Range model nicknamed “Bandit” for the distinctive exterior livery, which resembles a masked bandit. Upgraded with precious metals and expensive woods, Bandit features a dining hall for 30 people, a full kitchen, a boardroom, multiple master bedrooms, multiple bathrooms with showers, and an anti-ballistic defense system similar to that of Air Force One.

King-sized Cabins

While such amenities convey luxury, so does simply having the space of a jumbo jet to transport only a few people. By this measure, the most opulent of all private aircraft would have to be an Airbus A380 superjumbo jet, which normally carries about 50 more passengers than the venerable 747. Airbus executives confirm that no one owns a VVIP A380 yet, but one may be flying soon: worldwide completion center Jet Aviation announced in May 2018 that it had been hired to develop a VVIP A380 interior for Sparfell & Partners, which had listed two used A380-800s for sale and “ready for head of state reconfiguration.”

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Carbon fiber, polished metal, colorful leather, and multi-color lighting set this interior apart from the traditional business jet.

Next on the list would be the Boeing 777-300ER, which has the widest cabin of any twin-engine aircraft at 19 feet, followed closely by the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. There are a few of each of these in private hands, although information on who owns them is closely held. One privately owned 777 reportedly contains five bedrooms and six lavatories. A privately owned A350 completed by Lufthansa Tecknik includes a family flex area in the front of the aircraft where walls can be opened and closed, and a workout area and spa with steam bath in the aft cabin. 

Aircraft completions firm Greenpoint Technologies has delivered at least two Boeing VVIP 787 BBJs since 2015. While at this level every area is usually custom designed, the suggested layout displayed on Greenpoint’s website shows a crew rest area; a master stateroom with connecting office, a walk-in closet, and a lavatory with double sink and shower; a spacious lounge and dining area taking up about one-third of the aircraft; and a guest suite with its own lounge, serenity room, fitness area, and two more lavatories.

Greenpoint Technologies designed this dining and lounge area in a VVIP 787-8.
Greenpoint Technologies designed this dining and lounge area in a VVIP 787-8.

A 2011 article in BJT sister publication NBAA Convention News describes an Edese Doret 787-900 BBJ interior that uses non-shedding and non-allergenic ferns to create “living walls” in the stateroom, passageway, bathroom, and lounge. An irrigation system supplies food and water to the plants, while a series of blockable mirrors channel sunlight from cabin windows. 

London-based Winch Design, which has designed VVIP interiors for narrow and widebody private aircraft, created a cabin scheme for an unnamed private client’s BBJ delivered in 2016. Featured as “Peacock” on the firm’s website, it employs heavy linens, classic mohair, and glove-soft leather to capture a “living room” ambience. According to Winch marketing manager Joe Clarke, Peacock introduced “quality micro-perforated fabrics and panels with considerable soundproofing properties” to lower ambient noise. “We also used exotic shell materials from the East; hand-stitched motifs on seats, valance panels, and carpets; and mother-of-pearl accessories throughout,” Clarke adds. 

The cabin includes a 64-inch television (reportedly the largest in a certified aircraft’s interior), a custom-made blue glass wash basin, and a mirror-faced TV built into the marble vanity area. The aircraft features forward and aft lounges, a bar area, an office, master bedroom and bathroom, a forward entrance hallway, and a guest bathroom. 

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