In early March, Boeing ’s biggest jet, the 747-8 Intercontinental, took off from Paine Field near here, its gleaming white livery shrouded in secrecy.
But the newest version of the airliner, which can carry 460 passengers, was not destined for a commercial airline. This particular model, the 747-V.I.P., was headed for a private customer in the Middle East believed to be the emir of Qatar.
Airbus , too, is about to deliver its own behemoth jetliner — the A380 double-decker — to a single customer this year, the Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the chairman of Kingdom Holding Company, a major investor in Citigroup . Ordered in 2007, it will be the most expensive personal jet, with a final price well in excess of $500 million, including the cost of outfitting it with one-of-a kind amenities. The original plans included a garage for two Rolls-Royces, a stable for horses and camels, a pen for hawks and a prayer room that rotates so it always points toward Mecca.
It is the ultimate call sign of the superrich: a big plane to flaunt their wealth while they conduct business above 40,000 feet.Page 1 of 5 | Next Page