Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal is spending well in excess of $500 million for an Airbus A380, an airplane so large that when it lands at LAX the parallel runway has to be closed. NYT reports that besides a garage to carry his two cars, the prince's plane includes a stable for horses and camels, a pen for hawks, and a prayer room that rotates so it always points toward Mecca.
Defying the economic slump, celebrities, corporate titans and Internet entrepreneurs in recent years have upgraded to bigger planes, with leather seats, plush bedrooms and opulent boardrooms. New billionaires in fast-growing countries like China, India, Russia and Nigeria are also seeking long-range planes that can serve hard-to-reach airports or provide direct service between far-flung cities. "They have to buy longer-range airplanes. If you're flying from Mongolia to Nigeria, it's either a three-day journey flying commercial or a nine-hour flight on your jet," said Steve Varsano, an airplane broker who recently opened a retail store for corporate jets in London's Hyde Park Corner, an area popular with Russians, Gulf Arabs and other wealthy foreigners. "These frontiers markets have turned into powerful aircraft acquisition markets."
As planes have become bigger and fancier, their interiors have also changed greatly, incorporating the luxurious amenities once found only on private yachts. The owner of one Boeing private jet painted a copy of the Sistine Chapel on its ceiling, while one has a library aboard. Another insisted on mounting a sculpture of his horse in the cabin of his jet. Many have pianos, home theaters or saunas aboard. "When I started in the business, around 1983, the interiors of a business jet were done by engineers who just put seats in a plane," said Jacques Pierrejean, a French designer who works on cabins of commercial and private jets, as well as yachts. "Today, some private planes are more like second homes that fly."