Look! Up in the sky! Is it an office complex? A concert hall? A Turkish bath? Or a parking garage? No, it’s the new ride of an Arab prince – a King-sized jet – one that could hold 800 people. Will you step aboard this airborne greenhouse gas factory?
Stuffed inside the fuselage of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud’s new Airbus A380 is all that and more; civil aviation’s largest aircraft transformed in an obscene manifestation of wealth and environmental frivolity. It begs the question, just because you can do it – should you? Call the guys at Guinness World Records back to the Middle East: the Saudi billionaire’s newest toy will be the planet’s biggest private jet.
To add some perspective, this is an aircraft used commercially by Emirates airlines to ferry 800 passengers in a single flight, a jumbo plane that can fly 8,000 miles without refueling.
Although Emirates’ version boasts in-flight showers (to freshen up, say, if you spilt your cocktail and hors d’oeuvres whilst exchanging bon mots in the posh onboard lounges), its swanky service pales in comparison to what the Prince will offer.
Airbus will deliver a stripped-down plane and then the Prince will unleash his own designers for the fabulous fit-out. His $385 million acquisition will ultimately hold 20 state rooms and a marble-lined spa including a Turkish bath.
The floor and walls of a “well-being room” act as giant movie screen, displaying views of earth’s surface as the plane flies over. Here passengers can stand on a “magic carpet” and watch their journey progress, scented breezes blowing into the room. There’s a state-of-the-art concert hall too.
On landing, the royal’s guests will experience what interior designer Design Q calls an “Oscar” moment: a special lift descends from the belly of the plane onto an automatically unfurling red carpet. No jostling for overhead luggage before joining the exiting conga line for these folks.
But it’s not all pleasure palace: there’s a business center and board room and a dedicated prayer room where “virtual” (computer-generated and GPS-based) prayer mats rotate continually for an accurate pointing to Mecca.
The Middle East’s major carriers, such as Etihad and Qatar Airways, have undertaken to reduce aviation emissions from their ground operations and in flight (in 2012, Etihad became the first Gulf carrier to fly on biofuels). Others, such as EgyptAir, contribute to the International Air Transport Association’s carbon offset program, part of the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism (investing airline receive credits to apply against their corporate carbon footprint. On an individual level, conscientious fliers can offset their personal carbon footprints by buying into airline offset programs like the one offered by Qatar Airways.
Imagine the carbon tab for the privileged few passengers aboard this airborne greenhouse gas factory. Then ponder the wondrous results if its design team (and exhorbitant project budget) had instead been tasked with achieving sustainable excellence.
Design Q told the Daily Mail that the aircraft is, “not only the most luxurious aircraft in existence, but also reflects the cultural values and status of its owner.”
The late Elizabeth Taylor once quipped, “Money is the best deodorant”.
I do think this sort of excess stinks.
Top image of Airbus A380 by Naiyyer / Shutterstock.com