Inside the $500 million "flying palace"

Konstantin Sheiko
March 1, 2018

It was rumoured that the owner of the “flying palace” Airbus 380, a Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal Alsaud, purchased the aircraft for a whopping $500 million. His plane was commissioned in 2007 at a starting cost of $300M plus the additional cost for all the add ons and improvements. Just to clarify, Al-Waleed bin Talal is one of the richest men on the planet. He was extremely frustrated when, in 2013, he learned that according to Forbes’ list of richest people, he was only number 26 in the world. Indeed, this is the kind of news that might break your heart. 

The prince divorced on two occasions, but in 2006 he met his third wife, Princess Ameera (Ameerah) and proposed to her. He has two children, prince Khaled and Princess Rim. Al-Waleed started his business career in 1979 when he graduated from Menlo college, immediately taking a $300,000 credit. He became a middleman for foreign companies that wanted to do business in Saudi Arabia. He worked together with Bill Gates, was a co-owner in the Four Seasons hotel chain, and supported Microsoft in its expansion in Saudi Arabia.    

The double-decker jumbo jet - still the world's largest passenger jet - can accommodate 853 passengers in commercial guise, but the prince Al-Waleed bin Talal spent an additional $100M to $150M to outfit the plane to his high standards, making it capable of transporting no more than 100 people. It was also rumoured that he spent $58 million just to ensure that the interior of his plane gleams in high quality gold.   

Prince Al-Waleed tapped interior designer Edése Doret, a private jet and megayacht specialist, to transform the interiors into an airborne palace. That process started simply, at least by these standards. Doret designed a 14-seat dining table for the Prince and his guests, complete with cushy chromed chairs and a glass chandelier, all rendered in soothing neutral tones.    

Adjacent to the dining area, a lounge area boasting three sofas, a pair of chairs, a shiny coffee table, and four rather hideous light fixtures. As if guests were not impressed enough already by a half-billion dollar private jet, there's an illuminated nook in the divider to hold a scale model of the owner's absurdly large motor yacht. A huge flatscreen television, mounted on the wall opposite the ship model, provides more pedestrian entertainment.    

If the upgrades mentioned so far seem banal by private jet standards, and hardly worth $150 million, this is where things get crazy. The record-breaking jet has the world's first elevator in the sky, providing access to the plane's three levels in flight, as well as extending all the way down to the tarmac when parked, for easy VIP egress. 

Doret had been planning to include a whirlpool tub in the design, one with a rapid drainage system that can empty the standing water in seconds to a tank in the cargo hold, but Airbus flatly refused to include a swimming pool on board. What is reportedly making the cut is a special “magic carpet” room on the lowest level, which is outfitted with a transparent floor, providing astounding views of the countryside from cruising altitude.    

But alas, now the prince has apparently sold the plane before it ever took flight, to an unnamed billionaire desperate to skip the waiting list for the world's largest private jet. Perhaps the Prince’s latest incarceration on corruption charges has somewhat influenced his decision to sell the “flying palace”.