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The Nation

Home > Business > Flying in the lap of luxury

Flying in the lap of luxury

You may think that the pictures with this story should, more appropriately, be in the property section of the newspaper, revealing the luxury interior designs for the home of a millionaire.

Think again. They are, in fact, the exclusively furnished interior of a recently completed Boeing 787 private jet.

And if you fancy flying in this kind of style, remember that only invited guests will ever get the opportunity. So cultivate a few billionaire friends, or maybe get to know a sheikh who owns an oil field in the Middle East.

There are about 300 big VIP jets around the world that are outfitted to the highest luxury standards. They include the Boeing business jet, the Airbus corporate jet, and even bigger. Also there are more than 10,000 smaller "executive" jets, including Learjets, Challengers, Gulfstreams and Falcons, that zip celebrities and the well-to-do around the globe. Among them are government jets.

And how much does this kind of airborne luxury cost? According to the only provider of luxury aircraft interiors, Hamburg-based Lufthansa Technik AG, the cost depends on the level of elegance required.

While a basic Airbus A380 aircraft will cost around US$250 million (Bt9.13 billion), a plush interior may cost $100 million more. If your budget won't stretch that far, then you can pick up a Boeing 787 for around $150 million and give it a luxury interior for something in excess of $20 million.

Lufthansa Technik's director of international communications Aage Duenhaupt said the company also had a refurbishing service for private jets. A basic individual interior for a Boeing business jet will start at around $5 million.

Many private jet-owners like to change the interior of an aircraft during its lifetime, so the company proposes new concepts for upgrading the luxury carriers.

Lufthansa Technik has monopolised the unique business for more than 40 years. It has more than 1,000 employees working on the interiors of both new jets and make-over jobs.

"Everything that we use is a luxury material, to satisfy our customers," he said. "The service also includes high-level security. Only screened people can go into our restricted area, and for certain projects we have additional security checkpoints next to the aircraft."

The level of security was obvious during a media visit to Lufthansa Technik last month. Some private aircraft from Saudi Arabia were waiting for renovation, and others were in the process of redesign. As well as Lufthansa Technik's security system, Saudi Arabian guards were watching over the jets.

Duenhaupt said fitness facilities and even a Jacuzzi could be installed on private jets. Some clients also ask whether they can have a swimming pool on board, but the company tries to dissuade them from such ideas.

"We want to make people feel like they're living at home when they're on their planes, but they should have regard for safety and avoid being overweight," he said. "Nobody wants to carry tanks of water around in an aircraft."

Lufthansa Technik will also develop innovative raw materials to serve customer's ideas for decoration by focusing on endurance, light weight and function to fit the size of aircraft.

Lufthansa has 17 orders in hand from Canadian businessmen to renovate their private jets.

So far none of world's airlines provides luxury executive services for the general public, but not too long ago nobody thought low-cost carriers would emerge to slash the cost of air travel, and various airlines are thinking of VIP business services with only business class seats.

If super-luxury flights are ever offered as a once-in-a-lifetime experience for ordinary people, how much would the tickets cost, when the aircraft has cost maybe $350 million and you don't want anyone else around to spoil the experience, except for hostesses, waiters, maybe a masseur ?

Achara Pongvutitham

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