PARIS (Reuters) – European planemaker Airbus named on Monday Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal as the first private buyer of an A380 superjumbo, the world’s largest passenger airliner.
The prospective buyer’s identity had been kept secret for months but was unveiled to coincide with the Dubai air show.
Prince Alwaleed, whose interests span Kingdom Holding to Euro Disney, hotels and banking, has ordered a VIP version of the A380 dubbed the Flying Palace. He already owns a Boeing 747-400, the newest type of the original jumbo jet currently in service.
The bigger Airbus superjumbo has been hit by production delays but entered service with Singapore Airlines last month.
It can seat 525 passengers in three classes or more than 800 in an all-economy layout by using less space between seats.
Leg room will not be a problem on the Flying Palace, which features 551 sq metres (5,930 square feet) of usable floor space on twin passenger decks — enough for a couple of tennis courts.
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich recently denied reports that he had bought himself a private A380.
The ordinary passenger edition sells for over $300 million but the price of the special-edition aircraft was not disclosed.
The A380 can be fitted with cocktail bars, casinos, showers and sleeping quarters for first class passengers on ordinary airlines. For the super rich, the sky is the limit.
“It would depend very much on what sort of cabin interior the purchaser wanted,” an Airbus official said this year. “On our VIP jets we offer the option to include whatever they want.”
Boeing has three VIP clients who have bought five of its latest giant, the 747-8 Intercontinental which is due to enter service with airlines in 2010, a Boeing spokesman said.