A private jet has always seemed like the ultimate in decadence – as if Business Class on a flight isn't enough, with all that leg room and socially permissible seat reclining. Is a private lounge at the airport terminal (with all the pancakes you can eat) not good enough? There are those who are just too important to line up with the rest of us to get through security points.
The private plane is the ultimate defining line between the haves and have-nots, but we can all dream of a plane trip that's actually designed with our comfort in mind, not how many seats they can cram into an already tiny space.
To own a private plane generally costs between A$950,000 and A$5.4 million each year and, according to Knight Frank’s 2017 'The Wealth Report', the number of private flights has been increasing. In the US, where 13,775 private jets are in operation, there has been a 3 per cent increase in the number of private flights taken.
What level of opulence does your higher-end private flyer receive?
Some might lean towards flying in a Gulfstream G650ER. This jet is the Gulfstream flagship plane at a price tag of US$66.5 million and can travel 12,070km, which should be far enough to get you across the Pacific Ocean without the need to fill up.
And sure, it gets you a handsome bathroom:
But is it as flash as the Bombardier Global 7500? Priced at US$72 million, the Bombardier has this very comfortable-looking fixed bed, in a room so fancy it is termed a state room:
Frankly, it's one thing to fly private, but are you really flying private if you have to worry about what the staff are doing when they're not working to serve your needs?
Thankfully the Bombardier Global 7500 has you covered with a private area for the crew.
But it's time to get real. When flying private, the ride that you really want to own and show off to your corporate friends who can only afford a Global 7500 or Gulfstream is the Boeing BBJ 737 MAX. Starting price: US$74 million.
The interior design shown here is by way of the airline award-winning firm SkyStyle and is referred to as a Genesis style. The concept of the cabin interiors "draws inspiration from nature's tranquility".
When flying private, and one assumes we can all agree with this sentiment, it's so downmarket to have seating on your plane that positions everyone side-by-side in rows. It's gauche.
Thankfully the Boeing BBJ MAX breaks out its meeting spaces into environments that emphasise human-centred design:
Greg Laxton, head of Boeing Business Jets, told Australian Business Traveller: "Boeing Business Jets MAX interiors have always been a sharp departure from the cramped cabins of smaller business jets, and the Genesis design is yet another example of our exclusive cabin capabilities."
When Boeing deliver these planes, they are delivered 'green'; that is, without paint on the exterior or with an interior. A quality interior can cost an additional two-thirds of the plane's total price.
Thanks to this interior design from SkyStyle, we now know what sleeping on a cloud actually looks like:
Remember that fancy bathroom on the smaller private plane? It has been absolutely put to shame by the 737 MAX, which finally answers the question of what it would be like to shower in an Apple Store:
All the above images of the BBJ MAX planes come from design firm SkyStyle. But, there are other designs that can be used to fit out the plane.
For example, if the Genesis shower isn't to your taste, maybe something like this design from Greenpoint Technologies is more your style:
The truth about these planes
For most of us, the idea of flying in these planes is absolute fantasy. And that's fine. The people flying in BBJ planes aren't just everyday rich people either. Generally, your incredibly wealthy people are flying and owning (the lucky ones, that is) the Gulfstream and Bombardier jets.
Those buying BBJ planes from Boeing are generally heads of state and oil barons. The Middle East is the largest market for these planes. Boeing doesn't see much profit from the 185 BBJ planes it has so far delivered (not to be confused with the newer BBJ 737 MAX plane, which has the Genesis design shown above – only one of those has so far been sold). Instead, Boeing sells them almost at cost – offloading a plane to a head of state at cost price helps a lot when it comes to military plane orders.
If you're lucky enough to have put in an order for the BBJ MAX, it's likely your local Boeing representative has just given you a call. Built from the globally grounded Boeing 737 MAX (the aircraft in the recent Ethiopian Airlines crash), none of these planes are currently approved for flying. There are currently 21 orders for the BBJ 737 MAX planes, but considering the cost of the interiors already paid for and an installation timeline of up to 18 months, it's likely that owners will be more than content to wait for approvals to again be given to get the Boeing 737 MAX into the sky.
Private jet origins
The first company to manufacture private jets was Canada's Learjet. Named after William Powell Lear, the company's first jet took off in 1963. It quickly became the best-known aircraft for the private jet crowd, but was soon met with increased competition from other companies. In 1990, the company was bought by fellow Canadian company Bombardier, which continues to produce the Learjet 70 and Learjet 75 planes.
Go inside the Learjet factory in this episode of Megafactories, streaming now at SBS On Demand: