For the mega rich, first class simply won’t do. Hell, NetJets is even déclassé to them. So they commission their own opulent private planes to trot the globe. Their jets cost tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars, carry cars and camels around the world, and are big enough to accommodate even the largest entourage of hangers-on. Here are eight of the best we’ve ever seen.
PRINCE ALWALEED BIN TALAL AL SAUD’S AIRBUS 380
The last time you flew aboard an Airbus A380, you were probably crammed in coach with hundreds of other passengers on a long transoceanic flight. The Saudi prince, however, has a megajet all to himself. Airbus outfitted the double-deck jet with a two-car garage, a horse and camel stable, and prayer room that rotates to always face toward Mecca, according to The New York Times. Final bill? In the neighborhood of $500 million.
DONALD TRUMP’S BOEING 757
The Donald previously owned a Boeing 727. But if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward. So Trump recently upgraded to a $100 million Boeing 757—purchased from Microsoft’s Paul Allen—and tricked it out in his signature gaudy, decadent style. Everything is black and gold. The sinks, the faucets—even the seat belts are 24-carat. The plane is outfitted with multiple big-screen TVs and a library of thousands of films, just in case Mr. Trump grows weary of watching reruns of himself on The Apprentice. Take a video tour of the opulent aircraft here.
JOHN TRAVOLTA’S BOEING 707
Boeing stopped making the long-range, narrow-body 707 in 1979, just two years after John Travolta hit it big in Saturday Night Fever. But at least one of these big birds still flies: The star owns a vintage 707 and pilots it himself. Vincent Vega’s planes aren’t as over-the-top as Donald Trump’s or a Saudi royal’s, but give the star credit for dedication: He has several jets in his collection and a landing strip in his backyard for any time he feels like aviating.
JOSEPH LAU’S BOEING 747
It’s not just that Lau, a real estate investor, owns his own 747. His own 747. It’s that the fuselage of his private megajet is even longer than that of the enormous Boeing airliner that regularly carries 34hundreds of people in ordinary passenger configuration. Inside Lau’s aerial castle you’ll find vaulted ceilings, spiral staircases, and walls lined with video screens. Lau was also supposed to receive a “VIP” version of the new Boeing 787, but cancelled the order. Given the ongoing problems with the Dreamliner, though, that might have been a good decision.
OPRAH WINFREY’S BOMBARDIER GLOBAL EXPRESS XRS
There’s no point in owning a ski villa in Colorado, any acreage in Hawaii, and vacation homes around the country if you can’t travel between them in style. Oprah flies around in a custom $42 million plane built by Bombardier, outfitted with leather interiors and designer fixtures. Even in the midst of the recent recession, when private jets got a bad name, Oprah wasn’t shy about admitting how great it is to own your own aircraft. “Anyone that tells you that having your own private jet isn’t great is lying to you,” she told a Duke University graduating class. If you ever climb aboard this Bombardier, just don’t try any funny business. Back in 2009, a flight attendant got fired over (disputed) accusations that she tried to join the mile-high club on board Oprah’s plane.
SERGEY BRIN AND LARRY PAGE’S BOEING 767
Between launching Internet-broadcasting balloons, buying satellite companies, and mapping the Earth from orbit, Google has been busy trying to rule the skies. Only makes sense, then, that the company’s founder would want to fly in one big badass jet. Google’s 767 is a party plane that the co-founders fly around the world; it can accommodate 50 people and has two staterooms on board. Russian oil baron and Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich has one of these jets, too. Abramovich’s ride is trimmed with mahogany, gold, and walnut accents and enormous plasma screens.
TOM CRUISE’S GULFSTREAM IV
Sure, it’s no F-14. But up to 19 people can be Tom Cruise’s wingman anytime he wants to fly them around in his Gulfstream IV. Powered by two Rolls-Royce engines, the jet can climb to 45,000 feet while Cruise flies himself back and forth from movie sets (he’s had a pilot’s license for 20 years). Outfitted with a Jacuzzi and a screening room, the plane was a wedding present for Katie Holmes—who reportedly said, “It’s like a bus, only quicker.” No word on whether Cruise blasts “Highway to the Danger Zone,” while flying this or any of the other planes he owns.
HUGH HEFNER’S BIG BUNNY
Sleek and black with the iconic Playboy logo stenciled on the tail in white, Big Bunny is the archetype of the lavish private jet. Hef’s DC-9-32, a longer variant of the DC-9, was outfitted with the hottest tech of the era when he acquired it in the early 1970s, including a reel-to-reel tape player. Archival footage you can see on YouTube reveals that Big Bunny even had a disco on board—and a shower for cleaning up afterward. Big Bunny set the standard for the aerial palaces and party planes to come.
Andrew Moseman is the Online Editor of Popular Mechanics. His work has appeared in Esquire, Discover, The Awl, Mental_Floss, and the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine.