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When the biggest is not big enough - Billionaires who want the best private jets

19 June 2014

The $65 million Gulfstream G650 may be the pinnacle of the private jet market, but it just doesn’t do the job for billionaires who prefer to fly with more than a dozen or so passengers.

For that, the uber wealthy turn to Airbus and Boeing, who are more than happy to customize their jets, even the widebodies that can carry hundreds of people for private use.

Commercial jet manufacturers have been replacing the rows of economy seats in their aircraft with sofas and entertainment centers since the late 1990s. A recent influx of billionaires from Russia, the Middle East, and China has led to a new focus on this part of the business. Since opening the private jet branch in 1997, Airbus has sold over 170 aircraft. Boeing got started in 1996, and has delivered on 195 of 217 total orders received.

The main reason to go with an Airbus A380 or a Boeing 747 over a puny Gulfstream or Bombardier? According to a “Billionaires study” commissioned by Airbus, the wealthiest among us like to travel with family members and business associates. (This, apparently, is particularly true for Middle Eastern oil magnates.)

That’s not to say outfitting a jumbo jet for personal use is always a rational economic decision. For some, the bigger and more luxurious the plane, the better. That’s why Airbus and Boeing don’t just sell their planes, they offer a wide variety of customization options to give customers exactly what they want.

So how much does a personalized widebody plane cost? The manufacturers don’t exactly publish price lists, but we’ve seen figures between $80 million for a Boeing Business Jets (BBJ), $280 million for a Boeing 747-8 VIP, and up to $300 million for an A380 VIP