Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal will take delivery of the world’s first customised A380 superjumbo next year, a move which is likely to spur interest among other high net worth individuals in the region, the president of Airbus Middle East told Arabian Business.
Prince Alwaleed, chairman of Riyadh-based Kingdom Holding and estimated to be worth around US$21.3bn, is rumoured to have paid US$485m for the customised jumbo - dubbed ‘The Flying Palace' - when it was ordered back in 2009.
Habib Fekih, President of Airbus Middle East, confirmed on the sidelines of an aviation conference in Dubai that the aircraft would be delivered to the Saudi billionaire next year.
“The A380 is planned for next year 2013,” he confirmed, adding that it was currently the only A380 business jet on order, but he expected interest to grow once production slots came available at Airbus's manufacturing plant in France.
“A380 is a good prospect as a business jet and as a corporate jet and we have some interest, but so far we have only sold one.
“The prospects take time to mature because of two reasons: We need to find the slots for the green aircraft and we have nothing before 2015/16 for delivery… Then knowing that you need three or four years [for fitting], it means these aircraft will not be ready before 2019/20.
“After one or two aircraft the routine will be implemented and the lead time will be shortened… That is why then we believe the interest for the A380 will mature by 2015 because the timeframe will be more reasonable,” Fekih said.
The ultimate status symbol, Prince Alwaleed’s A380 jumbo is believed to include four-poster beds, a Turkish bath, storage space for a Rolls-Royce, a boardroom, a concert hall, five suites with king-size beds, a prayer room featuring computer generated prayer mats which face Makkah and a lift between floors on all three levels.