In front of a Mount Kilimanjaro backdrop, a vegan-friendly helicopter, a luxurious private aircraft with a sundeck and garage, and a hotelier’s idea to organize discos at 35,000 feet were all shown at the Dubai Airshow last week, amid a slew of other designs aimed at luring VIP tourists back to the skies.
Despite the fact that the airline sector has been struck particularly hard by the worldwide epidemic and has been chastised for its participation in the climate problem, demand from wealthy travelers shows no signs of abating.
The German airline’s sibling firm, Lufthansa Technik, intends to sell a private jet that offers the same experience as a superyacht, transporting owners anywhere at any time while also offering the amenities of a five-star hotel and a base camp for recreational activities.
It displayed its “Explorer” cabin idea for a wide-body Airbus A330 at the Airshow, which features a retractable sun deck (that only opens when the plane is parked), four double bedrooms, a gym, and a garage.
However, such a service comes at a high cost. In addition to the cost of the aircraft, which is generally priced for upwards of $230 million, Lufthansa Technik believes that fitting the cabin in a 200-foot-long Airbus A330 would cost €100 million ($110 million). “It’s a significant investment,” Timm explains.
FIVE, a Dubai-based real estate business that operates a range of luxury hotels and resorts in the city, provided another, maybe more inexpensive, “flying hotel” alternative. It bought an Airbus ACJ TwoTwenty during the Airshow, which it plans to use to shuttle passengers across the world starting in 2023.
Prior to that, it will refurbish the 786-square-foot aircraft, which will have a dining table for eight guests as well as a kitchen where gourmet cuisine from Dubai’s finest restaurants will be served.
Onboard, the hotelier’s in-house DJs will play, and there’s a room with a king-sized bed for those who want to get a good night’s sleep.
“We came up with the idea to show an aircraft that is similar to a flying hotel so that guests who charter the aircraft can go around the world in two weeks,” says Wieland Timm, Lufthansa Technik’s head of sales for VIP and special mission aircraft. He adds that this would be a speedier luxury travel alternative than a superyacht, allowing guests to explore various parts of the world in a matter of hours.
Huge demand for private jets
These ideas are taking advantage of the rising demand for luxury aircraft. As commercial aviation suffered during the epidemic, rich visitors who sought to escape packed planes or the unpredictability of commercial flights boarded private jets. FlyEliteJets, a Florida-based private aviation firm, has had a 150 percent spike in reservations since the start of Covid-19, while VistaJet, a private jet charter company, has seen a 65 percent increase in demand for worldwide flight hours across its brands since March.
Private jet sales are also up, according to US aviation maker Honeywell Aerospace, with aircraft manufacturers reporting a significant rise in orders since the outbreak. Up to 7,400 additional business jet deliveries worth $238 billion are expected in the next decade, according to the firm.
“Business aviation has shown to be adaptable and trustworthy, and it has excellent safety and security procedures in place,” says Timothy Hawes, managing director of Tarsus Middle East, which coordinated the Dubai Airshow 2021.
According to Hawes, the event, which was the first major meeting of the aviation sector since Covid-19, bolstered confidence across the board. Despite reservations about the amount of business it would create, he claims that over $78 billion in transactions were negotiated or announced over the five-day event, which drew over 100,000 people.
“It was a fantastic chance for folks who haven’t had the opportunity in the previous 20 months to get together face to face,” he adds. “The Dubai Airshow was indeed the focal point that the industry had been anticipating.”
He says that luxury planes sparked a lot of attention among visitors. Airbus Corporate Helicopters’ vegan helicopter was among the 175 aircraft on show during the expo, which represented all sectors from commercial to military.
At the request of affluent clients Urs and Daniela Brunner, the business had equipped the interior of their newest premium model, the ACH145, with ultra leather, a synthetic material that simulates the genuine thing. According to Airbus, Daniela’s ethical principles are reflected in her fashion line Giulia and Romeo, which utilizes no animal products and gives revenues to animal welfare.
However, despite concerns about their disproportionate influence on climate change, private planes are on the rise. According to the clean transportation campaign group Transport & Environment, private planes release five to fourteen times more carbon dioxide per passenger than commercial flights.
The emissions per passenger for Lufthansa Technik’s Explorer concept are unknown at this time. The Explorer is meant for 12 VIPs, however, its inventors believe they may build further variations that might carry up to 47. The Airbus A330 generally accommodates more than 250 people.
Timm concedes that flying with such few people would not make sense in order to have a “green imprint,” but argues that “those who want to do it will do it.”
He goes on to say that certain VIP clients are taking initiatives to be more environmentally conscious, such as requesting recyclable materials in the cabin and new aircraft types that are more fuel-efficient or have fewer engines.
But, according to Timm, comfort, security, and privacy are ultimately higher on their priority list, and as long as demand exists, airlines and manufacturers will continue to provide it.
Aren’t we excited about what the future holds after this revelation of the Mount Kilimanjaro-themed luxury private jet?
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