The Airbus A380 Palace: The Plane That Never Was

We have covered many different types of the Airbus A380, from the A380 freighter variant to the A380 plus (or neo, depending what decade you’re in), but we have never talked about the proposed private Airbus A380. Yes, you read that right, an entire A380 just for one person and their guests. Introducing, the A380 ‘flying palace’, literally designed for a king.

A380 palace
The A380 flying palace. Photo: Airbus/Edese Doret Industrial Design

Where did this idea come from?

Airbus has a somewhat ‘secret menu‘ of its aircraft business. Essentially, you don’t have to be an airline or a government to order an aircraft from the planemaker and, if you have the cash, you can order any of their aircraft models as a private plane. Airbus has been quite successful in this market and has sold around 222 private VIP variants of their lineup, from A220-300s up to an order for five private A350-900s.

However, there is one platinum option on the menu that has never been built. The private Airbus A380.

Airbus lists the option on their ‘menu’ as the Airbus ACJ380-800. The aircraft would look essentially the same as a commercial A380 on the outside, but inside it could only be described as a ‘flying palace’.

What does it look like on the inside?

We have all seen private jets on movies and TV shows and can imagine the usual sofa seats in a small narrowbody Gulfstream. This A380 is something else.

Starting from outside the aircraft, you would enter the plane through a suspended lift under the main wheels. This lift (with glass walls no less) would allow access up all three levels of the aircraft with a spiral staircase wrapping around it, with fabulous artwork lining the walls. The glass lift well would then retract as the VIP passengers made themselves comfortable onboard.

It is to ‘give the impression of turning up at the Oscars’, according to Design Q’s co-founder Gary Doy when speaking to The Daily Mail in 2009, who lead the interior design of the aircraft.

private A380
One of the many lounges onboard. Photo: Edese Doret Industrial Design

Bottom deck splendor

Level one of the plane, normally the cargo hold on a commercial aircraft would instead have two main sections. The first would be the garage to transport one or two luxury cars. After all, you didn’t just fly halfway around the world travel in someone else’s non-diamond studded car.

The second section of the bottom deck features what is described as a ‘wellness room’. This room is lined with carpet on the walls, big sofas and a giant LED TV screen on the floor. This TV screen is linked to the high-resolution cameras looking straight down to give you the feeling of flying over the landscape. Scented breeze is also pumped into the room to complete the effect.

Additionally, there is a Turkish bath lined with heavy marble floors and walls in the nose of the aircraft, and a spa so you can have a full body massage. Because why not.

What is on the main deck?

On the main deck, or level 2 of the aircraft, is where you will find the business center of the plane as well as the crew facilities and cockpit.

Entering through the ‘grand lobby’ with the floating spiral staircase, you will be able to access the two conference rooms. They each have ‘holographic’ tables (which in 2009 would have been very futuristic) that can project ‘holograms’ of business partners via video chat. Next door is a concert hall, containing a stage, grand piano, and seating for 10 viewers.

private A380
One of the conference rooms. Notice the lounge further to the left in the next room. Photo: Edese Doret Industrial Design

From here you can then reach the 20 VIP suites (not the master cabins mind you, these ones are for distant cousins) that are very much like what you would get on board some of the very best first-class airlines.

There is also a prayer room on this level that allows peace of mind no matter what your belief.

What would we find on the upper deck?

Of course, you want to know where you would be sleeping if you owned this private A380.

On the top deck is where the five master cabins are located. Each has a king bed and a private bathroom (and shower). There is also a small lounge on this level to relax outside of your room (if the wellness room, spa, concert hall, main lobby, garage, boardrooms and more was not enough). There is also a dining room somewhere in this mix, but the plans don’t make it clear where.

“It is something very, very special and there is nothing like it on the market yet. There is everything a billionaire could want,” spoke Design Q’s co-founder Gary Doy to the Daily Mail.

“We are not trying to put a hotel in the air, it is tailored to the needs of flying, and has unique features that fit into that. The Turkish bath is particularly spectacular, a steam room with marble, low lights and lots of spa treatments to choose from.”

Looking over the numbers, the aircraft would be built to accommodate 50 guests and would be able to fly a range of 17,500 km (9,400 nautical miles). That is an extra 1,400 nautical miles compared to the original A380.

Was it ever ordered?

With a price tag of over £300 million ($371 million), it was certainly not affordable for the average person. But there was actually one order.

His Royal Highness Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud of Saudi Arabia ordered the aircraft type back in 2007.

“Prince Alwaleed’s order means that Airbus’ sales success in the corporate jet market now extends from its smallest aircraft, the A318 Elite, all the way up to its largest, the A380 Flying Palace” commented Airbus Chief Operating Officer John Leahy in 2007. “It also complements our strong VIP A330/A340 sales”.

Alas, for an unknown reason, in 2009 the prince never came to take ownership of the A380. It was sold on to a commercial airline and never got fitted out with the opulent interior. For those worried, the prince actually already owns a private Boeing 747 so this A380 would have just been the icing on the cake.

Etihad A380
The VIP A380 never got built, but some of its concepts found their way into other aircraft like the Etihad A380. Photo: Getty Images

Is the option still available today?

Airbus doesn’t officially have the option to purchase a private A380 anymore (since the production is close to shutting down), but there is still a slim chance to retrofit an existing A380 with some of the concepts outlined above.

According to Aviation Week, in 2018 there were advanced plans to turn one of the first retiring Singapore Airlines A380s into a ‘flying yacht’. According to the source, turning an A380 into a private aircraft would cost less than a new A350 or Boeing 777 private jet.

With more and more A380s being retired into the future and few buyers, maybe you still might have a chance to make your dreams come true.

What do you think of this? What was your favorite feature of this special A380? Let us know in the comments.