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TAKE A LOOK | The ultra wealthy are ditching traditional private jets to buy airliners instead

Business Insider US
Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider
  • Airbus and Boeing are selling their planes to ultra-high-net-worth individuals in addition to airlines. 
  • In 25 years of operation, Boeing has sold 250 of its Boeing Business Jets to the likes of royal families and wealthy individuals. 
  • Airliners offer greater living space than traditional private jets that allow for extra amenities including king-size beds and multiple showers.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

If owning a private jet is a sign of wealth, owning an airliner is a sign of unimaginable wealth.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

Wealthy travellers have been buying up private aircraft throughout the Covid-19 pandemic in a mass exodus away from commercial aviation. The focus for many has become health safety when traveling.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

But while first-time buyers have largely sought entry-level aircraft, some ultra-high-net-worth individuals are upgrading to airliners-turned-private jets.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

Both Boeing and Airbus have seen new interest for their business aircraft since the easing of travel restrictions as the wealthy loosen the purse strings on their personal travel budgets.

The delivery of the first Airbus ACJ320neo.
Airbus

Boeing has sold 250 business aircraft in the past 25 years, with customers ranging from the Dutch royal family to Tony Robbins.

Silver Air
Silver Air

Boeing and Airbus showed off two of their leading business aircraft at Dubai Airshow 2021. Take a look inside the Airbus ACJ320neo and Boeing Business Jet 737.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

Stepping onboard the Boeing jet, a small galley and bar welcome guests onboard with the "BBJ" logo on full display.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

A short hallway leads the way towards the passenger compartment that takes up most of the space on the plane.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

Side rooms along the hallway are dedicated to the crew, including a rest area with two bunks.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

The forward living area is where most of the seats on the aircraft with room for around seven passengers.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

On one side, a pair of club seats offer near-endless legroom. This section is typically favored by the principal flyer during takeoff and landing.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

The other side offers a mix of club seats and a couch for a more informal setting.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

Seven seats on a Boeing Business Jet takes up noticeably less overall space than it does on a smaller private jet, which is one of the selling features of the aircraft.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

"When we bring someone who operates or has flown on some of those smaller business jets, I think they're just instantaneously mesmerized by the space on this aircraft," JD Detwiler, president of Boeing Business Jets, said at a press conference onboard the aircraft. "There's really no comparison. The comfort level you can attain here is unparalleled."

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

A conference and dining area follows with four seats around a large wooden table.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

It's here that passengers can share meals or even hold business meetings. The Boeing aircraft is actually in the Boeing Company's fleet and flies members of the company's executive board and board of directors.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

The remaining compartments are intended for the principal passenger and feature more private living and working areas.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

A small enclave can act as an office, complete with a desk, club seat, and three-person divan. A closeable door ensures that this compartment's occupants can be entirely separated from the rest of the plane if need be.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

At night, the office can transform into a bedroom for a passenger as the divan can be used as a bed.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

But the principal flyer has their own bedroom, complete with a queen-size bed.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

Attached to the bedroom is an ensuite bathroom featuring a full sink and vanity with plenty of space to manoeuvre, unlike in a typical airplane lavatory.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

Another staple of the airliner-turned-private-jet is the shower. Purpose-built private jets can also feature showers but it once again comes down to space, and also water capacity.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

This Boeing aircraft features two showers, one in each passenger bathroom, in a testament to how much space is available to owners.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

Both of the glass-encased showers have waterfall heads with separate wands, just as one might have at home or in a luxury hotel room.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

A flying penthouse also wouldn't be complete with a closet, and one can be found in the master bedroom.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

Massive entertainment screens can also play movies, be used for presentations, or just show a map of the aircraft's route, among other features.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

A screen also hangs over the conference room table, making it ideal for business meetings and presentations.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

The 737 is the smallest aircraft in the Boeing Business Jet lineup and the brand's most popular aircraft. Around 200 have been sold in the program's history.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

The BBJ 1, based on the 737-700 airliner, boasts a range of more than 6,000 nautical miles and a flying time of around 14 hours.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

The Airbus aircraft is alternatively a charter aircraft operated by UK-based firm Acropolis Aviation and offers a vastly different configuration. It's based on the Airbus A320neo airliner that's also slightly larger than the BBJ 737 and features more fuel-efficient engines that contribute to a longer range.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

A large oval foyer greets ACJ320neo passengers, with the front quarter of the aircraft similarly dedicated to flight crew workspaces.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

Behind the wood laminate walls are where flight attendants will work and sleep.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

The main galley is hidden from view and is where flight attendants will craft the meals and drinks for the flight, as well as perform other flight duties.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

And just opposite the galley is the crew rest area, featuring two bunks for the flight crew to sleep on longer flights.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

The living compartments are arranged in an open floor plan in which a passenger can see straight through to the very last room when all the doors are open.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

A total of 19 passengers can fly on this aircraft, accompanied by six crewmembers.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

Just like on the Boeing aircraft, the forward compartment offers two types of seating. On one side is a pair of club chairs offering bounds of legroom.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

And on the other side, a mix of club chairs and a three-person divan can be found.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

And also like the Boeing jet, the dining and conference area can be found directly behind the forward compartment. That's where the differences end, however.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

A total of six seats can be found surrounding two tables divided by the aisle. Though, a leaf can connect the two to make one big table.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

And for a more informal retreat, a pair of club chairs can also be found in the section.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

The final seating area is nearly identical with a pair of club chairs on one side and a mix of club chairs and a divan on the other. It's a typical charter configuration that values more seats over more private spaces.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

But the very last living space is a private bedroom with a king-size bed.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

Since the ACJ320neo is capable of flying 6,750 nautical miles — or more than 15 hours — that makes the bedroom all the more important.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

There's no private office on this Airbus but a makeup table can very easily double for a desk in the bedroom.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

Attached to the bedroom is an ensuite bathroom complete with its own walk-in shower.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

Only one shower was installed on this aircraft as opposed to the two on the Boeing. But that's purely a matter of owner preference.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

Buying an aircraft can be a lot like buying a car in that each has its own strengths that owners take into account when choosing between Airbus and Boeing. "If you really want comfort and modernity, you go with Airbus; If you really want range, you go with Boeing," Andrea Zanetto, chief executive officer of Comlux Aviation, told Insider in Dubai.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

Boeing offers greater range capabilities with its aircraft with a more "classic" design while Airbus is known for modernity and size, Zanetto said.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

But deciding between the two aircraft manufacturers usually comes down to personal preference. Just like airline passengers prefer some types of aircraft over others for no particular reason, private jet owners can be the same.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

"It comes down to 'I like Boeing' or 'I like Airbus,'" Zanetto said. North Americans might prefer Boeing while Europeans might prefer Airbus.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

As airlines know, both aircraft offer comparable operating costs with "minor differences" between the two, according to Zanetto.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

Both the Airbus and Boeing private aircraft aren't intended to seat hundreds of passengers, as their airline-bound counterparts are. Rather, each seat fewer than 30 passengers in total.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

There are no middle seats or even rows of any kind. Some corporate aircraft will have a passenger compartment intended to seat support staff but not these jets.

Onboard a Boeing Business Jet 737 at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

And while both aircraft only seat a few more people than a typical Gulfstream, Bombardier, or Dassault Aviation jet, owners are paying for a better experience rather than more seats.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

"Twelve people here is a different experience [than a normal private jet], it's a home environment," Zanetto said.

Onboard an Airbus ACJ320neo at Dubai Airshow 2021.
Thomas Pallini/Insider

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