Ah, Graceland! The stately mansion of poor-boy-made-good Elvis Presley was once a byword for star-studded excess. I love to peek at how the other half live, so when I recently found myself in Memphis, Tennessee, I just had to visit Graceland.
I arrived expecting big things, but left realising that the extravagances of the Presleys pale in comparison with today’s OTT standards. (Oprah: I’m looking at you and your £85 million estate. If bathrooms are the measure of grandiose homes, Oprah’s 14 bathrooms well and truly trump Graceland’s eight.)
But one thing really did impress me about the King’s set-up – the Lisa Marie, the Convair 880 jet that Elvis named after his daughter. Of course, it’s past its best days, but the privilege so eloquently expressed by the words “private jet” still thrills – especially in this age of cheap flights and bargain-basement travel experiences.
With its golden bathroom faucet and sink, the Lisa Marie got me thinking that the private jet is probably the past century’s most enduring symbol of excessive wealth. And just a little bit of digging confirmed it – today’s most ostentatious private airplanes surpassed my wildest imaginings:
1. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Airbus A380
This year, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal takes delivery of the most expensive private jet in history. It’s been four years in the making, and will cost more than USD500 million, according to Dealbook. Little wonder: the plane’s original plans incorporated a stable for horses and camels, a pen for hawks, a garage for two Rolls-Royces and a prayer room that rotates so it always faces Mecca.
2. Roman Abramovich’s Boeing 767-33A
It’s rumoured to have a gold interior, but that’s not the most excessive thing about the private plane of Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea Football Club – surely it’s the USD150–170 million price tag. (Google’s founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, have a Boeing 767, too. They bought it secondhand, mind you, but then they fitted it out with two staterooms and a dining room.)
3. Joseph Lau’s Boeing 747-8I VIP
Hong Kong real estate tycoon Joseph Lau is one of Asia’s wealthiest businessmen, and his prized possessions include an Andy Warhol portrait of Mao Zedong and a wine cellar holding more than 10,000 bottles. Oh, and a private jet worth USD153 million.
4. Donald Trump’s Boeing 757
Trust Trump to be in this list. And he does it in luxe style, too. His private jet, worth USD100 million, apparently yells wealth down to the tiniest of shiny details: AKA its gold-plated seatbuckles and 23-carat gold leaf Trump logo.
Here are a few pictures of Trump’s lavish 727, before he acquired his 757, courtesy of clearskyphotography.com:
5. John Travolta’s stable
The Saturday Night Fever star and pilot is believed to own not one but five private jets – a Lear jet, three Gulfstream jets and a Boeing 707 customised for him by Qantas. He flies them himself, as does fellow pilot and actor Harrison Ford with his collection of helicopters and planes, which includes an eminently collectible ex-military De Havilland.
And just in case you’re still not impressed, this eye candy from the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition will have you dreaming about rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous in no time:
Which of these is your pick for the most extravagant private jet? Which would you choose for your own? Let us know!