Princely plaything is a personal A380
NEXT time you're about to get aboard that whopping A380 Airbus that seems to shade half the airport, and you're told you are the 350th passenger to step inside - and that there are another 200 still to follow - give a thought to a Saudi Arabian prince who'll soon have no need to worry about looking to see if he turns left or right for first or business class.
Because Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud is about to become the first person in the world to own his very own personal A380.
A whole AU$363m worth from France's Airbus Industrie, and which a British company is now outfitting for a further US$90m-odd with luxuries ranging from a lounge for live concerts, to a marble-lined Turkish bath, and a glass floor so he and guests can gaze down on whatever they are flying over.
At a total cost of around AU$455m, it means the prince will be absolutely relaxed as he zooms off to places as far as 15,500km away - and with tanks sucking-up 320,000 litres of aviation fuel, not even having to think about stopping to refuel, which we guess is the old adage: if you can afford to buy such a plane in the first place, those litres should be the least of your concerns.
The Prince's A380 would normally carry around 550 passengers in economy, business and first class, with some airlines also having a fourth premium economy category as well, and others going for all-economy into which to cram 853 backsides.
But our Saudi prince won't have to worry about such crass sharing in his plane: he and his family will indulge in five luxury suites complete with king-size beds, handmade rugs, private lounges, and ensuites with full-size showers.
And there'll be first class sleeper seats in private compartments for up to 20 business and other guests, lounging areas and a dining room, as well as a prayer room where computers will automatically always have the prayer mats facing towards Mecca.
A member of the Saudi royal family, the prince made his money - his personal wealth is said to be in the vicinity of AU$25 billion - from a lifetime of shrewd investments, including 50% ownership of London's Savoy Hotel, and a 7% stake in Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, the largest outside the Murdoch family.
And in truth he probably doesn't think his purchase is all that unusual.
Why would you when you already own your own customised Boeing 747, an Airbus A231 and a Hawker Siddeley HS125 mini-jet to get to that next meeting, more than 200 cars, including Rolls Royces, Lamborghinis and Ferraris, for when you are in a hurry on the ground in different parts of the world, and for holidays an 86m mega motor-cruiser you can boast featured in the Bond movie Never Say Never Again, in which it was named Flying Saucer.
Guests who go aboard at regular airports will enter through a normal door that will open into a large entrance hall with a wide spiral staircase, and a lift if you don't like stairs, going to the aircraft's upper deck.
Where permitted at others, that lift will descend through the belly of the aircraft onto the ground below - with a red carpet automatically unfurling, and bathed by floodlights at night so these guests will feel they have arrived at a Hollywood premiere.
A fully outfitted boardroom will boast screens showing real-time world markets, and a 12-place Perspex table will embrace touch screens built flat into it at every seat, plus internet and satellite phone.
Down in the aircraft's belly, empty cargo and luggage spaces are being turned into recreation zones including a well-being room with a "magic carpet" glass floor to stand on, or lounge around, to look down on the passing world below - with scents of forest and sea for added ambience.
A concert lounge will have a stage and baby grand piano.
With the prince owning a number of entertainment companies, top artists will perform for family and guests.
Finally a "garage" in the plane's belly can take a Rolls Royce - and maybe on occasion the owner's diamond-encrusted Ducati motorbike.
Now, remember, you were number 350 going aboard your A380 for anything up to a 14 hour flight - and there are another 200 still to follow behind you. Enjoy.