Transforming an A330 into a yacht-like luxury experience
Editor’s Note — Monthly Ticket is a CNN Travel series that spotlights some of the most fascinating topics in the travel world. In June, we’re taking to the skies for a look at the latest developments in plane interiors, including the people working to change the way we fly.
(CNN) — The fact that the mega rich go to great lengths to customize their private planes to fit their lifestyles is not new.
And we’re not just talking about your average business jet. For decades, world leaders, royalty and billionaires have been fitting out the types of planes most of us fly in commercially, made by the likes of Airbus and Boeing.
But the options on the table are getting increasingly wild.
Among the leaders in the customization game is Germany’s Lufthansa Technik, which recently developed a cabin concept that takes inspiration from another must-have item for the wealthy — the superyacht.
According to the company, the EXPLORER wide-body VIP cabin concept fulfills two wishes for plane owners: to take their planes almost anywhere at any time, while also serving as a base camp when they travel — a place to sleep and also enjoy leisure activities and excursions.
Just like a superyacht.
The Lufthansa Technik team picked the Airbus A330 to showcase the concept and has released a series of renderings demonstrating the possibilities.
These include the usual must-haves like bedrooms, bathrooms, bars and dining areas. But the highlight is arguably the retractable veranda — a floor in the forward fuselage area that can extend outward when the aircraft is parked, sitting at a height of around four meters above the apron.
Coming in a close second is a large-scale integrated projection system for virtual content. It extends from the window belt, reaching up to the ceiling. Customers can select their own lighting and imagery, using a high-tech projecting system to create scenes like green forests and star-filled skies.
The BRABUS Adventure Lounge
The EXPLORER concept was first launched in November 2021, and the company recently presented a new addition at an aviation convention in Geneva in May — the BRABUS Adventure Lounge.
The concept places the lounge in the rear part of the A330’s lower deck, which can be viewed from the main deck through a glass floor.
Again, the superyacht, with its garage for tenders and toys, was the inspiration. A selection of vehicles can be stored in the Adventure Lounge for use after landing.
The concept features a limited edition BRABUS 1300 R, created in collaboration with Austrian motorcycle manufacturer KTM.
Wieland Timm, head of sales for VIP and special mission aircraft at Lufthansa Technik, tells CNN Travel via email that the lounge showcases just “one striking example of what this exploration aspect could look like” in flight.
“The luxury motorcycles are exclusively staged in the accessible lower deck,” he explains. “Once landed, they can be unloaded and give passengers the freedom to explore the current destination in more detail.”
As for why Lufthansa Technik selected the A330 for the EXPLORER concept, Timm says this classic wide-body aircraft “offers sufficient space for a large number of novel cabin ideas and also a sufficient range to fulfill the special wishes of the EXPLORER target group.”
However, he notes an EXPLORER-type interior could also be installed in other wide-body aircraft such as the Boeing 777.
Who is showing interest?
Timm says the target group for the EXPLORER concept is made up of “the rather ‘classic’ ultra-rich individuals traveling and exploring the world in utmost luxury and — most of all — privacy, but also charter operators of such high-class luxury travels (offering, for example, 14-day round-the-world trips in a price range from $100,000 to $200,000 per week).”
He says they also expect some owners will be taking a hybrid approach.
“For example a wealthy individual that owns an EXPLORER aircraft, but uses it only for one month of the year. In the rest of the year, this individual will also charter it out to other operators/users.”
So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, he says, noting that they’ve already had inquiries from customers looking to implement one or more of the EXPLORER`s technical gadgets into their current or future cabin completions projects.
He notes that it’s unlikely a plane owner would take on the entire concept as a whole, but given it’s technically feasible, the cabin could be produced as shown. Instead, customers are likely to adapt certain design elements according to their own needs.
“The simple reason is that the VIP Completions business, especially for wide-body aircraft, is highly individual to match the personal needs of the owner … The large majority of aircraft we complete for our customers are thus truly unique.”
How close is it to that superyacht experience?
Given superyachts have a lot more freedom in terms of anchoring and mobility, we asked Timm how common it is for owners to stay overnight on their plane while it’s on the ground at an airport.
He says various airports will allow them to park their aircraft and virtually “live” there for a certain amount of time.
“Some of our customers already use this,” he adds. “The reasons are various and have to do with the fact that these customers often also use the aircraft as their office space and thus receive their customers on-site.
“Others prefer to stay on the plane overnight for security reasons. In the described EXPLORER use case, however, the airport acts as the home base and starting point for further adventures/explorations.”