Owning and travelling in a private jet is still perceived as THE pinnacle of joining the ultimate club of the rich and famous. However, beyond representing a status symbol and displaying a luxurious lifestyle, private mobility is a necessity for leading members of government and the corporate world.
With the added fascination of the lives and wealth of the billionaires club, we peek into the billionaire’s private jets - to discover who owns what, why and how much they spend on some of the most luxurious aircraft to grace the skies.
Here are some of the most expensive private jets, and the wealthiest billionaires in the world and in Asia who own them.
How much does it cost to own a private jet?
Stratos Jets released their findings of the ongoing costs of owning private jets in late 2020. The costs included the necessities such as fuel, cabin crew, hangarage (parking a jet in an aircraft hangar), and insurance.
They evaluated that a price tag of between USD $700,000 and $9,000,000 per year is the financial cost to maintain a private jet. The data suggested the cost of chartering a private jet each year (depending on flying hours) can range anywhere between $300,000 - $730,000.
Some of the highest fees belonged to high profile private jet owners’ who were leading government and political figures. These included Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel, who spent a total of $19,150,000 per year between them on operating private aircraft.
In Asia, some of the most expensive private jets used by leading political and state figures include the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (who flies in an Airbus A330-243 Prestige) and the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah (who maintains a small private fleet of aircraft).
Celebrities and other HNWI (High Net Worth individuals), including successful business people, also featured in the research. One such example is celebrity and reality star Kim Kardashian West, who “only” spent $730,000 on her chartered private jets. Kardashian is believed to only travel on chartered private jets (as opposed to commercial airliners) and uses a private Boeing-747 for longer haul flights.
The World’s Wealthiest Private Jets Owners
The 2021 Forbes edition of the World’s Billionaires List includes notable names you would come to expect, and the US has the most billionaires on the list. Forbes said in their publication that the United States has 724 billionaires, while China (including Hong Kong and Macao) has 698.
For the past few years, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have been competing over who holds the title of the wealthiest person in the world. One thing they also share in common is their dedication to the Gulfstream 650ER, a private aircraft they both own and use for the majority of their global air travel.
Elon Musk - Gulfstream 650ER
Elon Musk, the eccentric enigma most famous for forming Tesla and the SpaceX companies, is also renowned as a keen crypto influencer. In 2021 Musk and his connection as the “Godfather of Dogecoin”, which peaked with his appearance on SNL on 8th May 2021, garnered a lot of media attention.
Musk is the owner of a Gulfstream G650ER private jet, and his use of private aircraft also piqued the attention of the media previously, when he reportedly logged 240,000 km in 2018 aboard his US$70 million Gulfstream. The total cost of Musk’s air travel was paid by Tesla and was believed to be US$700,000 that year.
It was also reported in late 2020 that Musk had also purchased a Gulfstream G550 jet with space for 17 passengers and can be adapted to a sleeping configuration.
The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX has owned several private aircraft since the 2000s. These include a 1994 model Dassault Falcon 900, and the entrepreneur is said to have “once piloted aircraft himself when he was in the process of launching Tesla and SpaceX, but he decided to stop flying planes because of his responsibilities to his children and his companies”.
Musk revealed in 2008 he previously used to fly an Aero L-39 Albatros military jet, a six-seater Piper Meridian M500 and a Cessna Citation CJ2.
Jeff Bezos - Gulfstream G650ER
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is consistently one of the wealthiest people in the world (with an estimated net worth of about $190 billion), and as a result of his business endeavours, is constantly on the move as the head of one of the largest e-commerce companies on the planet.
The billionaire is reported to own two Gulfstream G650ER private jets and has previously owned a Dassault Falcon 900-EX, which he sold in 2015. The range of the Gulfstream G650ER is 13,900 kilometres and it can reach speeds of Mach 0.90.
The Gulfstream’s owned by Bezos provide exquisite interiors and high-end features, which cost an additional $5 million extra per plane. These ‘additionals’ feature handmade leather reclining seats and the jet also has up to four living areas for optimal space and comfort and is suited for eight passengers.
One of Bezos’s private planes cost an estimated USD $65 million and the billionaire also purchased a private hangar to the tune of USD $5.5 million dollars.
Asian Billionaires Private Jets
We take a glimpse at just some of the famous private jets owned by heads of state and billionaires in Asia, who are well known for their lavish opulence and customised private jets.
Sultan of Brunei Boeing 747-300
The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, is annually one of the world’s richest men, and among the range of private jets he owns is a custom Boeing 747-8LQ Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) which cost him USD $323 million.
This private Boeing saw a reported 100 million USD worth of luxury features added to meet the sovereign’s particular requirements - washbasins made from solid gold is one lavish example.
Some of the other extravagant furnishings include 24-carat gold accents, Lalique crystal fixtures and two-toned leather sofas. Decorations also display precious metals, gems, fine wood and fabrics while the cabin has blue, gold, and cream custom carpet. It’s no wonder the plane is nicknamed the “Flying Palace''.
The Boeing 747-300 has a cruising speed of 1000 km/h and a flight range of 14,000 kilometres but the Sultan also owns a fleet of planes which also includes six smaller jets with luxury fittings, which the Sultan is known to fly himself.
According to a report by Bornrich.com, the Sultan has several larger aircraft, which include a Boeing 747-400, Boeing 767-200 and Airbus A340-200 jets. The Boeing 747-400 Jet is “plated with gold and it also has many facilities, including a living room and bedroom.”
Joseph Lau - Boeing 747-8 VIP
Hong-Kong real-estate tycoon, Joseph Lau is the owner of a USD $367 million Boeing 747-8 VIP which features a 445 square meter interior. The Hong Kong billionaire owns a majority stake in Chinese Estates Holdings and Forbes estimated his fortune to be $17.4 billion as of July 2020.
Although the initial cost of Lau’s Boeing was believed to be USD $153 million, Lau added USD $214 million of customisations such as several guest rooms, a bar, a gym, and a large office. The interior space is split between two levels connected by a spiral staircase.
The Boeing is able to reach speeds of 1195 km/h and has a maximum range of 17,020 kilometres. The Boeing 747-8 VIP is also one of the longest and second-largest aircraft ever built.
The interior of the private jet owned by Lau features two separate lounges, a stateroom with its own lounge, a huge office and conference room as well as a dining room fit for state functions. The private aircraft also offers vaulted ceilings and video displays on walls as well as a wine cellar!
In May 2007, Lau was one of the first seven people to purchase a Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet for private use.
Jack Ma - G650ER Private Jet
Famous for being one of the world's leading tech giants, Jack Ma owns an aircraft worth $75,000,000, a drop in the ocean of his alleged $45 billion net worth in 2021.
Jack Ma is also the owner of a Gulfstream G650ER (Extended Range), the same twin-engine business jet owned by Bezos and Musk.
Ma purchased the Gulfstream for approximately USD $70 million but spent a few additional million dollars to customise the private jet to suit his needs.
The Chinese billionaire and philanthropist, made famous for his tech companies at Alibaba Group and Ant Group, is a fan of Gulfstream, having previously owned a Gulfstream G550.
Ma keeps his Gulfstream at a private terminal in Hangzhou, the headquarters of the Alibaba and Ant Group companies. The Financial Times wrote an article on Ma’s travels which indicated he was using his aircraft as many times as once every three days.
On a side note, Ma’s business partner and co-founder of Alibaba Group, Joseph Tsai also owns a Gulfstream G650 while Tsai’s wife, Clara Wu, owns a Bombardier Global XRS.
Mukesh Ambani - Boeing Business Jet 2
Mukesh Ambani is Asia and India's richest person and is the chairman, managing director and largest shareholder of energy and telecom Reliance Industries.
Although his wealth fell in 2020 to US$36.8 billion, his fortune in 2021 is believed to be US$84.5 billion and he was ranked by Forbes as the world's tenth wealthiest person.
The Ambani family is believed to own three jets; a Boeing Business Jet 2, Falcon 900EX jet and an Airbus 319. The Boeing set them back USD $73 million and the private jet covers 1,004 sqft which features a luxurious custom interior with a business suit, private bedroom suite and a full-sized bathtub.
The two CFM 56-7B27 Turbofan Engines allow for a maximum cruising speed of 870 km/h and a flight range of 12,300 kilometres.
Private jet charters and manufacturers have actually continued to expand between 2020-2021, in the face of growing demand for increased convenience and safety among high net worth individuals.
This has resulted in the leading airline manufacturers looking at even better and more luxurious private jet aircraft to meet the demands (such as the recently released Falcon 10X).
If they are able to top some of these existing flying gems, we look forward to seeing the sky filled with even more aviation marvels.