For super-rich fliers in search of the ultimate status symbol, the big problem isn't plunking down $50 million to $250 million for a new, full-size jetliner from Boeing or Airbus. It's finding someone to turn that plane into a flying palace.
These purveyors of customized interiors, called "completion centers," are increasingly sold out for years to come as demand for transport-size personal aircraft has soared from a handful a year to dozens. That means lots more work designing and installing mother-of-pearl vanities, gilded ceilings, exotic wood cabinets, hand-made carpeting, multihead showers -- even throne rooms and gyms. Some vendors design the china, crystal and sterling silver that travel on board, and a few have installed missile defense systems on the aircraft.
"We have more work than we can handle," says Jon Buccola, chief executive officer of outfitter Greenpoint Technologies Inc. of Kirkland, Wash. Greenpoint, which specializes in interiors on new Boeing 737 business jets, has won $100 million in new business since the start of the year and is talking to a potential client who won't even get his or her new aircraft until 2014, he says.
"An increasing number of wealthy individuals and heads of state are buying commercial-sized planes and are spending even more to have them customized with everything from master suites to gymnasiums." And did you take note of the private missile defense systems?
The only growth area in the American economy is the enhancement of stratospheric status symbols — the equivalent of shoe polish for plutocrats.
In its creation of a stateless über-wealthy parallel universe, the pluto-Republican view of the economy is not a chicken in every pot. It's a gym in every jet. And woe to all of you who have no jet.