The future of luxury aircraft looks quite posh indeed. Today’s superjumbo jets might boast fold-flat sleep pods, mood lighting, and first-class bars, but none can hold a candle to the Airlander 10, the world’s largest and most luxurious aircraft. Now, if only it can get and stay off the ground.
If you’re a Statesider, Airlander 10 may not ring any bells. Thanks to an embarrassing second flight which involved the airship nose-diving into a field in 2016, news of the project’s development has been understandably quiet. In the two years since, however, it’s completed six successful test flights. Once it’s been aloft for 200 incident-free hours, the airship will be deemed ready for primetime.
We’re being charitable by saying that the rotund exterior leaves something to be desired. Many in the U.K. have taken to deriding it as “The Flying Bum.” But it’s easy to imagine that its shape is born of aerodynamic and functional necessity.
No matter, however, because passengers will forget all about its arse-shaped silhouette once they step into the stunning interior. Thanks to Design Q (a high-end design firm in the aviation and automotive industries), it’s a whole other world inside.
The most noticeable feature is the large number of windows on the walls and, more importantly, the floor. The cabin and communal lounge are awash in glass, providing “horizon-to-horizon” views. So much so, that acrophobics may want to reconsider booking their trip aboard a different aircraft. The stark color palette and curvy, contemporary furniture are more reminiscent of a high-end boutique hotel than a (dare we say) blimp. Gourmet catering and a full bar will be available at the aptly named Altitude Bar. When passengers are ready to retire for the evening, they’re welcome to tuck into their own private en-suite guest quarters.
Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), the company behind the project, initially set out to debut the Airlander as a military and commercial vehicle. Clearly, however, they realized there’s a broader and more lucrative market in the unique expedition-style tourism the vehicle can facilitate. Because the airship can launch from virtually any large, flat surface — think ice, the desert, even a big enough ship at sea — and stay aloft for up to five days, it’s capable of traveling to many destinations that aren’t reachable by airplane. With a top speed of just 91 miles per hour, it won’t get you anywhere in a hurry, but, when you can wake up every morning of your trip with a view from 16,000 feet above Earth, do you really care?
Ticket prices for the proposed three-day expeditions aboard the Airlander 10 have yet to be announced. Considering it only carries 19 passengers, we’re guessing it’s going to be quite expensive indeed.