Resort in the sky

European gamble: Airbus wants to build a plane that has shops, sleeping areas and a two-deck gym.

June 25, 2000

EUROPE'S AIRBUS has unveiled plans for the world's largest passenger jet, a behemoth that will carry 656 passengers and feature sleeping areas and other extras aimed at making long-haul flights more enjoyable.

Too good to be true?

Perhaps.

Airbus will need $12 billion to get the project flying. That may not be easy, considering that the company is about to be privatized. The French, German and British governments currently play a big role in its operation.

Airbus planes, which are completed from parts manufactured in several European countries, have always been subject to political haggling. That's why the company was not taken seriously in the United States for a long time.

In recent years, though, Airbus has not only extended its reach into world markets but has also concluded big deals this country. No one should laugh about it any more.

Some of the amenities of the planned A3XX are not new. Sleeping quarters have existed in some form since the days of the Zeppelin dirigibles. What is new, though, are on-board shops where passengers can spend some of their frequent-flier bonuses and a gym, where they can sweat off some of the booze.

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