​How today's mega-wealthy fly the friendly skies

While the rest of us make do with airplane seat legroom measured in centimeters, billionaires are spending whatever it takes to have the glitziest private jets in the sky. Our Cover Story is reported by Vladimir Duthiers of CBSN:

Elvis Presley was, of course, rock 'n' roll royalty. Extravagance was his signature. So he had not one, but TWO private jets -- top-shelf travel for a top-of-the-charts idol.

Back in 1975 the "Lisa Marie" was one-of-a-kind, complete with gold bathroom fixtures, a bedroom, and a fully-stocked bar.

Forty years later, a prince's plane makes the King's look like the cheap seats.

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The interior of an Airbus A319 custom-refitted by Comlux.
Comlux Aviation

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia -- one of the richest men in the world -- owns several private jets, including one that comes complete with what could pass for His Majesty's throne.

The prince is far from alone in the friendly skies. John Travolta Tom Cruise and Oprah Winfrey all have their own planes.

The jet set is growing, fast.

It all begins at an Indianapolis plant, one of a handful in the country where they take planes from companies like Boeing and Airbus, strip them, and then craft the interior with all the luxuries money can buy.

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A plane being refinished at Comlux's Indianapolis facility.
CBS News

"You don't want to say no to your clients, but there are elements that are very difficult," said Scott Meyer, CEO of Comlux America, a Swiss company that caters to the elite.

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CBS News

He showed one plane's wood grain, selected by the customer: "All of this wood grain was selected by the customer, and it comes from the same tree, and it's micro-sliced. And they'll pick their tree. I've had trees come out of the bottom of the Amazon that were 100 years old. And if you run out of that in the middle of a job, you're done, you gotta start over."

There are master craftsmen, and most of the special trimmings are done on-site, from moldings to metal work. There's even a selection of fine leathers for the upholstery.

"These are hand-stitched carpets, super soft," said project manager Richard Byfield. "Beaucoup dollars!"

Byfield overseas it all. He says anything goes, at any price.

"There's not anything that can't be done, anything that doesn't cost us money -- the sky's the limit," he said.

And the sky is where the world's wealthiest have set their sights for decades.

Today, with almost 2,000 billionaires the world over, fly commercial?

But don't take our word for it. Donald Trump spent $100 million on his Boeing 757, and it's second-hand! The plane originally belonged to Microsoft mogul Paul Allen.

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On board Donald Trump's private jet.
CBS News

What is his favorite thing about his plane? "The comfort and the size," Trump said, "but really the speed. It's a very fast plane."

Of course, it's been trumped up. There is gold everywhere -- the Midas touch. "That was a choice we made," he said. "And what tops it? nothing!"

There are two bedrooms, with walls that are all silk; the bathroom, with heated floors and two showers. As you'd expect, it's ALL first class.

Perhaps the ultimate luxury: No security lines or cancelled flights, though even a billionaire can have a practical streak.

Duthiers asked Trump, "When was the last time you flew commercial?"

"I will do that," the host of "The Apprentice" said. "I'll surprise people. I have nothing against it. But I'll rather fly this."

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Donald Trump boards his private jet.
CBS News

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story originally reported an incorrect number of planes owned by Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal.


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