Flying fortresses: Here is how the world's leaders travel

With their jet-setting lifestyles and high powered trips, the world’s leaders are known for their penchant for travelling in style. While some may rely on just one type of aircraft, others may have multiple aircraft and modes of transportation that they use while travelling around the world. We take a look at the powerful, and luxurious, forms of transport that the world’s leaders use for travelling:

North Korea: North Korean leader Kim Jong recently made his first international trip after assuming power when he visited China in his official green, heavily armoured train. While his trip to Beijing was kept a secret and was only announced after he left the country, the presence of the green train at the station led to much speculation.

The ubiquitous dark green train, with golden piping, has been used by Kim Jong’s father and grandfather. Kim Jong Il, the father of the current president, hated to fly, and was known to use his train to travel around North Korea and abroad, usually to China. He was also known to deck the train for lavish parties, with lots of exclusive food and alcohol, and karaoke. The train is also designed to avoid interception by US spy satellites and has a mobile office.

The United States of America: The official air traffic control sign for an aircraft carrying the President of the United States is the Air Force One, which is among the most powerful aircraft in the world. Currently, the Air Force One refers to one of two highly customised Being 747-200B series aircraft, which are capable of refuelling midair and have unlimited range. The aircraft has 4000sq feet of space, spread across three levels. It is fitted with a Presidential suite which boasts of a large office, lavatory and a conference room. Airforce One also has a doctor on board and a medical suite where emergency surgeries can be performed.

While former President Barrack Obama used Air Force One for all his trips, President Donald Trump has his own private jet – a Boeing 757-200, which is informally called Trump Force One. The jet is equipped with seating for 24, winglets, a master bedroom, bidets, galley, dining room, conference room and multiple lavatories. However, Trump mostly uses the Air Force One for his official travels. The White House had also placed an order for two refrigerators to replace the current ones for the aircraft, which is expected to cost the country’s taxpayers nearly USD 24 million.

United Kingdom:  The British Government inducted the Royal Air Force Airbus Voyager to carry its VIP Government officials, including the Prime Minister, and the Royal Family. The Voyager fleet is typically used for the purpose of mid-air refuelling, however, the official one has been refitted at a cost of GBP 10 million. According to Air Charter Service, May’s aircraft holds the record for the aircraft with the highest capacity – that of 160 people. The redone aircraft has a small VIP area with two chairs, apart from 58 business class seats for accompanying officials and 100 seats in the economy class for journalists. The aircraft also has missile defence systems. Till 2016, British heads of state and VIPs used to travel on chartered and commercial flights.

The Royal family travels in a more luxurious manner. They have the Royal Helicopter and a Royal train at their disposal. The Royal Train, which has been a part of the family for 150 years, is used by the Queen and the Royal family while travelling across the UK. The train is fitted with sleeping quarters, bathroom, a sitting room, a kitchen and comes with the Queen’s personal chef and railway steward.

India: Despite all the problems Air India has been going through, our leaders are loyal to the airline and use it for all their international trips. The Air India One is the call sign for any aircraft that the Prime Minister or President of India travels in. PM Narendra Modi has used the Boeing 747 extensively for his trips abroad. The aircraft is equipped with a bedroom, a conference room, a satellite phone, fax, internet and everything else that is needed to make it a functional office. The aircraft is divided into three sections – the first class seating for the cabinet ministers and senior officials, the VVIP suite for the PM, and the business section for the media. Modi, however, has been quite restrictive when it comes to the media and usually does not allow them onboard.

Saudi Arabia: The Saudi Arabian king, Salman Bin Abdulaziz al Saud, is known for his love of the luxurious, opulent life. For all his travels abroad, the King is known to take an entourage of close to a 1,000 people, a fleet of luxury cars, luxury carpets and even his own furniture. The luxury private plane carrying the King is equipped with a golden escalator instead of stairs, for the King to descend. The internet was flooded with jokes recently when the King’s escalator stopped working mid-way, while during a trip to Russia, and he was forced to walk the rest of the way down.

Kuwait: US President Donald Trump reportedly expressed his displeasure over the fact that the private jet of the Emir of Kuwait, Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, was larger than his. Whether he was referring to the Airforce One or his own private jet, is still clear, however, the Emir of the oil-rich state is the owner of one of the biggest VIP jets among leaders of states. The Emir flies on a Boeing 747 aircraft which is 250 feet long and is equipped with military defence equipment, to ward off any potential attacks.

Russia: According to a global comparative analysis by Air Charter Service, Russian President Vladimir Putin has the largest fleet of aircraft at his disposal – the Russian Aerospace Forces’ special squad has 68 aeroplanes and 64 helicopters at its disposal. Putin travels with a fleet of four identical aircraft during every trip, so that no one will be able to figure out which one he is in. The aircraft also has its own jamming system, disorienting radars and anti-aircraft defence system.  Putin’s IL-96-300PU is 65 metres long, with a wingspan which exceeds 65 metres.

Brunei: Among the world’s richest people, the Sultan of Brunei is the owner of a Boeing 747, nicknamed the ‘Flying Palace’, that he bought from Lufthansa and pilots himself. According to the Air Charter Service, the Sultan spent an additional USD 100,000,000 to get it reconstructed and modernised. The cabin is uber-luxurious and is fitted with precious metals, gems and wood. While the basic model is capable of flying 12,500 kilometres, the Royal aircraft has a non-stop flight range of 15,000 kilometres.

China: The President of the People’s Republic of China has the distinction of travelling modestly. President Xi Jinping does not own a personal aircraft, and instead uses either of the two Boeing 747-400’s that belong to Air China. These aircraft, when not is official use, are used for commercial purposes as well. Whenever the President needs to travel the aircraft is scrutinised and sent for refitting. Some of the seats are then removed and a living room, a bedroom and an office are fitted inside. Once the President completes his journey, the plane is returned to Air China and converted back to its original state.