Airbus and Boeing could soon be slugging it out over a new fleet of VIP jets for the Australian government.
The Royal Australian Air Force currently leases two ageing Boeing 737 business jets and three smaller Bombardier Challenger 604 aircraft for use by the Australian Governor-General, the Prime Minister and other politicians.
But the Boeing 737s are too small to carry a full complement of political support staff, journalists and news crews.
So with the lease on all five VIP jets expiring in 2015, bigger birds are on the table.
The RAAF's prestigious Number 34 Squadron, which is charged with all VIP transport for the Federal Government, will consider buying and leasing arrangements for more modern aircraft fitted with up to date seats and inflight Internet via satellite communications.
The workhorse Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 are likely starters, especially extended range models needed to make non-stop international trips where possible.
"The BBJs are past it for longer haul, full entourage missions" writes Australian aviation journalist Ben Sandilands.
"The small private suite located at the front of the jets when they were delivered was fitted with a heavy low set table dividing four facing seats, two on each side."
Unless you were "very short", Sandlilands recalls, "it was impossible to recline these best seats on the jet without your legs being caught under the table, and sleeping on your side or back would have been impossible."
"The longer legroom two by two seating for the senior advisors and department heads, as well as 16 shorter legroom counterparts at the rear for the media, were inferior to what Qantas later introduced as premium economy in its A380s."
Sandilands recounts how media seats aboard the VIP jet are sold at fares equivalent to Qantas business class, making them "a bad working deal for reporters, who for the same fare paid for by their employers, can fly today in a business class sleeper seat."
Also read: Five fun facts about Air Force One
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