Flying casinos? Don’t hold your breath

Gambling and transportation is nothing new: in the United States (and maybe throughout the world), riverboats and trains were notorious places for gambling in their time. But airplanes, which are more controlled (and more cramped for those of us in coach), aren’t really known as places to gamble. Still, Airbus promises airborne casinos on its next-generation A380. Does this mean there is a customer demand for them?

From Wired News:


European airplane manufacturer Airbus on Tuesday unveiled its newest plane, the 550-seat “superjumbo” A380, sending some fliers gaga with visions of airborne barhopping and Texas Hold ’em dancing in their heads.

Sir Richard Branson, the iconoclastic chairman of Virgin Atlantic Airways, promised casinos and double-bed suites in the six planes his company has ordered.

Branson wooed reporters with the double entendre, “You’ll have two ways to get lucky on a Virgin flight,” according to The New York Times.

The $280 million Airbus A380, measuring nearly 240 feet in length and with a 262-foot wingspan, will be the largest commercial airliner in operation when airlines take delivery in 2008.

Many airports will need to modify terminals to handle the massive plane, which allows for dual-level entry into two decks and carries more baggage than many current airports could handle efficiently.

Airborne roulette is unlikely to be found on U.S. routes anytime soon, however, since no domestic airlines have placed any orders for the plane and the current trend domestically is toward frugal, low-fare, no-meals flights.

Even if U.S. airlines did have the money or desire to buy the plane, it is doubtful any of them would use the extra space for an airborne mall or casino, according to industry expert Henry Harteveldt, vice president of Forrester Research.

“When Boeing was showcasing the 747 to its clients, they talked about staterooms, theaters with tiered seating like a real movie theater,” Harteveldt said. “None of that happened.”

“Airplanes are designed for one of two things, either freight or passengers. You will not see an onboard Starbucks or an onboard branch of Harrods or in-flight casino, or anything else. All you will have is hundreds and hundreds of people.”

A quick survey of the airline mileage hounds at FlyerTalk found many North Americans shared Blecher’s sentiments, preferring a direct flight to the idea of shopping at 35,000 feet.

“I just want a comfortable seat, legroom and TV. Gambling? Frankly, that sounds tacky,” wrote longtime FlyerTalk member Analise.

Casinos, Malls Won’t Fly

As someone who flies a great deal, I’ve got to agree with Analise. Well, I guess officially I have to disagree with gambling being tacky, but I, too, crave only a little more room when I fly.

Plus, I shudder to think about the logistics of running an in-flight casino. Imagine trying to reconstruct the bets on a roulette or craps layout after hitting a patch of turbulence. No, some things are probably best left on the ground.