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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Virgin Plans to Put Casinos in the Sky

TOULOUSE, France -- High-paying passengers aboard Virgin Atlantic's Airbus "superjumbos" will be able to work out in the gym, get a makeover, gamble in a casino then head to the bar for some cocktails before easing onto a double bed.

Virgin boss Richard Branson made the announcement Tuesday as he attended the official debut of the new A380 at Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, southern France.

Some of the Boeing 747s in Virgin's existing fleet are equipped with double beds for first-class passengers and bars where travelers can stretch their legs while sipping a beer.

But Branson vowed to extend the concept when Virgin takes delivery of its six A380s beginning in 2008.

"We plan to have a gym area for our passengers to stretch and work out during the flight," Branson said. "We're going to introduce a beauty parlor, we plan to have a casino."

The A380 can carry 555 passengers in a three-class cabin -- one-third more passengers than a 747 -- with a lower operating cost per seat as well as much more cabin space left over for other amenities.

Airlines with upscale business models are likely to equip the plane with fewer seats to leave more space for lavish facilities and first-class berths.

At the other end of the scale, a budget carrier or charter operator serving busy holiday routes would be able to seat more than 800 passengers comfortably in a single coach-class configuration.

Most of the airlines that have ordered the A380 so far are keeping mum about what features they plan to offer on board.

Qatar Airways said Tuesday its A380s would seat just 490 passengers, but gave no details of its planned cabin layouts. Geoff Dixon, CEO of Australia's Qantas Airways, said its superjumbo cabin designs would be unveiled in the next few weeks.

With seats for 500 passengers, Virgin's A380 could be slightly less spacious than Qatar's, but founder and chairman Branson suggested it might make up for that in other ways.

"We'll also have a lot more double beds, so alongside our casino you'll have at least two ways of getting lucky on a Virgin flight," he said.