At Los Angeles International Airport, the nation's biggest airlines have added several new ways for Hollywood's A-list celebrities and well-heeled tycoons to catch a flight while avoiding noisy crowds, nosy paparazzi and frustrating lines.
United Airlines is also trying to cater to the most affluent passengers by announcing last week a partnership with the Private Suite, the private terminal on the outskirts of the airport where VIPs can check in for a flight, relax in luxury, clear security and get whisked to the plane in a shiny new BMW sedan without having to set foot in an LAX terminal.
The suite features individual lounges furnished with couches, a flat-screen TV, a pantry stocked with snacks and a refrigerator filled with soft drinks and booze. Personal assistants are on hand to cater to the fliers' needs.
To get access to the swanky terminal, fliers must pay a $7,500 annual membership plus $2,700 for each domestic flight or $3,000 for each international flight. The cost covers a group of up to four people. The alternative for less-frequent fliers is to pay $3,500 per domestic flight and $4,000 for an international flight without any annual fee.
The deal with United Airlines will allow passengers to gain access to the terminal simply by purchasing a ticket with a premium fee. The airline declined to divulge the fee, saying the cost will vary based on the airfare. The deal is not yet available on the airline's website, United.com and for now can only be booked through "select" travel agents and corporate booking desks that cater to well-to-do clients.
The Private Suite option will be offered only to United's business-class travelers flying between LAX and New York; Newark, N.J.; Aspen, Colo.; Hawaii; London; Los Cabos, Mexico; Melbourne and Sydney, Australia; Shanghai; Singapore; or Tokyo. The airline does not call its most expensive ticket options "first class."
Gavin de Becker, chief executive of the firm that owns and runs the Private Suite, dismissed suggestions that he teamed up with United Airlines because his business is struggling.
"We are doing amazingly well," he said, noting that the Private Suite has made similar deals with a handful of luxury hotels and charter jet companies. "We are exceeding our initial projections."
And if the 13 private lounges at the Private Suite are not enough to meet the demand, De Becker said he is already prepared to build additional lounges at his current location.
"When we see the writing on the wall that it's necessary, we are doing it," he said.