If you were a billionaire would you still travel in coach or fly first class for every trip? Recently, this question provoked some heated and entertaining discussions in some popular travel groups on social media. The responses were divided into those who would choose coach to save money, and others who contended that one of the perks of being that rich is accessibility to the comfort of first class. There were a small few who dared to put their hypothetical billions into an even higher level of comfort; who needs first class when you can just fly on a private jet?
The argument about first class versus coach is usually upended by the idea that no matter where you sit on an airplane all of the passengers will arrive at the same time. In essence, that is true and could be said about the entire flight experience from check-in to the line through security, and the often uncomfortable wait to board the flight in the terminal.
Many seasoned travelers have figured out ways to get around the unpleasant parts of air travel. They have built-in radars for flight deals, and can bypass the long lines through security with Global Entry and PreCheck credentials, and have enough travel rewards miles to upgrade their seats to first class. But the common denominator is the space all travelers still share in between flights, the terminal. Yes, some airports have lounges for priority travelers, but it’s only a short reprieve from some of the frustrations that come with travel.
If you’re not quite in the market for a jet, some commercial airlines offer services to individuals and groups who charter planes that include dedicated areas for check-in, and TSA lanes, accessed through the main terminal. Their private operations options allow travelers to use the private jet terminal which includes private security screenings, check-in in a private lounge, and an assigned customer service agent. Other airports offer areas such as the Windsor Suite in Heathrow Airport.
For Gaven de Becker of Gaven de Becker & Associates, who founded the Private Suite, the private operations options provided by some airlines were not enough, especially in airports such as Los Angeles International Airport where high profile travelers visit daily. And whose visits create delays and scenes from onlookers and travelers trying to get closer to famous travelers. His company built the Private Suite luxury terminal at LAX in May 2017.
Besides the check-in and security issues, he sought to elevate their entire experience. Their website boasts that it takes “2200 steps from a car seat to a plane seat” with their service that number is reduced to 70 “peaceful” steps. Gaven de Becker recruited the person who was in charge of all VIP services at Heathrow Airport, the manager of the Windsor Suite, and a hospitality expert from the Four Seasons and the Ritz Carlton to ensure that the moment a Private Suite member arrives at the airport until they board their flight their experience is the epitome of comfort and convenience.
Members are each assigned a team of eight people who ensure a stress-free experience. The first person escorts members to Private Suite’s gated area. The second person escorts members to their suites. Members then have two more people whose job is to handle any of their special requests in their suites which is equipped with its own bathroom, a view of the runway, a two-person daybed, and its own food-service pantry. Members can choose suites that include, a middle eastern suite that includes prayer mats and no alcohol, a suite outfitted with a family room with custom toys, and pet-friendly suites that include a patio and a teepee for dogs. The fifth person on the team guides members through a private TSA screening and then onto the runway where they meet crew member number six at a BMW 7 Series sedan on the runway who will drive them across the tarmac towards their aircraft. The seventh person on the team escorts members to the door of the aircraft. The last “unseen” person on the team is solely responsible for each member’s luggage.
Domestic travelers can become members for $2,700 for a party of four, and $3000 for international travelers with an annual fee of $7,500. You can try it out for the one-time cost of $3,500- $4,000 for groups of four. Individuals can have a shared lounge experience for $2,000.
Right now, their only competition is private jet and charter companies who don’t necessarily attend to the issue of privacy, and they cost about $70,000. In our society, it goes without saying that comfort and convenience do not come without a cost. Private airline terminals take the term “travel with style” to a whole new level.