Flying into and out of Los Angeles International Airport is a stressful experience. I know as well as anyone, because it’s my home city airport. And I’ve often found myself wondering how much it would be worth to avoid the airport’s traffic and the lines and the stress of a facility taxed beyond its capacity.
Until recently, that would have been a rhetorical question. And the eye-rolling response would have been some variation of “Plenty!” But with the opening of The Private Suite last week, such an option actually exists, in the form of a newly built private terminal along the airport’s south edge, far from the congested terminal areas.
As its name would suggest, The Private Suite isn’t for everyone. Or rather, it’s only for those willing and able to pony up the hefty fees to avail themselves of the terminal’s services. Departing passengers are escorted to their private suites, fitted with daybeds and private bathrooms, where they will be checked in for their flights. When it’s flight time, they’re eased through the terminal’s private security checkpoint, and then chauffeured across the tarmac in BMW 7-series sedans to their departure gates. According to the company’s website, the distance between car seat to plane seat for The Private Suite customers is 70 footsteps, versus 2,200 steps for the average LAX traveler. And no paparazzi.
Which brings us back to the “How much?” question. Prices start at $2,000 for a one-way domestic flight, using the shared lounge, to $4,000 for an international flight, using a private suite. Annual memberships are $7,500, and come bundled with free massage and manicures, parking, and other perks.
At those prices, The Private Suite is obviously only affordable for travel’s One Percenters. And so far, they’ve responded with enthusiasm. According to Fortune, more than 1,200 memberships had been sold by May 15, when the terminal officially opened its doors.
The rest of us will just have to resign ourselves to that 2,200-step march to the gate. And the congestion. And long lines. And adoring fans.
Reader Reality Check
What’s your take on this: the free market in action, or another sign of the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots?
After 20 years working in the travel industry, and almost that long writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.
This article first appeared on SmarterTravel.com, where Tim is Editor-at-Large.