One of America’s newest charter airlines is expanding to the West Coast, and bringing the Cirrus Vision Jet with it.
Starting July 26, VeriJet is offering flights across the West Coast and American Southwest in the airline’s furthest venture outside of its home region of the Southeast.
A single flight hour in the Vision Jet is $3,000 plus tax, and VeriJet doesn’t charge reposition rates if the flight is within a 700-mile radius of Santa Maria, California. That means one-way flights on city pairs such as Los Angeles-Las Vegas, Phoenix-San Francisco, and San Diego, California-San Jose, California, will only cost as much as the flight time, with a minimum of one hour.
Founder and CEO Richard Kane told Insider that the geography of the West Coast is perfect for the Vision Jet since the aircraft thrives when flying at the lower altitudes common on the region’s most popular air routes. VeriJet can also use smaller airports such as Santa Monica Airport that are off-limits to larger jets.
The Vision Jet is ideal for single-pilot operations and can fly four adult passengers with a top range of around 1,300 nautical miles, as Insider found on a recent demonstration flight with VeriJet. Low-speed WiFi is available in-flight and Sirius XM Satellite Radio is also available for entertainment.
VeriJet is also launching a jet card program where the hourly rate is discounted to $2,500 per hour when 100 hours of flight time are prepaid for $250,000. Members also have access to a new “jet safari” program of curated itineraries in different regions.
Itineraries include trips to Canada to see Hudson Bay or the polar bears of Manitoba, Caribbean getaways to locales like Virgin Gorda in this British Virgin Islands, and a national park trip that includes sites like Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Yellowstone National Parks. Another opportunity includes a transatlantic crossing as VeriJet repositions its planes to Europe in advance of its debut on the continent.
Kane calls jet cardholders “founders” since they’ll be accompanied by board members on these trips, with whom they could share direct feedback about the company.
“It’s mostly about going out of the way places that you can’t get to on anything but a small turboprop or [a Vision Jet],” Kane said, “and then there’s spending time with the founders of the company so that you can mold it to what you want it to be.”
VeriJet also just completed a redesign of its website, where customers can directly book flights without having to go through a broker. A mobile application is also on the way with VeriJet just waiting on Apply Pay functionality before it takes to the App Store.
One company is bridging the price gap between flying first class and flying private and opening up the glitzy side of aviation to those that were traditionally priced out of it.
Set Jet is a membership-based private airline offering seats on a true private jet for as low as $449.95 one-way. Members pay a monthly fee of $99.95 and are given access to flights on 11 year-round routes throughout the American West.
The Scottsdale, Arizona-based company isn’t the first to sell seats on shared private aircraft but its founders say they’ve found a way to make the business model sustainable, and open up private flying to a larger audience. Having the monthly fee also discourages those that truly aren’t able to fly private from signing up, for which companies like JetSmarter were infamous.
How it works
Only Set Jet members can fly on Set Jet aircraft and a limited number of memberships are available in each market so flyers can get a seat when they want. Anyone can sign up for a membership and the only initiation fee is a one-time “security fee” of $99.95.
Members can then initiate or buy seats on flights throughout Set Jet’s network, which covers four states and Mexico. Flyers can book a seat up to 30 minutes before a flight’s scheduled departure time.
Not are routes are operated daily, though, and some as offered as little as twice-weekly. Once a flight is initiated, Set Jet will perform it even if there’s just one person onboard paying that’s paying $449.95.
Set Jet’s flagship jet is the Bombardier Challenger 850 that rivals in size to wide-cabin Gulfstream or Dassault aircraft. The cabin is tall enough for most to stand up in and as many as 19 people can be seated comfortably.
Private terminals are used at all destinations to complete the private jet experience. Security checkpoints are non-existent and flyers can arrive just minutes before the flight’s scheduled departure.
How Set Jet makes money
Set Jet has the heart of a low-cost airline that’s offering an incredibly luxurious product, and its choice of aircraft is the perfect example. Buying parts for Challenger 850s is cheaper because of the aircraft’s second life as an airliner known as the CRJ200.
“If you go to buy a set of brakes for a Challenger 604 and you tell them you’re buying them for a Challenger 604, it’s going to be a $55,000 set of brakes,” Trey Smith, Set Jet’s chief operating officer, told Insider. “You go to buy a set of brakes for a CRJ200 – same brakes, same part, different part number – it’s $5,000.”
Thousands of memberships offset the cost per passenger and memberships have skyrocketed during the pandemic. “We did see a lot of new memberships that were from people who normally would never have flown with us but they were looking for alternatives to commercial travel because of COVID,” Smith said.
Smith says that it’s easy for wealthier clients to purchase one and forget about it, attributing to a low attrition rate during the pandemic.
Set Jet is eyeing new markets like the Texas triangle and the Northeast. One route launching in the next year will be between New York and Los Angeles.
A higher membership tier will be required, costing $1,000 per month, and the price of a one-way fare will be $3,500. The Embraer Lineage 1000, the private jet version of the Embraer E190, will fly that route.
Having elite status on Delta Air Lines just got a whole lot more lucrative.
Delta’s most frequent flyers enjoy special privileges, chief among them are complimentary first class upgrades. But they’ve been harder to come by during the pandemic.
The airline’s seat-blocking policy also applied to first class seats on narrow-body where the configuration is 2-2. A 16-seat first class cabin, for example, became an eight-seat cabin.
It made getting an upgrade especially hard for Silver Medallions like myself, the term for members on the lowest rung of Delta’s Medallion elite status program.
The seat-blocking policy ended on May 1, however, opening up all seats on Delta’s aircraft, including those in first class.
I flew Delta on the first day that seats were filled. Here’s what it was like as an elite status holder.
Flying home from Phoenix to New York, I picked my flights very carefully to have the best chance of an upgrade while spending as little money as possible.
I chose a flight from Phoenix to Minneapolis on a Boeing 767-400ER wide-body aircraft connecting to a New York flight on an Airbus A320. Both had first class cabins that were pretty empty when I booked, so I was confident I’d get an upgrade on at least one flight.
Delta has been deploying more wide-body aircraft like the Boeing 767 on domestic routes, and they offer the best chance of an upgrade.
With the flights booked, all I could do was wait. Silver Medallions don’t get upgraded until the flight is within 24 hours from departure.
Fast forward to the departure day, I checked into the first flight and was number four of five on the upgrade list with five seats available. It was looking good that I’d get one of the coveted seats but Delta wasn’t going to give it up that easily.
I was almost immediately upgraded into Delta Comfort+, an extra legroom section of the plane that also comes with complimentary alcohol. Delta was selling seats in the cabin for $84.93, so the value of my trip had instantly increased with the upgrade.
A Comfort+ upgrade would’ve been fine on its own as Delta uses larger recliner seats in the cabin on its retrofitted Boeing 767-400ER planes. It’s basically the equivalent of a first class seat on a smaller plane, and the cabin is arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration.
The flight from Minneapolis was also looking surprisingly good for an upgrade as the cabin hadn’t filled up. Minneapolis-New York is a business traveler-heavy route and this was a Saturday night, so I had a better shot.
I arrived at the airport the next morning with no confirmed upgrade for the first flight, even though I was still in good standing on the upgrade list. This didn’t affect my airport experience much, though, as elite status holders still have access to many of the same airport perks as first class flyers.
Not even the gate agent could tell me if my upgrade had cleared when I inquired before boarding. It was clear that it was going to come down to the famous boarding-time upgrade for which Delta is known.
Lo-and-behold, I scanned my boarding pass and out came a little slip of paper with my new seat number, 9D.
Just like that, I turned left into the aircraft and the entire flight changed for me. The value of my trip shot up to more than what I paid for my economy ticket.
Delta wanted $385.93 for this upgrade just a few days before departure, which is more than what I paid for my economy seat. The new value of my $221.80 ticket was now $607.73.
And in terms of upgrades, this was like hitting the jackpot. The Boeing 767-400ERs are intended for long-haul international flights and as such, its first class cabins feature Delta’s newest seats.
The seat had fully lie-flat capabilities, no seat neighbor, and a direct line of sight to the window. It was my own personal cocoon for the three-hour flight to Minneapolis.
If it wasn’t for the passenger across from me, it would have felt like I was the only one on the plane. That’s how private these seats are.
But flying first class during a pandemic is a far cry from normal times. Delta, for example, has cut services like the pre-departure hot towel and beverage. Purell wipes are given instead.
The in-flight service soon started after we got airborne. Flight attendants took orders individually for the drink and snack service.
This flight would’ve normally yielded a hot meal but only snack boxes were on offer, as part of Delta’s modified service.
A larger selection of drinks was available, however, including soft drinks, coffee, tea, beer, wine, spirits, and mixed drinks.
A choice of two snack boxes was available and I ordered both, for the purposes of this story.
First up was the bistro snack box. It was packed with goodies like gummy bears, potato chips, a meat stick, Tic Tacs, a cheese spread, Oreo cookies, a Kind bar, and crackers.
The market snack box then included popped chips, almonds, beef jerky, a protein bar, a Ghirardelli chocolate,
Both had some great items but didn’t impress me much. Similar snack boxes were sold in economy for around $10 before the pandemic.
The seat itself did most of the work on this flight, and I used the lie-flat capability to its fullest. After finishing the meal, I reclined all the way flat and got some well-needed rest.
The Twin Cities shortly came into view after an incredible relaxing flight, and my time with the seat soon came to an end.
After a four-hour layover spent in the Delta Sky Club, I headed to my next gate. Minneapolis airport was incredibly quiet, and that had tracked with my flight being empty.
A total of 79 seats went empty, with 10 empty seats in first class alone.
My upgrade had cleared at pretty much the 24-hour mark before my flight, and I had my pick of seats.
These seats were nothing like the modern lie-flat seats on the Boeing 767, but they were as comfortable as they looked.
Delta wanted $192.43 for this upgrade meaning the value of my $221.80 ticket was now $800.16.
After an hour-long delay, we took off into the Minnesota sky. There was no pre-departure service, just like the previous flight, but the service started quickly after takeoff.
The cabin was less than half full so it didn’t take long for the flight attendant to reach me. I ordered an old fashioned and both snack boxes.
The mixed drink came first and this time, it was pre-poured but still in a plastic cup. I really enjoyed it.
Ordering both snack boxes again, I got to pick and choose from each which snacks to eat. If Delta is reading and decides to add this hybrid snack box to the menu, please call it “Tom’s snack box.”
The rest of the flight continued uneventfully as we progressed towards New York. I was the epitome of relaxed as I enjoyed the in-flight entertainment from the comfort of my oversized recliner.
But the flight soon came to an end, and the experience was over.
In total, the value of my $221.80 ticket ultimately shot up to $800.16, and I didn’t have to do a thing.
The upper echelons of airline frequent flyer programs have historically been reserved for airlines’ most frequent flyers and top spenders. But airlines, eager to get their top flyers back in the air, are making it easier for more travelers to reach the coveted levels of status, and all the perks that come with it.
United Airlines and Delta Air Lines have rolled out new programs that help speed along the process. And the result will be flyers spending fewer dollars and less time in the air in order to join or renew their membership in the elite status club.
The minimum spending amount to earn elite status on Delta, known as “minimum qualifying dollars” or MQDs is $3,000. A flyer will also have to fly at least 25,000 miles, known as “minimum qualifying miles” or MQMs, or 30 flight segments, known as “minimum qualifying segments” or MQS, to qualify.
Flyers booking tickets in economy will earn 50 percent more MQDs, MQMs, and MQSs with each flight. Those that pay more for Delta Comfort+, Delta One business class, first class, or Premium Select premium economy seats will earn 75 percent more of each category.
Delta customers that book their tickets using SkyMiles, also known as award tickets, will also earn credits towards qualifying for status. Award tickets are traditionally exempt from counting towards status on most airlines because no revenue is being earned, so this is a major shift from Delta.
Tickets that are purchased using a combination of cash and miles will also count towards qualification.
Delta’s is largely egalitarian and even members on the lowest rung of the elite status ladder – known as Silver Medallion – can be upgraded to first class on any domestic US flight if seats are available.
Other perks of earning elite status with Delta include a free checked bag, access to priority check-in and boarding lines, dedicated phone lines, and complimentary lounge access, depending on the level of status.
United’s MileagePlus program is similar to Delta’s where flyers have to earn a certain number of premier qualifying points, or PQPs, while also flying a certain number of flights to qualify for elite status. Those thresholds were lowered by United in November, however, to make elite status more easily attainable.
Attaining Premier Silver status, for example, only requires 3,000 PQPs and eight flights. That’s down from 4,000 PQPs and 12 flights.
All MileagePlus members will earn bonus PQPs for their first three trips to kickstart the process while existing Premier members received 25 percent of the PQPs required for their status level at the beginning of the year.
From there, MileagePlus Premier members had an opportunity to pick between receiving another 25 percent of the required PQPs for their status level after three trips or have 10 percent of the required PQPs deposited with no travel required. The latter option was meant for flyers that didn’t plan on flying before the promotion’s expiration date.
United offers a similar upgrade model to Delta where any elite status holder can receive an upgrade if there are seats on most domestic flights. Additional perks of having elite status with United include a free checked bag, access to priority check-in and boarding lines, and dedicated phone lines.
Both models make it easier for all flyers to earn elite status while United’s is slightly geared toward helping existing elite flyers keep their status. Both strategies differ, however, from last year when airlines simply extended status levels through 2021.
But now, airlines are giving frequent flyers a reason to get back in the air and start flying again.
Here are all the options travelers have when flying between New York and the Massachusetts Islands this summer.
Three major airlines serve Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket from New York’s three area airports and Westchester County Airport north of the city. Flying commercial is often the least expensive option, especially with a mix of carriers on the routes.
JetBlue Airways offers the greatest variety of service to the islands with flights from John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, and Westchester County Airport. Flights use JetBlue’s Embraer E190 aircraft, and one-way fares can be as low as $75.
Delta Air Lines also offers flights from JFK and LaGuardia to both islands on regional jets. One-way fares are as low as $85, and first class is offered for a premium on some days.
United Airlines is offering non-stop flights only between Newark and Nantucket. It also uses regional jets, and schedules show United will deploy its swankiest of them all, the Bombardier CRJ550, with 10 first class seats, 20 “Economy Plus” extra-legroom seats, and 20 standard economy seats.
Elite Airways is the newest carrier to offer service between New York and Massachusetts, with flights from Westchester to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard starting Memorial Day weekend. The carrier is set to use Bombardier regional jets on the routes with fares starting as low as $129.
The airline also boasts complimentary amenities like a free checked bag, advanced seat assignments, and onboard snacks and drinks.
One of America’s largest independent regional airlines, Cape Air, offers a semi-private experience between New York and the New England coast.
Five routes are offered from New York – three from Westchester and two from JFK. Both airports offer flights to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, with service to Provincetown, Massachusetts also available from Westchester. Service differs depending on the departure airport.
Flights to and from Westchester use a private terminal away from the airport’s main commercial terminal. At JFK, flights use Terminal 5, which JetBlue also uses.
Cape Air flights between New York and Massachusetts use Cessna 402 twin-engine piston aircraft with no WiFi or in-flight entertainment, and often no co-pilot. It’s truly a back-to-basics experience but does the trick on short flights. Passengers can also request to sit in the cockpit if there’s no co-pilot.
But even with the basic aircraft and a single pilot, one-way fares for the summer often run more than $200.
Helicopter company Blade offers weekender flights between Westchester and the Massachusetts Islands using Pilatus PC-12 turboprop aircraft starting May 27. Flights to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket are available and use private terminals on both ends of the journey.
One-way fares start at $725 plus tax and do not require a membership.
Wheels Up, a membership-based private aviation firm, is resuming its Nantucket shuttle from Westchester starting Memorial Day weekend. Travelers can purchase seats on its Beechcraft King Air 350i turboprop aircraft for $795, with flights departing on Fridays at 5 p.m. and returning on Sundays at 5 p.m.
Flights use private terminals at both ends of the journey, so flyers can skip the security checkpoint. One carry-on bag, or a set of golf clubs, is permitted.
However, the shuttle is only available to Wheels Up members. There are three tiers of annual memberships, with the most basic “connect membership” costing $2,495 per year and a one-time initiation fee of $2,995.
Private aviation firm Tradewind Aviation is also resuming shuttle services between Westchester and Massachusetts.
The company uses single-engine Pilatus PC-12 turboprop aircraft with luxurious interiors that feature executive-style leather seats. Tradewind flights use private terminals on both ends of the journey.
Prices and flight times vary day to day, but one-way fares are often between $400 and $1,000.
Dassault Aviation is finally catching up to its competitors.
The French aircraft manufacturer just unveiled the latest in its line of Falcon business jets, including its $75 million flagship, the Falcon 10X.
The largest and widest business aircraft that Dassault has ever produced, the Falcon 10X aims to be a long-range leader after the company fell behind competitors Bombardier and Gulfstream in the ultra-long-range category.
An aircraft intended to fly for more than 15 hours needs to be, at the very least, comfortable. At nine feet and one inch, the Falcon 10X’s cabin is the widest of any of the ultra-long-range business jets from Dassault, Gulfstream, and Bombardier.
Rival aircraft top out at eight feet and two inches, the width of the Gulfstream G700.
The Falcon 10X also boasts the tallest cabin among its competitors with a height of six feet and eight inches.
The cabin can be divided into four areas, each with unique touches. “Comfort and productivity” were guiding principles in designing the living areas, Carlos Brana, Dassault’s executive vice president for civil aviation, told Insider.
A staple on any wide-cabin private jet, the Falcon 10X also features a dining and conference area that can be used for meals or meetings.
Even the galley kitchen is used as a living area, with the crew rest area doubling as a seat. Unlike other private jets, two windows illuminate the kitchen with natural light and open the space that’s traditionally reserved as a work area for cabin attendants.
Aircraft owners can also opt for another seat in the bedroom to act as an office or a private setting for meals. “We created an apartment, a penthouse in the sky,” Agnès Gervais, Dassault’s head of industrial design, said.
Fresh, filtered air will also be flowing through the cabin. “Our goal is to make sure that when [passengers] exit the airplane, they are fresh, rested, relaxed, and they can go to the next stage of their trip,” Brana said.
Four high-definition displays give pilots information and are flanked by flight computers. Honeywell Aerospace also provided a lot of safety features including synthetic vision, airport moving maps, and a runway overrun awareness system.
Dassault was also able to use technology found on its Rafale fighter jet aircraft in the Falcon 10X.
Engine thrust is controlled by a single lever, despite the aircraft having two engines, just like on the Rafale
And pilots have heads-up displays that can help navigate through poor weather.
Side-stick controls have replaced standard control yokes, and the Falcon 10X also features digital fly-by-wire controls to improve safety. A button on each side of the cockpit can steady the plane in the event of unusual turbulence.
Both cockpit seats are also designed to lay fully flat to form a bed and eventually act as a crew rest area for one of the pilots.
That’s not allowed just yet as two pilots have to be flying at all times, but increased automation is leading to fewer pilots being needed in the cockpit in the future.
“Our objective is to drastically reduce workload while still be able to adapt to the challenges of air traffic control,” Philippe Duchateau, Dassault’s chief test pilot, said.
Powering the Falcon 10X are two Rolls-Royce Perl 10X engines producing more than 18,000 pounds of thrust each and offering a top speed of Mach .925.
It’s the first time that Dassault has called upon Rolls-Royce for Falcon jet aircraft engine. “We strongly believe that Rolls-Royce has the right competencies, the right technology in order to design this engine to be fitted for us,” Éric Trappier, Dassault’s chief executive officer, said.
Every city pair in the world is accessible with just one stop and non-stop city pairs include long flights like New York-Johannesburg, South Africa; Paris, France-Santiago, Chile; and Hong Kong-Atlanta, meaning fewer stops for travelers.
Las Vegas is home to one of American Express’ 14 Centurion Lounges, widely considered to be the gold standard of airport lounges because of their high-end offerings including complimentary and meticulous crafted food items and alcoholic beverages.
The lounge is located in the airport’s D gate concourse, home to United Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and JetBlue Airways, among others.
Passenger on any airline can access the lounge, however, if they have the American Express Platinum or Centurion card. American Express Delta Skymiles Reserve cardholders can also use the lounge when flying Delta or a Delta-marketed flight.
I had a six-hour layover in the airport so I headed straight to the lounge. Departing passengers are normally only allowed to enter within three hours of their flight but connecting passengers are exempt from that rule.
Here’s what it was like inside the Las Vegas Centurion Lounge.
I checked into the lounge using digital check-in via the American Express mobile application and was given a QR code to show the agent. I only had to show my boarding pass and identification as the agent saw my check-in on her end.
Within seconds, I was inside one of the most exclusive clubs in Las Vegas. Greeting me was this portrait of a dog resting on an American Express trunk accompanying two black armchairs, a staple of the Centurion Lounge that can be found in every location.
The lounge was moderately crowded and employees, as a result, were escorting guests to particular seats to help ensure distancing.
I was asked if I wanted to sit in one of the main seating areas….
Or the dining area. I chose the former to take advantage of the more comfortable seating.
I was traveling alone so I was given one of these cushioned cubbies, complete with my own table.
Capacity in the lounge is limited due to the pandemic so certain seating areas are blocked.
Along the wall where I was sitting, for example, every other cubby was blocked.
It created an extra degree of privacy and meant I had more room to store my bags, and another table to hold my laptop while I ate lunch.
Once I got settled, I headed over to the buffet to get something to eat. These lounges are known for having good eats with menus crafted from local chefs. Chef Kim Canteenwalla had designed this menu.
The offering was quite extensive and better than what I’d seen in competing airline lounges even before the pandemic. Light options included a chopped bacon, lettuce, and tomato salad…
Butternut squash soup…
And mango cranberry couscous.
Hot items included kale pesto pasta…
And chimichurri fingerling potatoes.
And for desert, peach cobbler was on offer.
Healthier options included fruits like apples, pears, and bananas. Cookies and honey mustard pretzels were also on offer but not many snacks were available other than that.
All in all, it was some of the best airport food I’ve ever had. Every item was bursting with flavor and made for a great meal.
And of course, the full bar is another big selling feature of the lounge as drinks are complimentary.
The main bar was closed but this makeshift bar still did the trick. Most common cocktails can be ordered at the bar but American Express’ in-house mixologist, Jim Meehan, also crafts specialty drinks for each location.
One such drink was the “air mail,” a sparkling wine drink with rum, honey syrup, and lime juice.
Plexiglass partitions were also erected at the bar for social distancing.
After having lunch, I walked around the more than 13,000 square foot space. American Express just recently renovated the lounge and it showed.
The decor was very modern and very Las Vegas. It made me feel like I was in the heart of the Strip despite only being at the airport.
Large sections of the lounge were blocked off but other sections included a sprawling conference table and more private seating.
These lounges often lend themselves well to social distancing with high-walled chairs since privacy is a huge draw for discerning travelers.
There are even private phone rooms that are enclosed for maximum privacy.
I also discovered somewhat of a hidden room in the back of the lounge.
It didn’t have any windows but was well-lit and has its own television.
The lounge’s family room was, however, off-limits due to the pandemic.
Roped-off areas were opened once the lounge was sufficiently crowded. It wasn’t uncommon before the pandemic to see these lounges filled to the brim.
Departure information screens could also be found throughout the lounge so passengers could stay up to date on the status of their next flight.
Aviation enthusiasts will enjoy one of the seating areas near the window as a variety of aircraft can be spotted.
Hot beverages were also available with multi-beverage coffee machines capable of making anything from a standard cup of coffee to espresso, cappuccino, hot chocolate, and anything in between.
A selection of teas was also available with hot water.
Visiting this lounge made my six-hour layover go by in what felt like an instant.
The only downside is that it closes at 3 p.m., at which point the only other lounge available to passengers in the terminal is The Club LAS.
But for the few hours I got to spend in the lounge, I can say that it will become a staple on my future visits to Las Vegas.
The renovations and superior offering make it a jewel in the Centurion Lounge network.
PS opened in 2017 as the Private Suite, a one-of-a-kind private terminal at one of the country’s busiest airports. Like most travel and hospitality companies, business was down at the pandemic’s peak in 2020 as would-be travelers stayed at home amid lockdowns.
But just over one full year since lockdowns began, PS is reporting a resurgence in new memberships from flyers getting ready to travel.
Amina Belouizdad, PS’ co-chief executive officer, told Insider that memberships have surged and the company has signed on more new members than it had before the pandemic. Annual membership costs $4,500 but the wealthy are scooping them up, even if they don’t have upcoming travel planned.
“I think people want to have peace of mind that they have access to this,” Belouizdad said. “It’s a signal of customer sentiment, is what it is. People are saying, ‘I’m expecting to travel over the next year, I want to make sure me and my family can do it safely.'”
And with that in mind, PS is embarking on a redesign for its Los Angeles flagship terminal to welcome back travelers with a new look. I stopped by PS on a recent layover in Los Angeles, here’s what it was like.
The major appeal of PS is avoiding the commercial terminal at LAX entirely, and that’s only increased during the pandemic. Memberships are up as the wealthy want guaranteed access, even if they don’t have plans to fly in the near future.
For those arriving at LAX by plane, the experience starts with a chauffeured car. PS representatives wait in the jetway to meet guests as soon as they step off of their flights, and promptly escort them to an awaiting vehicle below.
PS has a fleet of vehicles available to use depending on group size but the flagship is the BMW 750i. Ideal for one to two passengers, the classic all-white sedan features an executive configuration for passengers in the back.
The car is loaded with luxurious amenities including leather seats with recline functionality to individual climate control for passengers in the back.
There are even seat-back entertainment screens from which the SiriusXM radio can be controlled.
Then, it’s around a 10 to 15-minute drive to PS, located on the south side of the airport. As two runways separate the facility from the commercial terminals, drivers have to go all the way around the airport while obeying the airport’s modest speed limit
As an aviation enthusiast, however, I wish the drive lasted longer as we were right alongside moving aircraft for most of the drive.
Behemoth jets like the Boeing 747 were just outside the window, departing and landing just feet from the car.
It was like getting a private tour of the airport all while traveling at the height of luxury.
Upon arrival at PS, it’s just a short walk down a private hallway into the facility. Everything from reservations to payment is done online so there’s no checking in or waiting in line. I didn’t even see another guest for the entirety of my stay.
There are 13 suites in total at PS. Not all have received the redesign but that project is expected to be completed within the next six months.
I walked into the suite and felt as if I’d just checked into a luxury hotel.
It was incredibly modern and above any private lounge that I’ve seen at an airport. Members pay $3,250 per visit while non-members pay $4,350 per visit for up to four travelers.
The suites aren’t as large as a hotel suite but are comparable in size to a New York City studio apartment and include spacious living areas, wet bars, fully-stocked mini-fridges, and private bathrooms, among other features.
PS takes a personal touch when dealing with guests. A handwritten note is left for guests welcoming them to the facility and detailing what they can expect from the stay.
A massive high-definition television with DirecTV serves as the main entertainment for the suite, helping pass the time until a flight.
Guests can also make use of the in-suite phone and stationary. PS staff use the phone to communicate with guests and keep them informed on their departure information.
This quasi-kitchen and wet bar are where all of the suite’s food and beverage items can be found.
A selection of high-end snacks, liquors, and wines were all on offer and available free of charge to guests.
Snacks included pistachios, almonds, keto-friendly cereal, and water crackers, to name just a few.
Guests are also encouraged to take snacks with them on the plane and given this blue box to do so.
The fridge contained chilled soft drinks, waters, milk, alcoholic beverages, and even some more snacks. A guest here will truly want for nothing as everything is at their fingertips.
Those making cocktails can use the bar station and the pre-filled bucket of ice.
And there was no shortage of glasses, cups, and dishes to use when dining.
Complimentary travel accessories were also scattered across the suite including noise-isolating headphones, headphone splitters, and charging cables.
The luxury continued into the restroom complete with marble floors and vanities, as well as gold-plated sink faucets.
And the complimentary amenities kept on coming with everything a traveler would need to freshen up before a flight.
There was even a selection of over-the-counter medications on offer if a traveler is feeling unwell or just wants a dose of Vitamin C to boost the immune system while traveling.
The suite design is the result of a partnership with Cliff Fong, a renowned design consultant, and it really felt like home instead of a transient space.
“Our vision was always like, let’s create a space that feels residential, that feels like their home, that doesn’t feel like the airport, that doesn’t feel like a commercial space, that feels very familiar and collected,” Belouizdad said.
The suite window overlooked the airfield, as well as the PS fleet of luxury vehicles. The firm also offers a new service, called PS Direct, where flyers can be taken straight from their domestic flights to their final destination and avoid both the commercial terminal and the PS facility altogether.
Directly adjacent to the suite is an outdoor patio with benches and chairs to enjoy a bit of the outdoors before heading off on a plane for however many hours.
Suite 13 is often the most sought after since it includes this private outdoor space, accessible via a sliding door from the living room.
Meals are included in the stay and everything comes pre-packaged for sanitary reasons.
The current menu is largely focused on Los Angeles-inspired meals, mainly salads and sandwiches, for lunch and dinner.
I sampled the Peruvian steak sandwich and the chicken and prosciutto salad. Both were bursting with flavor and better than most of what’s available even in LAX’s premium lounges.
It really came as no surprise that the wealthy are buying up access to the facility since staying here was so much more enjoyable than any airport experience I’ve had in years.
For me, I found the true luxury of the suite wasn’t the complimentary goodies that were offered but that it was a quiet place to relax during a long layover nestled into an already long day of travel. Suites also feature a sleep kit with eyeshades and earplugs.
When it was time to leave, PS staff came to the suite and escorted me to the in-house Transportation and Security Administration checkpoint. There’s no line and TSA PreCheck was available.
Then, it was just a short drive back to the commercial terminals and my awaiting JetBlue Airways flight.
PS Direct lets travelers skip the terminal entirely, including the PS private terminal, and head straight to their final destination just moments after stepping off of their commercial flight. That means no more waiting in taxi lines or walking through a crowded terminal to find one’s driver.
A PS representative greets passengers in the jetway and escorts them directly to the airport tarmac where their stylish BMW 750i awaits. The four-seater sedans feature executive passenger seating complete with seat-back entertainment screens, recline functionality, seat-warming capabilities, individual climate control, and a sunroof, to name just a few amenities.
Only PS annual members have access to the service and just a single ride incurs a fee of $3,450, which is $200 more than the cost of booking a luxurious suite at the facility. A yearly membership at PS costs $4,500 and comes with benefits like complimentary valet parking, free spa services (not available during the pandemic), and priority reservations when booking suites.
Amina Belouizdad, co-CEO at PS, told Insider that the higher price point for the service compared to its suites comes as a result of the cost of licensing for its drivers and other expenses associated with launching the service.
For frequent PS users, the experience will be largely similar to what they’re accustomed to when frequenting the suites except they’ll just skip the private terminal be driven straight to their homes, hotels, or wherever they’re staying in Los Angeles. Even those flyers that have checked bags can skip baggage claim and use the service.
“If you’ve checked bags, you wait five minutes on average in the BMW while we retrieve your bags from the plane, put them in the trunk of your car, and then we drive you straight home,” Belouizdad said.
The service is currently only available when arriving on a domestic flight. PS has its own US Customs and Border Protection facilities that inbound arrivals can use but that requires a stop in the private terminal.
Planeside pickups have historically been a benefit of flying private but PS is the first to make it available for commercial flights in the US, an impressive feat considering the heightened security environment that exists at bustling international airports like LAX.
I earned elite status on Delta Air Lines in late 2019, just a few months before the pandemic grounded even the most frequent flyers. My first experiment flying with status in February 2020 earned me hundreds of dollars in free extras like upgrades to first class and more legroom seats.
Enjoying the perks of the status during the pandemic, however, has been harder as Delta is blocking middle seats and adjacent seats in first class. It’s an easy trade-off to make when it comes to safety but means fewer upgrades to the premium cabins.
Delta, like most major US airlines, extended its members’ elite status for an extra year and gave frequent flyers like me more time to enjoy the perks. On a recent trip, I took three Delta flights to see how far having status would get me, even as a lowly Silver Medallion as those in the first rung of the program are called.
I flew from Houston, Texas to New York via Salt Lake City and Los Angeles on a variety of aircraft to see just how much more I’d get from my fare by sticking with Delta during the pandemic.
Here’s what I found.
Having elite status on Delta comes with a variety of free perks ranging from first class upgrades to checked bags.
And as any elite will likely say, the upgrades are the most sought after as they can be the best bang for you buck and can instantly elevate a trip. Even Silver Medallions can get upgraded to first class, as I found on a February 2020 trip to Orlando.
Coming home from a trip in February, I booked three flights on Delta for a total of $139.50 which meant three opportunities for upgrades either into first class or Delta Comfort+, an extra legroom section of economy.
The real prize, however, would be to get an upgrade on the longest of my flights, from Los Angeles to New York. Delta classifies this route as “Delta One” and the Boeing 767-400 operating the flight featured brand-new first class seats.
The upgrade window for Silver Medallion opens 24 hours before departure for each flight. But that didn’t stop me from checking the seat maps on my flights every day leading up to the flight to check my odds.
My first flight was from Houston to Salt Lake City on Delta’s Airbus A220-300, the newest aircraft in its fleet.
With the new seat-blocking policy, the normally 30-seat Comfort+ cabin was reduced to 16 seats…
And first class was down from 12 seats to only six. I might’ve had a good chance to get upgraded into first class in normal times but it was seemingly impossible now.
My flight was departing at 7:50 a.m. so I made sure to check in exactly at the 24-hour mark to see if I had scored the upgrade. The odds were quickly stacked against me as I soon found myself number nine out of nine for a first class upgrade with one seat available.
I was able to snag a Comfort+ upgrade, however, valued at $45.
The upgrade yielded me a window seat in the second-row of the cabin. This normally would also mean being one of the first people on the plane but Delta now boards from the back to the front due to the pandemic.
These seats offer 34 inches of pitch, giving me some extra room to stretch out during the three-hour flight to Utah.
Once airborne, flight attendants began the in-flight service. Comfort+ typically receives “premium” snacks but all economy passengers now receive a snack bag, with mine featuring Biscoff cookies and Goldfish.
Complimentary alcohol, however, is a perk that’s surprisingly survived the pandemic service cuts. It was a bit early for me so I held off but was shocked that I could order a beer and not a soda.
While it wasn’t first class, the Comfort+ upgrade combined with the empty middle seat made for a great flight to Salt Lake City. And come time to deplane, I was off relatively quickly.
My $139.50 ticket was now worth $184.50 thanks to the $45 upgrade.
My next flight was from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles, a quick one-hour hop on a slightly larger Boeing 737-900ER. The total number of available first class seats on this aircraft is 10, and 14 in Comfort+ under the seat blocking policy.
I thought I had a better chance of a first class upgrade on this one but I was sadly mistaken. I was number five on the upgrade list out of five with three seats open.
I did manage to get another upgrade to Comfort+ pretty quickly after departure, valued at $24. Once again, I got a window seat with the middle seat open.
The aisle seat also ended up staying open, as luck would have it, giving me an entire row to myself. This upgrade was almost proving to be equal to first class.
The quick flight to Los Angeles meant only an hour to enjoy the upgrade but I did take advantage of the complimentary alcohol.
And naturally, I was one of the first to “hop off the plane at LAX.” The total value of my $139.50 ticket was now $208.50 thanks to the $24 upgrade, with one flight to go.
The next flight was the big one, Los Angeles to New York on one of Delta’s largest jets.
I was already upgraded to Comfort+ and that would’ve been a fine consolation. Comfort+ seats on this jet were the equivalent of domestic first class seats on Delta’s smaller jets.
But I was striving for Delta One and the odds were in my favor as no seats were blocked for social distancing in the 34-seat premium cabin. I was 16 of 19 on the upgrade list leading up to departure.
I was hoping to get an early upgrade so I could use the Delta Sky Club, which is open to domestic Delta One passengers, but it was looking like I’d get the infamous gate upgrade.
Delta sometimes tries to wait until the very last second to sell an upgrade and those on the upgrade list won’t know they’ve been upgraded until they literally scan their boarding passes.
And that’s exactly what happened to me. I was assigned seat 8D in Delta One.
First class was allowed to board first and I turned left into the immaculate cabin. Delta primarily uses this jet to fly to Europe and South America but the pandemic had luckily relegated it to primarily domestic routes like this one.
My seat was away from the aisle and offered additional privacy.
I immediately got to work playing with all of its features, including the big in-flight entertainment screen.
Among other amenities, the seat came with a pillow and comforter…
And power outlets.
It was safe to say that this was going to be a good flight.
We quickly departed from Los Angeles and it was clear that this wasn’t going to be a typical first class flight. Even in Delta One, there were no hot towels, meals, or champagne, par for the course during the pandemic.
Flight attendants instead offered us the standard snack bag and some snack boxes. I chose the meat and cheese kit.
Complimentary alcohol was also on offer but nothing more than beer and wine.
I settled in for the flight just fine and did my best to stay awake after an already long day so that I could enjoy the experience. Day quickly turned to night and the mood lights in the cabin activated, making for an incredibly relaxing ambiance.
The in-flight entertainment screen had no shortage of selections and I watched Tenet and Citizen Kane all the way to New York.
Delta was charging $799 extra for this seat and I was able to get it for free. The new value of my $139.50 ticket was $1,007.50.
Would I have snagged this upgrade in normal times? Almost certainly not.
Getting a first class upgrade as a Silver Medallion proved to be harder during the pandemic than in normal times but getting at least one flight in the premium cabin made it all worth it.
Delta is “upgauging,” or placing larger aircraft, on more domestic routes that increase a frequent flyer’s chance of an upgrade but getting bumped to first class is few and far between for those lower in the program thanks to the seat-blocking policy.
April 30, however, is the current expiration date for that policy (unless Delta extends it again) at which point it may be easier for elites to snag a first class seat. Until then, the best way to first class is to either buy a ticket in the cabin or seek out the airline’s largest aircraft.