Narrator: Airports suck. Camping out in customs lines, sprinting a mile to your gate, it’s the worst and the furthest thing from luxury. But imagine you had some extra cash saved up, would you spend it to skip all of that airport madness? Well, that’s what the minds behind America’s very first private terminal are betting on. In 2017, The Private Suite opened up at LAX. And for $4,000 per international flight, guests get access to a luxurious, super secure, private terminal just two miles from the normal one.
Amina: At LAX, it takes about 2,200 steps to get from the check-in counter to your plane door. For us, it takes 70 steps.
Narrator: Each year, thousands of the world’s millionaires and celebrities relax between flights in the terminal’s 12 individual suites. The Private Suite coordinates with 70 airlines, has an onsite TSA check, and owns a fleet of BMWs that drives travelers right to their planes. So what’s it like inside the place claiming to make travel not only easy but enjoyable? We had our LA team go and check out The Private Suite themselves.
Caroline: Hello, so I just arrived to The Private Suite at LAX. And there is a lot of security, like when you pull in, they asked for my ID, and this guy in like a bulletproof vest. So it is very highly secured. I am going to pretend I am very affluent for an hour.
Narrator: When you first pull up, you enter through these ominous gates with armed guards and a sign warning no filming is allowed. Right away, you’re assigned a logistics team of eight people. They take care of everything during your stay from valeting and detailing your car to checking in your baggage. And don’t worry about missing your flight, the team’s watching the clock. When you enter the terminal, there’s no check-in. You’re escorted straight to your private suite.
Caroline: Wow. Oh, my gosh, it’s like your private hotel room.
Narrator: Each suite has a fully stocked kitchenette loaded with snacks. You can also order food off a curated menu ahead of time, so it’s ready when you arrive.
Caroline: Oh, my gosh, they have food. It’s not like the fast food options you get at the airport. You get, like, healthier options. This is exactly what I ordered. Narrator: There’s a minibar with spirits, Champagne, and white wine. You can get red wine upon request. There’s even a candy wall.
Caroline: This is perfect for kids, but it’s also, like, perfect for me as an adult. We got M&M’s, chocolate-covered, I’m assuming they’re raisins, jelly beans, Hershey’s, and Skittles.
Narrator: All of the suites come with an en suite bathroom stocked with toiletries. There’s no shower in these, but the members can utilize the spa shower just down the hall. They can also book complimentary massages, manicures, or haircuts right in their suites. And in case you forgot something, each suite has pillows, power adapters, and travel accessories on hand. One of the suites even has a backyard complete with a putting green and cornhole. When your flight time approaches, your team will let you know it’s time to pack up. You’ll breeze through TSA in under a few minutes, and you don’t have to worry about bags, The Private Suite’s taken care of checking those in. Once cleared, you’ll hop on a 7 Series BMW that drives you the seven minutes across the tarmac to your flight.
Amina: When you’re driving, being driven through the airfield, you know, between the airplanes to your plane, that’s a really special kind of experience that frankly only we can deliver, and that’s something that, a memory that people take away with them all the time.
Narrator: So how does The Private Suite manage to cut down on travel times and still maintain privacy? With lots and lots of planning.
Amina: Most people don’t realize the operational complexity that happens in the background to even getting one member through here. For example, we have a control room. It looks like, you know, the NASA space center or something. We know exactly what container in the airplane your luggage is in before your airplane actually lands so that we can intercept your luggage and take it out for you before it hits the conveyor belt. That’s the kind of meticulous coordination that happens in the background every step of the way.
Narrator: Members of The Private Suite pay a yearly fee of $4,500 and an extra $3,000 per international flight, but you can utilize the suite even if you’re not a member. You won’t have a yearly fee, but you’ll pay between $500 and $1,000 more per flight.
Caroline: I can really see the benefits of being a member if you’re traveling a lot because I think that would decrease the price a little bit. But also, if you wanna splurge on a really fun trip that you’re taking with your friends, and you’re just like, “You know what, we saved up. We need to do this, like, the best way possible. Why don’t we just come in, come into the lounge, and just get on the flight with ease.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in March 2019.
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.