WE GOT A LOOK, $1000 PER VISIT
WE GOT A LOOK, $1000 PER VISIT
Travelers who take to the skies around the holidays are all too familiar with the typical toxic mix of jam-packed airports, unstaffed check-in counters, and congested security lanes. What if it were possible to travel through the busiest airports in the nation without ever entering the terminal, standing in a long TSA line, or entering the boarding gate mosh pit?WE GOT A LOOK, $1000 PER VISIT
Well, there is, if you book into a PS lounge (for private suite), a private terminal service that burst onto the scene in 2017 with a facility at Los Angeles International Airport. (Where else to debut a service for those who want to travel incognito?) PS is not, in fact, an airport lounge—it’s an alternative airport curb-to-aircraft experience, with its own security lane and customs screening, door-to-plane chauffeur service, plus first-class frills like champagne and caviar. In short, it’s a taste of the private jet lifestyle without the sky-high cost of flying private.
The cost of this taste isn’t cheap, however. A one-time visit starts at around $1,000. (The per-stay rate lowers if you buy a membership; see details below.) But aside from the expected VIPs from the business and entertainment worlds, PS clients also include leisure travelers who see it as a special occasion splurge, Amina Porter, PS CEO, told AFAR during an interview in Atlanta, where PS recently added its second lounge. In fact, PS is on a major growth path. “In five years, we will be in every major city,” said Porter. Next year, the company will open a third location at Dallas Fort Worth airport, followed by Miami in 2025.
In November, I had the opportunity to experience PS’s newest digs in both directions: the pickup service upon arrival, and the preflight visit and escort directly to the plane for the departure. Here are my main takeaways.
Arrival at Atlanta Hartsfield–Jackson Airport
My flight with Delta Air Lines from New York’s LaGuardia Airport landed ahead of schedule shortly after noon, but sure enough, a greeter with my name on a sign was standing on the jetway as I exited the plane to escort me to the promised ground transfer to the lounge. By habit I started to head toward the terminal but was quickly directed to a side door that led to a set of stairs. I carefully made my way down the narrow metal steps, wishing that I’d chosen to wear sneakers instead of low heels. I had a tote bag in addition to a purse and happily handed it over to my attendant.
A white BMW sedan was waiting on the tarmac and the driver did a masterful job of navigating around the tarmac and a sea of Delta jets, which loomed impressively large when viewed up close. It was a rare backlot tour of the world’s busiest airport, with its sprawling terminals and five runways. Ten minutes later, we pulled up at the PS facility, which is next door to a facility managed by Signature Aviation, an operator of private aviation terminals.
A PS private suite
Entering through the discreetly marked doors, I was led into a well-appointed Private Suite, one of three spacious rooms that can be booked by groups of up to four people, for $4,850 per stay. Solo travelers often choose the other, less pricey option, the Salon, a shared space that resembles a business-class lounge but without the crowds. The price is $1,095 per visit and includes additional PS perks.
For small groups, the elegantly appointed suites are an ideal refuge, offering total privacy and a raft of additional amenities. I was immediately offered a glass of champagne and a plate of caviar and blinis with sour cream, a ritual greeting that all PS guests can expect. For other ways to relax, PS offers a range of spa services that can be booked in advance for an added fee (unless you buy a membership). I opted for a 30-minute chair massage from the resident masseuse, but you can also get a manicure, pedicure, or even a haircut—right there in the room. And if you want to freshen up, there are bathrooms with showers and toiletries.
Lunch in the Salon
Alternatively, you can also select to spend your preflight time in the Salon, an airy space with expansive views of the airport, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows, and a wide range of reading materials, including newspapers and magazines. Here you can order a drink and a chef-prepared repast from an extensive menu of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and desserts. Since it was mid-November and in honor of the approaching holiday, I chose the “Gobbler,” a filling confection of roasted turkey, stuffing, and lingonberry coulis on a brioche. At first, I had the room to myself, but by midafternoon a few other guests had trickled in. Unlike the packed lounges at the airport, PS requires advance reservations and limits the number of visitors allowed in at one time; members get priority for bookings.
Similar to what I experienced on arrival, leaving the PS cocoon—however reluctantly—was a snap, especially since the PS staff had already made sure I was checked in right after I arrived. (If I’d had a checked bag, they would have taken it off my hands and checked it with the airline for me.) I had a brief encounter with a courteous TSA agent in a private screening area, with its own baggage scanner, after which I hopped in to the waiting BMW to head to the plane, which I again boarded via stairs that led right to the aircraft door. I drew some stares from the passengers waiting in a line that appeared to stretch all the way down the jetway. As someone who is usually in one of the last boarding groups, it felt a little like I’d just won the lottery.
The bottom line
For the occasional user, the one-time use charge of $1,095 is the best way to go, said CEO Amina Porter. For those who use PS more than twice a year, Porter suggests the All Access membership, which, for an annual fee of $4,850, allows users to access Private Suites for $3,550, or the Salon for $750 a pop. A membership includes priority reservations and complimentary services, like valet parking, a car wash, and spa services. There’s also a lower-cost Salon membership for an annual price of $1,250, which provides access to the Salon for $850 per visit and to a Private Suite for $4,850.
Given the price point, PS is clearly not for everyone, but for travelers who can and are willing to splurge, it is well worth the expense, said Paul Tumpowsky, CEO of Skylark Travel, a travel agency in New York City. Tumpowsky has several clients who have used the LAX facility. “If you think about how much a last-minute business-class ticket is on a long international flight, adding a thousand dollars onto the ticket price is not that much,” he said.
Furthermore, he added, for travelers who are concerned about personal security when they are traveling, the exclusive nature of the PS private terminals gives them an added sense of assurance. “Privacy is important to many people,” said Tumpowsky, “and this is a great way to remove the risk and have that top-notch experience.”
WE GOT A LOOK, $1000 PER VISIT
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