Tired of waiting for the United Polaris Lounge to open at LAX? Or maybe you just demand the ultimate in privacy during the airport experience. For those willing to pay the LAX Private Suites terminal delivers that exclusivity. Passengers avoid the terminal, traffic and TSA checkpoints in favor of personalized handling at a separate facility on airport grounds and a BMW 7-series ride to the aircraft. And now, thanks to a new deal with United Airlines, access to the LAX Private Suites is a bit more affordable, though still incredibly expensive.
Access to the LAX Private Suites facility typically comes with a $7,500 annual fee (or maybe $4,500, based on a different listing from United) plus a $2,700-3000 per use charge. The United arrangement waives the annual fee and slashes the per visit costs to $1,250 for a domestic trip or $1,495 for international flights. It can be booked for both arrivals and departures at LAX; in the case of international arrivals inbound CBP checks are handled at the private facility.
“We are excited to offer this new experience for our customers who are seeking additional efficiency, comfort, privacy and the ultimate service during their travels,” said Janet Lamkin, President, California, for United Airlines. “The partnership with The Private Suite affords our customers the opportunity to enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience that makes travel through LAX the best in class. As California’s global airline, our customers expect the best, and United is delivering on that promise.”
Even as United opens up access to the exclusive facility it remains a limited offering, at least for the product launch. The service can only be booked through travel agents to start, with plans to open it for sale on the main United site in the future. It only prices as an add-on (“Q surcharge”) to a premium cabin booking so economy class travelers are out. Because it prices as a surcharge rather than a separate line-item on the booking the LAX Private Suites access is either refundable or not based on the same rules as the ticket. The good news is that all premium fare classes (including the discounted P fares) are eligible. And it only prices on certain routes, at least to start.
Many airlines and airports offer a premium check-in experience for travelers. Lufthansa‘s First Class Terminal at Frankfurt is the most notable but there are similar options with separate check-in and lounge access around the globe. The separate terminal and immigration handling part of the FCT and LAX Premium Suites is certainly special but getting an exclusive experience is not always so limited. Also worth noting that the FCT experience includes a significantly broader range of food and beverage options than the defaults in the LAX Premium Suites.
Señor Zacapa sends his regards from the FCT in Frankfurt. Yes, a 23 year old rum for breakfast. pic.twitter.com/jkXJtlW3YV
— Seth Miller (@WandrMe) November 16, 2013
Adding an ultra-premium option for travelers is a nice option and reflects the growing range of ancillary sales options for airlines. Driving that incremental revenue is not just about pushing passengers out of the Basic Economy offering. Indeed, the margins are much better for the higher priced offerings.
That United negotiated such a significant discount on the pricing is also a since win for travelers. It is not quite the same as including the helicopter transfer from Manhattan to the airport on full fare tickets like Continental or Delta Air Lines did a decade ago, but it is accessible on all premium fares. And there will likely be just enough passengers who take advantage of the offer, even at these high prices, to make it a useful partnership for United and the lounge operator. The minimal risk to United is pretty nice, too.