Rich and Famous Get a Terminal of Their Own at LAX

Friday, November 20, 2015
LAX control tower (photo: Thomas Hawk via Flickr)

Good news for flyers at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) who are tired of the spectacle of rich and famous people being assaulted by paparazzi and fans in public terminals.

The seven-member Board of Airport Commissioners approved a large private lounge, private suites, top-notch food and door-to-door transportation in an effort to keep enormously wealthy flyers out of the way. The price of using the Los Angeles Suite—if you have to ask it's not for you—could run up to $1,800 a pop.

While regular passengers practice for sitting in coffin-sized seats on the plane by squatting on sculpted, hard-plastic chairs in the terminal, celebrities, athletes and 1 percenters who like to hang out with celebrities and athletes will prepare for their luxurious first-class seats by spreading out in a 43,750-square-foot converted cargo facility.

VIPs who use the service will be able to park in a secure lot, with transportation to the lounge, or go to a secure drop-off. The lounge will have private suites, and shuttles will transport passengers to the terminals.

Luxury accommodations for a few are not new at airports around the world. Generally, they are onsite and more on the level of Delta’s Sky Club. Delta debuted its own paparazzi-proof VIP Select at LAX in June as part of a $229-million overhaul of Terminal 5. The Hollywood Reporter described the experience for arrivals:

The company “dispatches a Porsche hybrid to greet them on the tarmac. A Panamera sedan or Cayenne SUV will whisk the passenger and their luggage out of the airport through a special gate to a secret subterranean location somewhere on Century Boulevard, to be met by their own personal driver.”

Departures are a little trickier. A car has to pull up to the curb outside the VIP Delta ONE check-in lobby and lounge for a quick dash to the private entrance. But once inside:

“The artwork in Delta ONE was custom-created by a handful of Los Angeles artists. The enormous, blue and back-lit piece that runs along the steel wall of the entrance hall is pretty mesmerizing, the result of a piece of fabric that was dyed, crumpled and baked between sheets of glass for 18 hours.”

After a few perfunctory obligations, one can hop an elevator to an isolated corridor that leads to a “premium” security checkpoint. Once through the checkpoint, a handler can guide the way to the Sky Club for satellite TV, snacks, beverages and “showers with hotel-quality toiletries,” according to Delta. There are probably fewer people wandering around aimlessly looking for an outlet to charge their electronics.

The future home of the Los Angeles Suite is on the south side of the airport, across a set of runways from the double-decked chaos and frustration of the public terminals. The future Los Angeles Suites, at 6851 Imperial Highway, looks nondescript on Google Maps. Across an access road, busy street and narrow El Segundo Dog Park to the south is a mortuary. LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet are in buildings on either side of it.

The London Guardian said Los Angeles Suite is modelled on the Windsor Suite at London’s Heathrow Airport, which was once reserved for the royal family and visiting heads of states. But when money got tight in 2008, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) cut its funding and now anyone willing to shell out a minimum of $3,000 can use it.

The Los Angeles Times said estimates are that the operators of LAX will make $34 million over the 10-year life of the lease to the private security firm Gavin de Becker and Associates. According to its website, “Gavin de Becker & Associates protects people who are at risk, including eight of the ten private Americans currently considered most at-risk, and 90 of the Nation’s most prominent families.”

The company, which is “combating the fear of terrorism,” does not identify who they are.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

This Airport Terminal Is Catering to the Rich and Famous (by Tom Huddleston, Jr., Fortune)

Airport Commission Approves a Private LAX Lounge for the Rich and Famous (by Dan Weikel, Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Airport to Build Special Terminal Just for Celebrities (by Rupert Neate, London Guardian)

LAX’s New “Paparazzi Proof” Terminal Has a Secret Tunnel, Porsche Rides (by Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair)

Delta Debuts Anti-Paparazzi VIP Service at LAX (by Seth Abramovitch, Hollywood Reporter)

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