Airport Business

FEB-MAR 2018

The airport professional's source for airport industry news, articles, events, and careers.

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COVER STORY 16 airportbusiness February/March 2018 To be sure, The Private Suite is not for every- one: In addition to the membership fee of $4,500, it carries a per-use fee of $2,700 for domestic flights, and $3,000 for international flights. While that pricing may seem out of reach to the aver- age traveler, consider that Heathrow VIP, which pioneered the business model beginning some 17 years ago as the Windsor Suite, charges $1300 more. Though The Private Suite may appear to cater to only the upper echelons of society, its benefits are far more holistic. In fact, it is difficult to name an airport stakeholder that doesn't benefit by the mere existence of the offering- even for those who may never choose to use The Private Suite. The airport, airlines and even everyday passengers who will likely never see The Private Suite, all benefit from those who use it. Opened in May, I had the opportunity to use The Private Suite for both my arrival and depar- ture on a recent trip to LAX, and to interview its founder, Gavin de Becker. Both the travel experience afforded by The Private Suite, as well as my interview with de Becker, were noth- ing short of mesmerizing. Taxiing in on a warm southern California day in late August, looking out from my row 1 window seat, the only visible sign that this arrival would different than my past LAX experiences was an impeccably clean silver 7-series BMW waiting airside. As the aircraft blocked in and its engine start levers were moved to cutoff, the BMW crept carefully planeside, its driver positioning it at the bottom of the crew stairs leading down from the jet bridge. With the aircraft door now opened, all 130 passengers began their miserable salmon-like experience of swimming upstream through the crowds as they made their way to baggage claim, a taxi, or the like. All of 130 of them, that is, except for me. As I stepped through the aircraft door, a muscled secret service-looking individual appropriately adorned in the requisite black suit and tie -complete with ear piece- warm- ly offered, "Right this way Mr. Wilson." And with those words, I followed him down the outdoor crew steps to the waiting BMW that had been cooled to precisely 64 degrees for my quiet 10-minute drive across the airfield to The Private Suite. As we made our way across taxiways via the airside access road to The Private Suite, the silence in the BMW amid the roar of near- by Boeing 777s was eerie. Not only did the BMW's soundproofing make for a quiet ride, but the driver and her fellow security profes- sional who met me at the jet bridge spoke not a word and asked no questions. Initially, it seemed odd not to be forced to engage in the usual small talk. "Hot day today, no? How was your flight?" yet during the drive and over the course of the day, I would come to realize and then embrace that The Private Suite isn't as much about luxury, as it is about creating serenity in an otherwise concrete jungle-like travel experience. Arriving at The Private Suite, I was taken aback not by its opulence, but by its modesty. The building is an industrial-chic single-story affair, comprised of calming, artwork-adorned hallways which pass by a small reception desk before entering into a covered outdoor walkway which then leads to a series of well-appointed suites. Upon entering the suite, one is left with the impression of a high-end hotel, without the obvious focal furniture of a bed or oversized desk. Amenities are placed in logical places throughout the room and include snacks, device charging stations, toiletries, and every beverage or snack one could imagine. Thoughtful touches such as a children's toy menu organized by age is placed on a nearby table. In a discreet corner of the ceiling is a painted compass providing travelers a sense of direction, and for those whose holy land is to the East, the compass offers connectedness to a place on the distant horizon. To be sure, The Private Suite is luxurious, and caters to any whim one could possibly imagine. But, if you're imagining the hottest gathering place of Hollywood's elite -one in which Tom Cruise and Robert Downey Jr are seated at the bar exchanging laughs over exceptional martinis- think again. It is all in the naming convention: The Private Suite. It is by definition private, not communal. And, there are 13 individual suites - not a central gathering area. If Tom Cruise and Robert Downey Jr are members, they'd never even cross paths during their stay - nor would I cross theirs. During my brief stay I never saw

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