Airport Business

FEB-MAR 2018

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

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Page 17 of 43

COVER STORY 18 airportbusiness February/March 2018 sider a tenant such as The Private Suite as a potential lessee. During construction- which was lauded as setting an unofficial speed record for LAX (a mere 10 months from breaking ground to occupancy) some million feet of fiber optic cable was pulled into The Private Suite, along with all screening equipment desired by TSA and CBP. As a result, The Private Suite doubles as a fully operational remote screening facility, allowing TSA or CBP opportunities to test innovative new technologies and techniques in a lower stakes environment than the main terminal screening area. De Becker further notes a pilot program cur- rently underway at The Private Suite: processing foreign flight crews for an unnamed internation- al air carrier. Here again, de Becker's thesis is compelling: "Even at just the six flights we're currently testing, more than 7,000 individual TSA and CBP processing events are being removed from the main terminals each month." Adds de Becker, "And of course, that means 7,000 fewer people standing in TSA and CBP lines and a huge reduction in vehicle congestion caused by all those hotel shuttles that have to circle the 'horseshoe' [airport terminal] multiple times at LAX when picking up the arriving flight crew, and dropping off the outbound crew." For an airport, by removing celebrities and the paparazzi that follow them, as well as large contingencies of foreign flight crew from the main terminal, The Private Suite brings greater predictability to the screening process for the general public, along with reduced wait times. Quantitatively, no analysis would be com- plete without the monetary equation. Through a combination of privilege fees, monthly leasehold payments and Minimum Annual Guarantees (MAGs), LAWA will receive some $39M over the next 9 years as a result of The Private Terminal. And, as de Becker emphasizes, "They [LAWA] get a brand new remote screening facility, all built with private funds." In terms of growth, de Becker notes that there are certain airport markets that lend themselves to an expansion of The Private Suite. Though he concedes LAX has its own unique set of variables, much of it driven by a high population of celebrities that live in the LA basin, airports such as JFK or MIA with their high numbers of international flights, concen- tration of wealth, and diplomatic travelers may stand to benefit from such a tenancy. Regarding desired leasehold criteria de Becker states, "We like to be on a different street to the main air- port, or at least prior to the airport, meaning you would reach us before you have to go in to the airport traffic. Obviously, we also need be right on the AOA and or have direct [airside] access. Because we drew in 1 million feet of fiber optic cable for TSA and CBP, we'd like to be closer in than farther out. But, if farther gets our mem- bers out of traffic, we're happy because the extra three to four minutes you spend driving across the tarmac, you get that back in spades when you leave the airport." Speaking of leaving the airport, it was my time to depart The Private Suite. I had spent the better part of three hours working in complete tranquility, enjoying a meal and any beverage my heart desired. At 3:41pm precisely, a mere 40-minutes before actual departure I was escort - ed the few steps to the private security suite to be screened by unusually friendly TSA personnel. There was no one in line in front of me, or behind. In short order I had exited the facility, entered another silver BMW, and was riding across the airfield toward my aircraft. The process reversed, we approached the jet bridge to my departing flight creeping slowly alongside the aircraft. Despite the tinted win- dows of the car, I could feel the curious eyes fix- ated upon me from the majority of passengers already onboard the plane. Instinctively (and in true Hollywood style) I reached for my sun- glasses before exiting the car and ascending the jet bridge from the airside area. With a security detail in front of and behind me, the personnel door to the jet bridge was opened before me, and the lead agent's powerful hand gently parted the masses of remaining passengers congregating at the aircraft door, allowing me to pass. Having witnessed my arrival a passenger in the jet bridge asked me "Are you famous or something?" Peering through my sunglasses, I couldn't help but play the part for him. "I'm not that famous, I guess," I coolly answered. Stepping into the cabin of the airplane, I saw two passengers clasp- ing iPhones positioned to capture a picture of me as I boarded, followed by the bright confirmatory flash of their cameras a second later. Immediately I realized that while novel for me, this was the painful downside of fame to which de Becker alluded. As private cit- izens, privacy is our expectation. Yet for a moment, I had experienced a loss of privacy. While initially electrifying to be mistaken for a celebrity, the unauthorized photos taken of me as I boarded left an acidic, almost metallic aftertaste in my mouth, one that was most displeasing. As ordinary travelers, we feel a loss of privacy each time we reveal the holes in our socks as we pass through TSA, are patted dow n, or asked a bout meta l inside our bodies from a past surgery. For celebrities, that loss of privacy is a constant narrative punctuated by f lash bulbs and autograph seekers, an unbroken chain of intrusions and interruptions. Airports partnering with lessees like The Private Suite will not only find a subset of passengers willing to pay for privacy, but a novel solution to several interconnected issues facing them today.

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