Chaos Free: How to Buy Yourself a VIP Airport Experience This Holiday Season
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Life isn’t always fair, and not everyone who flies commercial has to dread the airport, even on busy peak holiday travel dates. In fact, some first class, elite, VIP or simply savvy travelers look forward to their time at the airport because their experience doesn’t look anything like long lines, intense crowds, rampant chaos and depressing food courts.
Their version of an airport experience looks more like spa suites, private security screenings, tarmac drives to the plane, personalized flight tracking and escorting by airline staff and more. Just like you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to fly in first class (hello airline miles!), you don’t have to be a true VIP or trust fund millionaire to buy-up to a much better airport experience this holiday season and beyond.
Get A-List VIP Treatment at Private Suite LAX
The first stop on this list of ways to buy-up to a VIP airport experience has to be the Private Suite at LAX. If you have ever experienced the Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt or Etihad Residence Lounge this sounds almost in those leagues, just on a private, smaller scale you can ‘easily’ buy with a big enough travel budget.
TPG has actually been inside this exclusive LAX enclave and it is open to anyone with the funds to make a booking, no specific airline or elite status required.
Those who fly out of LAX using the Private Suite don’t walk the average 2,200 footsteps from the car to the plane — they walk just 70. Each group of travelers in the Private Suite have a team of eight dedicated to their every need, their own bathroom, own fully stocked pantry, daybed, private suite and, naturally, a ride across the tarmac to the aircraft.
If that is not enough, there is private TSA screening in the building so no hurry up and wait chaotic screening process.
Last but not least, there’s even a toy menu for the kids. Yes, you read that correctly, a whole toy menu.
The normal price to use this over-the-top service is $3,500 to $4,000 if you don’t have an annual membership. But right now, it can be had for a fraction of that price if you are traveling on United and use its discount code for first-time LAX Private Suite visitors.
United customers traveling through LAX, regardless of cabin, can book all of those perks for just — $375 one-way or $700 round-trip for domestic flights; $500 or $950, respectively, for international. Families can rejoice as these rates include up to four travelers. A family of four could theoretically get the ultimate in LAX VIP treatment for less than $100 per person.
To book for those much-lower-than-normal-prices, head to the members page on The Private Suite’s website, click “book the experience” and fill out your personal information. You’ll then be taken to a booking page to fill out your flight information. In the affiliate code box, enter UAP0818 for domestic flights or UAXP1808 for international. The discounted rates are valid for travel through March 1, 2019, and must be booked at least 48 hours prior to travel. If you’re booking the service for a layover, you must be going from one United flight to another.
Leave the Stressing to United’s Signature Service
United Signature Service, provided by Global Airport Concierge, basically does all the work of worrying and planning in the airport for you, as long as you are flying United or United Express. This service is only offered in select major airports, including several of United’s US hubs: Chicago O’Hare, Houston, New York/Newark, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
If you pay for this service, a United Signature Service concierge will monitor your flight, guide you to or from your gate, assist with check-in and arrange any travel changes or airport accommodations that may arise. You also get access to the United Club, and can even set up a helicopter transport between Newark Liberty Airport and Manhattan, for a (hefty) extra fee.
The price for this service varies based on the number of people (there are family plans) and whether you want arrival, departure or connecting services. In my test searches, expect to pay $250 to $475 for this premium service that lets someone else do all the airport thinking for you.
Be aware that you can book services via Global Airport Concierges without flying United by contacting them directly, though the exact inclusions may vary from United’s service described above (save 15% with a MasterCard when booking directly when GAC).
Get American Airlines 5-Star Treatment
If you’re flying American Airlines to/from select cities and want extra-special treatment, it can be purchased via its Five Star Service offerings. Sorry economy travelers, this buy-up is sadly only available to those in either First or Business class on at least one segment of the American Airlines itinerary. But, if you qualify to buy this VIP treatment, you can get an arrival gate meet and greet, airport escort, Admiral’s Club access, priority re-accommodation during delays, pre-boarding assistance and more.
This special treatment is pricy though at $350 for the first adult, $100 for additional adults in the same party and $50 for each child 17 and under.
VIP Service for $100 at Over 500 Airports
If you don’t need airline-specific VIP services, you can purchase a VIP service at more than 500 airports for $100 per person via Blacklane. Blacklane offers perks such as fast-track security and immigration, assistance with VAT refunds, gate escorts, terminal connection assistance, expedited customs and immigration, baggage recheck and security fast-track. For an extra $50 they can also arrange lounge access.
Special Airport VIP Perks for the Rest of Us
Don’t want to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for special airport VIP treatment? I hear you, so here are some potentially more budget-friendly options to at least get a slice of the VIP life at the airport.
There are a million ways to get airport lounge access: having the right credit card, flying on an eligible ticket, using a one-time pass or just buying your way in. The easiest (or cheapest) way to get access to an airport lounge is likely via Priority Pass, as a wide variety of credit cards have some type of Priority Pass Membership (here are our top Priority Pass lounge picks). The best credit card for airport lounge access is probably The Platinum Card® from American Express with its variety of lounge-access options (including the Amex Centurion Lounges), but it is far from the only way to access airport lounges.
Confession time. I sometimes valet park at the airport. The up-charge at my home airport over the regular terminal parking is just a few dollars a day and not worrying about finding a space, hauling the family’s luggage a long way to the terminal, remembering where the car is, walking back through the lot late at night, etc. can be worth the splurge. Now, if you are used to off-property budget parking lot prices, valet will be much more expensive, but if you were already parking in the airport’s garages, the price difference may be minimal. Either way, valet parking at the airport it is a way to feel like a VIP as you start and end your travels.
Get Your Bags Delivered
Last holiday season we went skiing, checked bags and waited darn near an hour for them to come to baggage claim. This was far from a VIP experience at the end of a long travel day with little kids. In fact, it was kind of terrible. Skip the “how slow will the bags be” drama and get them delivered for less than you might think with Bags VIP. This service is available at more than 250 airports and prices start at $29.95 for one checked bag delivered. You can have eight bags delivered to within 100 miles of the airport for just $49.95.
I used this service once a few years ago and it worked flawlessly, but remember you still have to pay for the airline’s checked bag fees on top of the baggage delivery service’s fees (or, find a way to avoid checked bag fees).
Cut the Security Line
The best way to make a big impact on your overall airport experience without spending a ton is to get PreCheck and/or Global Entry. The $85 – $100 application fee is covered by a whole host of credit cards, such as the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve. Even if you pay that amount out of pocket every five years, it is (more than) worth it. My family recently added CLEAR to our line-up of airport line reducing tools, but at most airports it isn’t as essential as PreCheck.
You don’t have to be a VIP to get treated like one at the airport. Whether your budget is A-list or a bit more on the modest side, you can buy your way into VIP treatment at the airport, at least for the day.
Featured image courtesy of Getty Images
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