Beyond First Class: Pampered Departures and Arrivals for VIP Fliers

Travel, even with a first-class ticket in hand, can try any passenger’s patience, jostling with long lines at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and customs checkpoints, consuming mass-produced meals and enduring overcrowded lounges before boarding. But a company called PS ensures pampered treatment for commercial airline customers before and after flights at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The company recently introduced the same services at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), the world’s busiest. Mounting frustrations over air travel have led to an explosion of private jet charters and fractional aircraft ownership programs, but PS eliminates most of the irritations over flying commercial airlines. Founded in 2017 as The Private Suite, PS is essentially an exclusive luxury terminal with a wide range of resources, including a stylish lounge called The Salon, private VIP suites in which to refresh before boarding, a no-hassle TSA checkpoint and chauffeured luxury sedan transportation directly to the aircraft. Noting the concept already exists internationally, PS co-CEO Amina Porter explains, “Airports in the U.S. are becoming increasingly congested, and with so much innovation happening inside the plane cabin, we felt there was an opportunity to improve the airport experience.” To illustrate that vision, she posits, “Imagine boarding a commercial flight without having to see a counter, line, crowd or gate!” While airports in the U.S. have increasingly focused on security, Porter insists that PS offers luxury and privacy without compromising security. Joining PS means never standing in line again for TSA checks — and upon return the routine is equally seamless, including clearing customs privately and painlessly. This is how celebrities travel, but Porter says of her clientele, “Our members range from public figures to businesspeople to couples splurging on their honeymoon.” She adds, “They choose PS, whether occasionally or regularly, because they know PS upgrades their travel experience in a stress-free, luxurious way.” While membership has its advantages, anybody can reserve PS services for a special trip. Non-member rates are currently $995 for use of the club-like Salon and $4,650 for a private suite that accommodates four or more. All-access annual membership fees are currently $4,850, which includes discounted or complimentary services throughout the year. PS never shuttered during the pandemic, and Porter reports travelers’ desire to avoid large crowds naturally sparked increased interest in her services. “PS has benefited from travelers prioritizing safety and social distancing. Not only did we invent socially distant luxury, but our members absolutely love eliminating traffic, lines, shared surfaces, crowded concourses, and gate areas as they’re getting back in the groove of regular travel, says the hospitality executive. The company used the pandemic-induced slowdown in air travel to enhance and expand its physical environments. “We took the low travel volumes as an opportunity to not only upgrade our existing spaces — the private suites, outdoor garden, the kitchen — but also introduce a brand-new concept: a social lounge at PS named The Salon,” reports Porter. “We worked with celebrity interior designer Cliff Fong to create the exact aesthetic we were looking for: a residential, collected and elevated ambiance that feels a world away from an airport lounge,” she explains. The PS facility, located on the opposite side of the runways from the main terminal buildings at LAX, is about a two-mile drive on access roads unburdened by L.A.’s typically horrendous traffic. The most accessible space within the PS facility is the tastefully designed Salon — with its sleek bar and cushy lounge furniture it has the air of a buzzworthy Beverly Hills restaurant — that is the equivalent to a private social club at the airport. The company’s 20,000-square-foot building at LAX also contains 12 private suites, each attended to by a professional staff ranging from onsite concierge to private chauffeur. “It takes no less than eight PS team members to make the magic of a suite experience happen,” relates Porter. For the suites, designer Fong created a sophisticated residential aesthetic with soothing color palettes, high-end finishes, thoughtfully curated artwork, and coffee table volumes from Paris-founded publisher/bookseller Assouline. Each suite offers a pantry loaded with high-quality products, an equally well-stocked bar, cushy daybeds and marble-clad bathrooms complete with Japanese smart toilets. A generous supply of complimentary toiletries, beauty products and over-the-counter medications are provided to ensure a safe, comfortable journey. The PS suites, which have the relaxed feel of high-end condominiums, can be enjoyed up to three hours before or after a flight. Supplementing the pantry and bar resources is high-end cuisine created in the company’s onsite commercial kitchen, but special requests are always accommodated. For an additional fee, guests can order food from anywhere in town, whether it be Spago or In-N-Out Burger, the latter very much in demand by Angelenos returning home after a long trip away from their favorite fast-food fix. Other amenities facilitated by PS staff include in-suite massages, manicures or hair styling, and the pandemic made physician visits a popular request among members. When it is time to board one’s flight, private TSA checks are conducted inside the PS facility (sans the excruciating lines, of course), after which guests are escorted to a BMW 7-Series sedan for the short drive to their flight. PS clients are delivered directly to the aircraft, where they board either first or last, thereby avoiding the congestion and lines experienced at the gate. Illustrating the ease of PS’ door-to-door transition, Porter notes that the entire distance from automobile to airplane door at LAX is a mere 70 steps for her clients, compared to approximately 2,200 steps for the average passenger. With sedan service, private customs check and suite availability, the return leg is equally agreeable. And with the company’s optional PS Direct service, passengers can be whisked directly from their arriving aircraft to their final destination, such as a corporate office, hotel or home. After successfully debuting in Atlanta this year, Porter envisions an ambitious expansion for PS, providing far greater numbers of passengers an opportunity to experience air travel in a luxurious new way. “We want to be in every major U.S. airport,” says the pioneering travel and hospitality entrepreneur.

By Roger Grody This article originally appeared in Homes & Estates magazine.           


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