If one were for example to say that air travel has become challenging in the COVID-era, one would be guilty beyond any reasonable doubt of stating the obvious. To make matters worse, once testing and vaccines became happily readily available, almost overnight, airports, especially large ones like LAX, sadly went from seeming like an eerie Wild West ghost town to the Staples Arena during combined Lakers, Clippers and Kings games.
Long airline check-in times followed by even longer TSA lines and crowded airline lounges have unfortunately become the new normal. Hence simply getting to one’s departure gate at LAX or returning to LAX domestically or after an overseas flight even armed with Global Entry is often a time-consuming and stressful ordeal. Though crowds generally make money – a good thing for the COVID-battered airline industry – crowds, lines and stress are the antithesis of quality travel experiences.
Enter PS (formerly The Private Suite), a private terminal for commercial flights that changes the travel game. Located in a private terminal at the southernmost end of LAX, my driver initially drove past PS not once, but twice, it was so discreet. Passing through an intercom security gate up a driveway, we were them immediately met by a masked concierge and ushered to our private suite.
PS has 13 beautifully designed private suites, several of which have been remodeled by design wunderkind Cliff Fong. The private suites are intentionally decorated in soothing, neutral tones with wood floors and large marble bathrooms. Two aesthetically appealing and comfortable loungers with two additional club chairs graced approximately 300-square feet of completely private space that faced the airfield providing stellar aeronautic views. We were assigned private suite 13 that lucky for us, also had an adjacent, beautifully furnished outdoor patio also facing the airfield.
Our pre-ordered dinners were waiting for us on arrival. Much to the glee of my inner child, every conceivable snack food known to humankind – and some avant garde ones I shockingly hadn’t seen before – were present for my eating pleasure. Endearing PS to me forever, take away totes were also provided lest one get hungry while traversing the pond.
Most important perhaps, a complete bar with every possible top-shelf alcoholic beverage one could want pre-boarding, including Jameson Irish whiskey, Remi Martin VSOP, Gray Goose vodka, Casa Amigos tequila, Glenfiddich scotch, Bacardi rum, Hendricks gin and of course Crown Royale. For wine drinkers there was Patz & Hall Pinot Noir and Faust Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon along with the required bubbly, Nicolas Feuillatte Reserve Exclusive Brut.
The refrigerator was well-stocked with bottled waters, juices, sodas, several types of organic milk, almond milk, cheeses, Milano cookies, and organic breakfast cereals. There was also fresh fruit and one of the four basic food groups: dark chocolate almond butter cups. Best of all, an entire table of products that you most certainly forgot at home but didn’t remember until you arrived to PS, such as USB and lightning cables, headphone splitters, an electronic converter, and Bausch and Lomb site saver lens cleansing tissues. The bathroom was also incredibly well stocked with useful travel sized items.
Moments after arrival our passports and Covid related documents were taken by a PS agent to check us in at the airline counter. (Though I religiously travel only with carry-on wheelie bags regardless of trip length, those who travel even with steamer trunks will take great pleasure at PS as luggage will be swept away immediately on arrival and delivered directly to your airline when PS agents check you in.) After enjoying our pre-ordered dinner from PS’s menu resulting from their culinary partnership with the h.wood group, we sipped a split of champagne and caught up on the news on the 70-inch flatscreen television. Perusing the various curated art and international destination books in our suite whet our appetite for our onward journey.
We received a call 15-minutes prior to our ride’s departure across the airfield and another call five minutes prior ensuring both complete privacy and absolute punctuality. A 30-second walk from out suite brought us to a private TSA checkpoint adorned with some notable contemporary art worthy of an art museum. Less than a minute later we were whisked away into a shiny BMW 7-Series sedan for the ride across the airfield to the waiting commercial aircraft. Given my self-anointed status as an airplane nerd, this was a truly remarkable experience.
Driving on the service road alongside these beautiful aeronautic behemoths as dusk turned into night was breath taking. As we reached the nose of the 777-300, we were led this time to a private elevator and handed our boarding passes both for this flight and our connecting onward flight from Heathrow. A minute later we were on board our flight and seated. It was so smooth, so seamless, so stress free and I was so relaxed, I was actually startled when moments later the captain announced we were ready to take off.
On our return from Heathrow the process was reversed though this time we used PS’s newest service, The Salon, which debuted July 30th and is arguably the most lux airport lounge in the country. On landing at LAX, we were met by a PS agent a few feet from the aircraft door and ushered into a gleaming Cadillac Escalade. (Had we checked-in luggage, a PS agent would have retrieved it and delivered it to The Salon while we freshened up and enjoyed a post flight cocktail.) Another cool ride across the airfield and we alighted to PS’s on site custom and immigration processing. From the moment I exited the aircraft until I sat down in The Salon having cleared customs and immigration perhaps 15 minutes had passed.
While none of this comes cheap, it is an enviable antidote to avoid what has become the worst part of travel even during the non-COVID era. For non-members, private suites covering four travelers costs $4,350 one way, however an annual membership of $4,500 brings the one-way fee down to $3,250 and has additional perks such as beauty services, parking and car detailing. The Salon has the same stress free aspects of PS including expedited TSA screening, customs and immigration processing when flying internationally and transportation directly to and from the aircraft. For passengers not needing or desiring the total privacy of the private suites yet wishing to avoid the actual airport for departures or arrivals and instead spend that time in a high-end space with all the visual bells and comfort whistles, The Salon a truly superb choice. At the same price point for members or non-members at $695 per person, each way, it is worth every single penny.
If there’s a better way of traveling to or from LAX – other than perhaps with a secret service security detail to board and alight Air Force One – I personally can’t think of one. The private suites at PS and The Salon have changed the landscape for the air travel experience at LAX and have made it pleasurable once more.