It’s a special moment for us normal people when, in the chaos of an airport terminal, we spot a celebrity in the vicinity. There’s a brief pause, a double-take and then delight when you see, say, Cara Delevingne—like I did at John F. Kennedy Airport a couple months back—and think, oh, the stars are just like us, trying to get out of Dodge.
Cherish the moment. Next week, Los Angeles International Airport is going to deprive us of that experience. They’re opening the private terminal—naturally called The Private Suite—to allow the rich and famous even more luxury and solitude.
The remote terminal is open to anyone who can afford the hefty price tag. But the highest price may be the ever-widening disconnect for celebrities who are already totally out of touch with everyday Americans.
Let’s just say that the bottom tiers of society (i.e., you and me) will be able to afford access to this elite terminal exactly never. First, fliers shell out for a Private Suite membership ($7,500 a year). Then, each individual trip costs an additional $2,700-$3,000.
The Private Suite membership makes Delta’s secretive VIP Select Service, currently offered in L.A., San Francisco, Atlanta, and New York airports, look like a bargain—or a second-class fare, depending on your attitude. That service, which includes a premium security line, a personal handler, access to a discreet lounge and luxury car service, costs just $350 on top of a first-class ticket.
In LAX’s new private terminal, celebrities can expect to enjoy private everything: TSA screenings, parking lots, a chauffeured BMW to and from planes, chefs, etc.
The 13 private suites within are each equipped with gourmet snacks, though they’re also tailored to meet their passengers’ individual demands; some come with a prayer rug and Quran, while others are specially designed for parents traveling with young children. Security consultant Gavin de Becker, who operates the terminal, even told the Wall Street Journal that celebrities are allowed to get frisky in the private rooms without fear of interruption.
“It typically takes 2,200 footsteps from car seat to plane seat,” the new suite’s website boasts. “For members of The Private Suite, it’s 70 footsteps.” Guess they’ll have to be paying those fancy personal trainers a little bit more for some cardio.
The concept of a Private Suite isn’t a new one. At least a dozen major cities globally have luxury terminals, but so far, American airports have gone without.
LAX executives are all-in, saying the private terminal can help with airport efficiency. The constant celebrity traffic can create added travel disruption.
“The crowds block access and egress, even around security checkpoints,” Deborah Ale Flint, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s a challenge for passengers who don’t want to be a part of that.”
And look, I get it. I wouldn’t want to be a part of that scrum, and neither do celebrities. Just consider the altercation that occurred at LAX in March, when my beloved One Direction star, Louis Tomlinson, clashed with an obnoxious paparazzi photographer while his girlfriend, Eleanor Calder, got into an apparent scrape with standers-by.
It’s not that the market shouldn’t meet demand for a private and swanky lounge; in fact, the Private Suite solution is one of the beauties of capitalism.
But at some point you have to ask if this takes Hollywood elitism a step too far.
In a perfect world, Suite membership would mean Gwyneth Paltrow is forever forbidden from holding forth about SNAP benefits. But in reality, Hollywood stars will continue incessantly droning on about poverty and the minimum wage and the pay gap and homelessness and “poor doors.”
When they fly several steps above first class, they look even less like the everyday people they want to pretend to be—and a little more hypocritical.
(P.S., Louis, none of this is directed at you.)