I remember watching with jealousy as my seatmate on a flight to Geneva a few years ago—a former White House official now employed by a multinational company— didn’t file out with the rest of us onto the jetway to the terminal and was instead met by a Mercedes next to the plane. With a new service introduced last month at LAX, though, passengers arriving on domestic flights can now have the same experience. It’s a different car—BMW instead of Mercedes—but the same procedure: passengers walk down the stairs at the side of the jetway, have bags unloaded directly from the plane and head straight home or to their hotel.
The service that provides this is PS Direct, available at an extra cost to members of PS at LAX, the private terminal at the Los Angeles airport previously known as The Private Suite. Originally opened in 2017 as a refuge for paparazzi harassed celebrities and other travelers willing to pay for the pleasure (current per use fee: $4150; $3150 for members who pay a $4500 annual fee) of not having to deal with the airport’s main terminals, it took on greater significance this year during the pandemic due to its privacy and separation from the crowds. And it’s in the process of changing more than its name.
”We remained open throughout the pandemic despite low air travel volumes at LAX,” explains Amina Belouizdad, Co-CEO. “We used this time to double down on further perfecting and refining the PS experience. The goal is to build on, not transform, what we’ve delivered to our Members since day one. Many of the elements that our Members love – the privacy, the comfort, the high-touch service, the unlimited snacks and amenities, and (of course!) the candy bar (a collection of bite sized candy dispensers affixed to the wall) will still remain.”
A major change is the redesign of the 12 self contained suites (two of which can be connected as a double suite) created by Los Angeles designer Cliff Fong. “The direction is very much residential; we want our Members to feel no disconnect between leaving their home and boarding a flight,” explains Belouizdad. “Or, if they arrive from abroad, we aspire to offer them a sense of home and familiarity as soon as they land at PS. To achieve this we’ve rethought both the form and function of the spaces, and have drawn on antique, vintage and upcycled décor to bring that personal, ‘collected’ feel we would expect to see in a home. My favorite pieces are the reupholstered vintage Vladimir Kagan chairs that were foraged from dealers and markets near and far. “ Three of the suites are ready now; the remaining nine will be unveiled in Spring 2021 and all contain state of the art entertainment systems, a range of snacks and a supply of beverages including elite spirits.
The food service is also changing from delivery from local restaurants to a culinary plan in the process of being developed by the hospitality company The h.wood group, specialists in California/Mediterranean cuisine in restaurants such as The Nice Guy and Delilah in West Hollywood. The menu should debut early next year; specific dishes haven’t been decided yet but according to the group’s co-founder Brian Toll, the emphasis will be on fresh, seasonal and light, along the lines of some of their restaurants’ signature dishes such as kale salad with pomegranate, Parmesan, pepitas and lemon vinaigrette and tuna tartare with avocado, radish, shallot, herbs and soy vinaigrette.
Apart from the new enhancements, the core services of PS remain the same and passengers don’t have to be members to use them. (Apart from the lower per use fees, members have reservation priority and get amenities such as spa services and car detailing on a complimentary basis.) Passengers on departing flights go straight to the PS terminal where bags are handled, boarding passes can be issued and there is a dedicated TSA security check; after going through it, they’re driven to the door of the plane. If returning from an international flight, passengers are also driven from the plane to the terminal where they go through dedicated customs and immigration and have bags delivered.
The experience may soon be available at other airports as well. “Offering an end-to-end service across major US airports would be the ultimate “only at PS” experience,” explains Belouizdad. They hope to announce the next locations in 2021.