First look: LAX’s secret VIP terminal PS gets a makeover
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Editor’s note: PS provided a complimentary visit to TPG to be among the first to experience the renovated facilities. The opinions expressed below are entirely from the author and weren’t subject to review by PS or any external entity.
One of my all-time favorite travel experiences had to be flying through the Private Suite at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) shortly after it opened. It’s a truly unique experience, allowing anyone — who can pony up the high price tag — to bypass the passenger terminal and wait for their flight with amenities not offered by any other lounge at the airport.
A lot has changed since my first visit, including a rebrand to PS and a complete makeover of its suites. While the facilities never closed, co-CEO Amina Belouizdad explained that PS used the downtime from the pandemic to build on and perfect the one-of-a-kind experience it’s offered since day one. And it seems to be paying off as PS is seeing an uptick in new memberships as more people return to the skies.
Photography is usually forbidden inside PS’ heavily fortified walls. However, I was recently invited back to get a taste of the updated experience and give our readers a glimpse of the renovated facilities. Here’s how it went.
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You don’t need to be a celebrity to get the A-list treatment at PS. Anyone can book a visit to PS for $4,350 one-way. This includes up to four travelers, while each additional traveler is $800. You can book the service regardless of the airline or class of service you’re flying.
Frequent travelers can unlock lower rates with an annual membership. Individual memberships cost $4,500 each year and drop the per-use rate to $3,250 — again for up to four travelers. That said, you may be able to get a free membership if you have the Amex Centurion (black) card or a Wheels Up private jet membership. Other perks of annual membership include complimentary valet, car detailing, manicures and in-suite massages.
There’s also a new members-only service, called PS Direct. For $3,450 for up to four travelers, members can be driven to their final destination directly from their arriving aircraft, bypassing the suite altogether.
PS is a private facility located across the airfield from LAX’s main terminal area. Specifically, it’s about two miles from the usual madness of the airport, so you’ll be far away from any traffic and won’t need to deal with the ‘LAX-it’ taxi and ride-hailing lot.
It features 12 individual suites, each of which is staffed by a dedicated team of no fewer than eight people. The suites are landside, so you’re allowed to bring non-traveling guests in with you, though this does also mean you’ll need to reclear security if you’re using PS for a layover.
I was assigned suite #13 (they’re not numbered sequentially), perhaps the most desirable one as it offered a private outdoor patio.
The suite looked nothing like the one I stayed in during my last visit. It was recently gut-renovated and the interior, by designer-to-the-stars Cliff Fong, was fabulous.
The new design had a warmer, more residential feel to it. Between the shapes, colors and materials, everything about it felt luxe. With a collection of Assouline books and art curated by Creative Art Partners lining the walls, it was a lot more like a luxury apartment than an airport lounge.
Privacy has always been a top priority for PS and that will never change. Since the suites are fully enclosed and not shared with anyone else, guests are allowed to take their masks off while inside — something that isn’t possible anywhere in the main terminal. The suites are also fully sanitized in between stays.
The suite featured several different seating options, as well as a day bed that could be made upon request. While I could have easily spent the night there, PS isn’t a hotel. Guests can use their suites for up to three hours before or after their flights, though if a flight is delayed, PS will typically allow you to stay there as long as necessary.
Related: The best hotels for a layover at LAX
Something else that hasn’t gone away is the fully stocked pantry and wet bar, but we’ll get more into that later on.
As previously mentioned, my suite featured a private outdoor patio. It was fairly spacious, furnished with several sofas and chairs. There was even a yoga mat and lawn games that could be set up upon request.
Although suite #13 is the only one with a garden attached, there are common outdoor spaces that could be used by guests staying in other suites. There also are dedicated pet relief areas.
Finally, each suite had its own half-bath. It was extremely chic with white Carrara marble, gold accents and a fancy electronic Toto toilet.
Food and beverage
Predictably, PS doesn’t let guests go hungry during their stays. For starters, as mentioned, there’s a fully stocked pantry and bar in every suite. All of the alcohol is top-shelf and the brands of snacks are high-end — and unlike at a hotel, everything is included.
While the wall-mounted candy dispensers are no more, the same selection of items was still available in prepackaged baggies. Other snacks included Rxbar protein bars, Justin’s organic peanut butter cups, Dirty kettle chips, Chomps beef sticks and Catalina Crunch keto cereal, among others.
Drinks couldn’t leave the suites due to the TSA’s liquid rules, but there was a paper lunch box I could fill with snacks for the flight.
For something more substantial, there’s an entire menu of prepared foods guests could order from. The current menu is catered by Mendocino Farms and included items like a Peruvian steak sandwich, chicken and prosciutto salad, and mixed fruit smoothies. That said, PS will soon launch a new rotating culinary concept in partnership with The H.wood Group, which runs popular L.A. classics like Delilah, The Nice Guy and Bootsy Bellows.
For an extra fee, guests could also order off-menu items from just about anywhere — In-N-Out burgers are a popular request.
I sampled the avocado and quinoa superfood salad and caprese sandwich. Both were fresh and tasty and I thought the portion sizes were quite generous. Like any other airport lounge these days, the food was delivered individually wrapped for sanitary reasons.
Related: Where to eat and drink at LAX
PS wants to make its guests’ travel experiences as worry-free and enjoyable as possible. Every amenity or service someone could possibly need was either already in the suite or just a call away.
Throughout the suite were a bunch of travel items for guests to take with them. These ranged from tech accessories like chargers, adapters and headphones to neck pillows, eye masks and more. There was even a full toy menu for children. The toys were also free to take and donated to charity if left behind.
The wide selection of freebies continued in the bathroom. It was stocked with all sorts of travel-sized toiletries and over-the-counter medications, ranging from dental and shaving supplies to lint rollers and stain removers, vitamins and cough drops and much more.
Spa services and other amenities that could be requested include manicures, massages and haircuts, all of which were free for members or available at an additional fee for everyone else. Another service that’s always been available, but is even more relevant now, is the ability to arrange an in-suite doctor’s visit, including on-site COVID-19 testing.
I partook in a 30-minute in-suite massage and it was incredible. Although there are ways to get massages in normal airport terminals, the difference here was that there weren’t any PA announcements to disturb you. I was so relaxed that I totally forgot that I’d be boarding a flight just a few minutes later.
For those that need to freshen up, there was a separate shower suite available with plush robes, slippers and, of course, a wide selection of toiletries. Other common spaces that were available included a conference room and garden.
As unique as the suites are, the standout feature of PS is its private TSA checkpoint. The security process is just like any other commercial flight, with one difference: there’s never a line. Even if there are two customers on the same flight, PS times security so that they don’t cross paths.
On the other side of security, there was a car waiting to whisk me to my plane, as well as a refrigerator full of drinks (remember: I couldn’t take drinks from the suite since it was before security).
PS has a few different types of cars available, but the flagship is the BMW 7 Series. It features an extremely luxurious interior with reclining leather seats, individual climate control and seat-back screens that could be used to control the SiriusXM radio or even browse the internet. Needless to say, I was quite comfortable on my roughly 10-minute drive to the plane.
Guests can choose whether they wish to board the flight first or last. Upon arriving at the aircraft, I was met by another PS representative who carried my bag up the jet bridge and then a representative from the airline to escort me to my seat. The PS agents then waited at my gate until I was in the air. This way, in the event there’s a mechanical issue and passengers need to deplane, I could’ve been driven back to my suite.
All in all, PS says that the distance between car seat to plane door is just 70 steps for its customers, versus about 2,200 steps for the average LAX traveler.
The transfer experience is relatively similar for those using PS on arrival — just in reverse. Guests arriving from international flights are escorted through private customs and immigration processing in the PS terminal. There’s also a new game-changer service called PS Direct, in which members can be driven straight from their domestic, commercial flight door to their final destination without stopping at the PS terminal — even with checked bags.
Privacy while traveling is more important than ever in the age of coronavirus and that’s something that PS has always excelled in. Between the private suites, seamless security checks and planeside car transfers, it allows you to enjoy many of the same perks as flying private, minus the jet. After spending a few years perfecting logistics, PS has now refined the actual passenger experience, adding that sense of luxury it was lacking. Between the stylish suites, improved culinary offerings and new amenities and services, everything about the PS experience feels five-star from start to finish.
A visit to PS doesn’t come cheap, but you do get what you pay for and it makes for an unforgettable travel experience. Given that visits include up to four guests and all the amenities tailored for kids, PS can be especially attractive for families who don’t want to deal with the stress of navigating through the airport.
PS has plans to expand to New York-JFK and Miami International Airport (MIA) within the next two years. While details are still scant, there’s also an “American Express exclusive space” underway at the LAX location, which will likely be similar to the communal suite United used to offer and only for Centurion cardholders.
All photos by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy
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