Swarming with celebrities, Los Angeles is the perfect place to get a glimpse of the “rich and famous” lifestyle. Travelers can walk in a celebrity’s shoes by visiting movie studios, hire a personal shopper at Fred Segal and vacation in an enormous home. If you plan your trip right, you can feel like your favorite movie star—but to truly live vicariously through an A-lister, one must travel like one.
At Los Angeles International Airport, the red carpet is rolled out for visitors using the Private Suite, a VIP airport service designed for famous people. It’s serious, high-level exclusive, and—as my recent experience proves—you don’t need to be an Oscar winner to use it.
The Private Suite at LAX is a private terminal reserved for celebrities and heads of state, offering the highest level of privilege at a U.S. airport. In fact, ever wonder why you never see famous Angelenos like Julia Roberts, Halle Barry, or Katie Perry at LAX? Sure, they may fly private planes out of a different airport but they also have access at LAX through secret areas. Like them, the Private Suite user literally does not step foot in the actual airport—even if you’re booked on commercial airlines like Delta, American, or JetBlue—avoiding crowds, long lines, paparazzi, chaotic security checkpoints, and the notoriously congested departures/arrivals area. The best part? The Private Suite is now officially open to the public, so anyone can experience the royal treatment their favorite celebrity receives (for a fee, of course). I used the Private Suite last month flying in and out of LAX, which gave me a sense of the good life VIPs are well attuned to—and I’ll never fly through LAX the same way again.
Read more: A Local’s Guide to Los Angeles
Considering celebrities have the advantage of never waiting for anything, it makes sense that the Private Suite experience starts even before you arrive. LAX is the second busiest airport in America, and being stuck in traffic just accessing the drop-off point is inevitable—but not for the Private Suite guests. It was a huge relief the private terminal is located outside the LAX drop-off point where I evaded all airport congestion. Once my driver arrived at the secured, gated entrance (it’s that exclusive), I was greenlit by security who opened the gates to let us through. Immediately, a dedicated staff member in a suit greeted me, collected my luggage, and escorted me right away to my suite.
The Private Suite is a complex of 13 private suites, similar to rooms in a luxury hotel. I checked into a gorgeous, sun-drenched, spacious suite—with a floor-to-ceiling window of the runway—furnished with a sofa, flat-screen TV, free WIFI, yoga mat…the works (in fact, the suite is so exclusive I was not able to photograph it!). It was fully stocked with gourmet snacks (like imported chocolates), premium liquors (beer, wine, etc), non-alcoholic beverages, and limitless candy, as well as a food menu. Further, each suite has a private bathroom stocked like a drug store with literally any and every essential you may need for your flight (toothbrush, lip balm, eye drops, etc). There’s also a private outdoor area if you want to bask under the California sun one last time. While I sprawled out and relaxed, the staff checked me in for my Delta flight, handled my luggage, and retrieved my boarding pass—all behind the scenes as I lay back on the sofa and ate chocolates. Considering this level of luxury—I did not once step foot inside LAX, and anything you take/eat in the suite is inclusive of the rate—I couldn’t help but think celebrities have it made. This was so much better than schlepping through the crowded airport. The only regret I had was not arriving sooner to take advantage of such comforts.
When it was time for boarding, my appointed staff member escorted me to a private TSA security clearance merely steps from the suite. I was literally the only passenger. There were no lines, no chaos, no stress. At this point, The Private Suite staff had checked me in for my flight, checked through my luggage and I had just cleared my own private TSA security with zero lines. I felt a giddy rush the same way you would from spotting a celebrity, though this experience was obviously more exciting. I couldn’t believe the privilege that existed in this cushy world of stardom. Immediately after exiting the private TSA checkpoint, a BMW with tinted windows awaited outside this private terminal. I hopped inside with my TPS staff, driven across the tarmac to my flight as I watched planes taxi-ing and launching off into the sky for a one-of-a-kind, behind-the-scenes look. Not once throughout this experience did I see another passenger or have any interaction with gate agents. Now I know how the Obamas travel. Ten minutes later, we finally arrived at my Delta flight still parked at the gate. From here, I was escorted up the side staircase directly to the jet bridge and was literally the first person to board the empty flight. Once I was situated in my first-class seat, the Delta gate agent announced boarding for the rest of the passengers, after I was comfortably settled.
The experience was just as thrilling and ultra VIP on my return from New Orleans. Once my flight landed at LAX and after pulling up to the gate, the Private Suite staff member waited for me at the jet bridge and escorted me down the stairs. In the BMW, we drove across the tarmac to my suite, where I lounged and refreshed as they received my luggage and placed it in my privately hired car. I did not have to walk through LAX, wait at baggage claim or endure the traffic out of LAX, and celebrities avoid public appearances and paparazzi (ideal after a long flight). According to the Private Suite staff, it takes an average 2,200 steps from plane seat to car seat, whereas it’s only 70 steps with the Private Suite. It’s an easy, breezy, stress-free process, fast-tracking you through the entire airport, something only celebrities can brag about. I’m just an average Joe, though I felt A-list and, as they say in L.A., “fake it ’til you make it.” The Private Suite actually makes you feel like you made it without any faking.
Naturally, there’s a price to pay for the celebrity lifestyle—figuratively and literally. This VIP experience isn’t offered at any other U.S. airport, and the cost of the Private Suite is $3,500 per use for non-members (up to three passengers in a group), which keeps it exclusive for the rich and famous. If you’re willing to splurge, it’s well worth the experience, and it makes a great gift for anyone who frequently travels through LAX. While I thought simply flying first class was glamorous alone, this service took my vacation to a whole other level. Celebrity or not, I’ll never fly through LAX the same way again!