This story is produced in partnership with PaxEx.Aero - The Business of Passenger Experience
Want to be treated extra special when flying? For years American Airlines has offered Five Star Service, a paid premium option including escorts through the airport, lounge access and other benefits. This month the carrier extended that offering to include Flagship Lounge Dining, private car transfers to the plane, access to the LAX Private Suites and even Blade helicopter transfers between the airport and downtown locations in New York and LA. The new Five Star Select services come with a premium price tag to match; rates start at $650 for the first passenger.
Five Star Select
The base Five Star Select service is essentially a means to buy Flagship Lounge and Flagship Dining access on itineraries that otherwise are ineligible. Available to passengers ticketed in a premium cabin, the service includes Flagship check-in, lounge and dining privileges. Five Star Select also includes a personal escort through the terminal and priority boarding, similar to Concierge Key status.
The Select version of the offering is available at Los Angeles, New York-JFK, Miami and Chicago. It will expand to Dallas-Fort Worth later in 2019. It prices at $650 for the first person, $150 per additional adult and $75 per child (age 17 and under).
Private Arrivals and Departures at LAX
True luxury comes not not just with access to American’s lounges, but in a private airport experience. For that service American Airlines now partners with The Private Suite at LAX, delivering a dedicated check-in area with private TSA screening for departures.
For arrivals the Five Star private experience includes a dedicated customs and immigration facility, with baggage delivered to passengers at the private waiting area. Both of these services include transfer to/from the plane in an American-supplied Cadillac as well as Flagship First Dining access while waiting (no lounge/dining for international arrivals).
The Private Arrival or Departure experience prices at $1200 for the first two travelers and $250 for each additional passenger in a group.
LAX Private Suites
If waiting in the Flagship First Lounge at LAX is not exclusive enough passengers can extend their LAX Private Suite experience and use those facilities rather than the terminal to await departure or upon arrival. The Private Suite offering includes:
- Complimentary, pre-ordered gourmet dining and meals
- Complimentary in-suite manicures, massages, or haircuts
- Access to on-site shower spa and amenities
American Airlines passengers can access the service for $1,000 as a first-time trial offer. After that the rates are $2,700 for a domestic trip and $3,000 for international flights, accommodating up to four passengers.
BLADE Helicopter Transfers at JFK and LAX
Finally, for passengers who don’t want to wait in traffic headed to and from JFK and LAX American now offers helicopter transfers in partnership with BLADE. Passengers ho book a private charter service from the helicopter operator can add the Five Star experience for an additional $350. With this benefit travelers receive Flagship First check-in and Admirals Club access once in the terminal, along with the private Cadillac transfer from the helipad to the terminal.
The BLADE add-on is only available for full helicopter charters, not for travelers who purchase an individual seat on a BLADE flight. Given the typical $200 transfer price from the helipad to the terminal for an individual passenger, however, the $350 up-charge in this case is the bargain option in the new Five Star Select suite of offerings, after you get over the $1,500 minimum price of a charter transfer between Manhattan and JFK Airport.
What’s old is new again
American is not alone in offering the Private Suite or helicopter services. United Airlines launched a similar Private Suites LAX partnership in May 2018. While initially limited to only passengers in premium cabins on certain routes, the United version also includes a significant discount on the per-trip price for the product. American only offers the discount for a traveler’s first LAX Private Suites visit, but also makes the service available for all travelers on all flights rather than only a limited number of premium cabin routes.
And these premium transfers and luxury treats in the terminal are not new ideas for airlines. Helicopter transfers come and go as a perk or option roughly every decade; US Helicopter was the last to try with scheduled service in New York City and also partnered with the American, Delta and Continental for discounts and connections at JFK or Newark. That offering was grounded in May 2009. United offers a similar option at Newark and Delta at JFK today.
This time around the airlines and BLADE are expecting travelers to pay full freight for the luxury rather than bundling it into premium cabin fares or associating it with cheaper seats available on the scheduled helicopter flights. That will limit adoption but also limit the costs to airlines in offering the service. As with United’s similar deal struck last year, the new Five Star Select offerings from American Airlines are a nice, low risk offering that can help attract a few more ultra-premium customers. And a bit of extra ancillary revenue along the way.
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