Virgin Australia Crews Now Use LAX’s “Celebrity Terminal”

While this doesn’t impact passengers directly, I find this to be fascinating nonetheless. Earlier this year The Private Suite opened at LAX, which is the new most exclusive “lounge” at the airport. Really it’s not a lounge, or even in the terminal, for that matter. Essentially it’s a completely separate facility where you can relax before your flight, and then you can clear security, immigration, etc., before being driven to your plane in a BMW 7-Series. It’s not cheap, though — even if you spend $7,500 for an annual membership, you’ll still pay $2,700-3,500 per visit.

I had the chance to experience The Private Suite in October, and wrote a full review.

Well, it looks like The Private Suite will soon serve another purpose — for a period of one month, Virgin Australia crews will clear security and immigration at The Private Suite, and then will be driven to/from the plane from there. LAX has serious congestion issues, so the hope is that this minimizes the amount of time it takes crews to get to & from their hotels. Per a memo to Virgin Australia crews:

Los Angeles International Airport is growing and upgrading. There are considerable works currently under way, with more to come over the next few years. The total project will take 5 years and cost 18B USD.

These plans will impact traffic movements in and out of the terminals, so the LAX ground team have been working on ways to get our crew processed through the arrival and departure formalities without adding to your pick up or transport times. Other airlines are currently looking at an additional 1hr being added to their pick up times to combat the congestion.

From December 20, for a period of 30 days Virgin Australia will trial a new process (exclusive to VA) that will see our crew using the LAX private suites for both arrival and departure processing.

This will mean, on arrival into LAX, a ground agent will escort the entire crew to the bus gates where you will take the 5-7 min journey across the tarmac to the private suites where you will be processed with your bags and then meet the crew transport to the hotel.

For the return journey, you will be dropped kerbside at the private suites where you will then be escorted to dedicated TSA screening area. Bags will be screened and processed before you are then taken to the aircraft, again via bus across the tarmac to TBIT.

The private suites are currently used for high value and VIP guests for all airlines and private carriers. The arrival and departure trial is exclusive to Virgin Australia as we plan ahead for the anticipated construction in an attempt to prevent longer transit times. Please be mindful of other guests when utilising these facilities.

Very, very interesting. Indeed, LAX has horrible congestion problems right now, and Tom Bradley International Terminal is probably the worst of the terminals in that regard. So this solution avoids congestions in two areas — not only can you drive to The Private Suite more quickly (since it’s totally separate from the terminal, so you’re not in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the road leading up to the airport), but you also won’t have to wait at the security checkpoint.

At the same time, this is an interesting move on The Private Suite’s part. They’re all about privacy and even have a policy against any sort of picture taking outside of the individual suites. On the surface they’re giving up some of the exclusivity if they’re going to use this as a place that processes airline crews (in fairness, they’re starting with just one airline here). However, I do have faith in their ability to execute this in a non-obtrusive way.

Still, I feel like if a paying guest sees an airport hotel bus pulling up to The Private Suite, or sees a bus bring a huge airline crew from The Private Suite to the gate, they may be a bit confused.

(Tip of the hat to @thesmartpirate)

Comments

  1. This is unacceptable. I planned on trying it out this summer but honestly, if they’re using it for airline crew and whatnot it just loses it exclusivity. I don’t see why crew need to be given access to this, the entire point is that there won’t be other people there and it will be exclusive.

  2. last time i was in the business class security line at TBIT it was a disaster. All the crews were being escorted to the front of the premium security line, and there were tons and tons of crews all showing up. I was going to SYD so it was quite a busy time but frustrating nonetheless

  3. Haha. Just like every peasant now flies first class and shows up in lounges, the celebrity terminal will soon become peasant terminal

  4. Do you think this is at all indicative that The Private Suite isn’t performing nearly as well (or well at all) as they thought it would? It sort of smells like this is a trial run for farming out the facility to airlines as a way of earning extra income if the rich/famous aren’t dropping $10k at the rate the operators thought they would.

  5. I don’t see the problem with this, they’ll be in, and out within a minute. I’m sure the management will time it that everyone is in their suite when the crew clears TSA on departure, and when the crew arrives as well.

  6. I’m surprised there are airline crews that don’t participate in Known Crewmember (where they basically flash their ID’s at the TSA Exit, and walk in).

  7. I live in LA and LAX is my primary airport. Celebs arriving/departing the airport were putting a strain on airport staffers and, more importantly, airport police/security. That seemed to be the primary purpose behind the ‘private’ terminal (and not ‘rich’ individuals). No idea if the cost structure is intended to keep things exclusive or if it is merely a reflection of the cost to run the facility. One of my credit cards is offering a ‘free’ annual membership but the cost to use remains the same…..and I just can’t fathom paying thousands of dollars per visit. Pretty easy to bypass the lines at TBIT (connecting flight entrance or AA terminal for example)…..and the lounges at TBIT are just fine.

  8. Nishit

    You’re not fooling anyone here that you’re a big shot, mostly because you are trying way too hard. Real big shots do not need to.

  9. I have to side with Brad… it seems logical to just create a separate crew terminal in the cargo area. It would alleviate quite a bit of congestion in the terminal areas not having the crew vans running in circles, and the crews would probably be happier too. LAX is such a mess anything helps.

  10. This seems like a great change for VA crews–LAX is VA’s largest long haul port so this should hopefully make a big difference for them in terms of ground time. That being said they must be paying an arm and a leg for this–upwards of 60 VA crew fly out of LAX every day and I can’t imagine that the per-head rates the private terminal is charging are cheap. To soapbox for a minute, it would be really great if VA cared as much about their ground experience for their Platinum FFs as it seems to do for its crew. The VA check-in is still in Terminal 2 and requires a walk, premium security is a joke, and the boarding call for VA flights still lacks a priority queue for those premium guests who wish to board late. What’s more, VA’s LAX lounge agents cannot assist with reservations, and the Emirates lounge which used to be reserved exclusively for VA Plats, is now being used for all premium passengers. VA should put some real effort into their LAX premium operation, instead of cutting reciprocal benefits when VA elites started choosing Air NZ over dealing with VA’s LAX nonsense. Making private suite security and immigration available to Plats starting or ending their journey at LAX along with the crew would go a long way towards righting the ship in that regard. As indeed would a dedicated lounge, and tarmac transfers to and from the Delta terminal, rather than putting connecting passengers on a shuttle to the TBIT bus gates.

  11. Hi Martin,

    I’m not a big shot at all and apologise if that’s what came across from my comment. Can’t use this service on a regular basis at all. I wanted for it to be a special experience for me and my family as it’ll be my mothers first time in the US 🙂 . I’m from India. It’s just very easy to get approved for the Centurion in India (Only 150,000 USD-200,000 USD annually) so I have a lot of points I would like to spend (Not sure if this was there on the Platinum as well, but, on the Centurion the agent told me that I could make regular purchases and then pay it with MR points and the redemption for MR to air miles in India is terrible). I’ll give a screenshot from their website for this feature if you can give me your email or some way to contact you 🙂

  12. Airline crew use designated channels at airports for security screening /passport control on departure and passport control / customs on arrival At their hubs they have crew bases( at least in Europe ) and are taken directly to the aircraft
    Using a facility designated for VIPs is ridiculous Then as mentioned above ,VA pax check in in at terminal 2 and flights depart TBIT
    LAX should demolish the garages between terminals 3 and 4 and to the east of TBIT in order to expand check in and improve the landside. It was already proposed in the original plan

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