Interesting: United & The Private Suite LAX Launch Partnership

While LAX has a lot of great lounges (like the Qantas First Class Lounge, American Flagship First Dining, etc.), the most exclusive space in the airport isn’t even in one of the terminals. Rather that would be The Private Suite, which is a completely separate facility where you can relax before your flight, and then you clear security, immigration, etc., before being driven to your plane in a BMW 7-Series.

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

Here’s what the pricing is like for this service:

There’s no doubt the experience is impressive, in the sense that you’ll be brought onto the plane having walked just a few dozen steps, and having interacted with at most a few people (the people escorting and driving you, and TSA officers at the dedicated facility).

I’ve wondered how big the market is for something like this. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of very rich people in LA, but the catch is that this is of limited use to those flying private, since they don’t have to wait for flights. How many people are willing to spend thousands of dollars per flight to make commercial flights more enjoyable?

I predicted at the time that they’d come up with some creative partnerships, and it looks like that’s exactly what they’re doing now.

United & The Private Suite have just announced an exclusive new partnership at LAX, which certainly makes the experience more accessible (though still very expensive). With this partnership, United is the only airline that has the right to sell this experience as part of a ticket. Furthermore, one of The Private Suites will be United branded.

Basically what United and The Private Suite are doing is offering special pricing to United passengers traveling in some markets, where they’re including the cost of The Private Suite in the overall fare you pay (to be clear, the pricing is additive, so they’re not throwing it in for free, but it just means you can bundle the cost of the ticket and The Private Suite experience).

As of now this experience is available to/from the following destinations:

  • Aspen (ASE)
  • Cabo (SJD)
  • Hawaiian Islands (HNL, KOA, ITO, LIH, OGG)
  • London (LHR)
  • Melbourne (MEL)
  • New York/Newark (EWR)
  • Shanghai (PVG)
  • Singapore (SIN)
  • Sydney (SYD)
  • ​Tokyo/Narita (NRT)

Those booking through United won’t have to pay the $7,500 membership fee, and will receive the following pricing:

  • $1,250 per person for a domestic flight
  • $1,495 per person for an international flight

In terms of fare class requirements, this is available to all passengers traveling on a paid first or business class ticket. So for those traveling internationally or between Los Angeles and Newark, you have to be booked in the J, C, D, Z, or P fare classes, and for those traveling to/from Aspen or Hawaii, you have to be booked in the F, A, Z, or P fare classes.

As you can see, this is still really expensive, though it does represent a significant discount over what The Private Suite ordinarily charges, at least if traveling solo. The catch is that United’s pricing is per person, while The Private Suite’s pricing is per group. So you’ll come out way ahead with United’s system when just one person is traveling, while the pricing is potentially cheaper directly through The Private Suite for multiple people.

As of now this is only bookable through travel agents or by emailing [email protected], though eventually this should be bookable directly on united.com.

It’s an interesting concept, and I’ll be curious to see if this is something passengers take advantage of. For solo travelers this certainly represents more reasonable pricing, though I do find the partnership with United to be puzzling. United has a distant third place position at LAX in terms of traffic (after American and then Delta), and they certainly don’t have the Hollywood traffic either.

You’d think a partnership like this would make a lot more sense with American. Charge an extra $1,000 to add this onto a Flagship First ticket to New York, and I could certainly see some interest. But with United? I’m skeptical…

What do you make of United’s partnership with The Private Suite LAX?

(Tip of the hat to Jeffrey)

Comments

  1. “United has a distant third place position at LAX in terms of traffic (after American and then United)…”

  2. Lucky, on the second to last paragraph, shouldn’t the “United” in the brackets, “(after American and then United)”, located in the following quote:
    “United has a distant third place position at LAX in terms of traffic (after American and then United)”,
    be replaced by “Delta”, since you have already mentioned United?
    Correct me if i’m wrong,
    Alex

  3. LAX market share in 2017: AA 18.83%, DL 16.66% and UA 14.18%. How is a 4.65% gap “a distant third”?

  4. @Dom – it’s not a 4.65% gap. It’s a 32.8% difference (ie. AA’s market share is 32.8% higher than United’s)

  5. @ Dom — As noted by Luis, American has 34% more market share, while Delta has 17% more market share. I’d consider that to be significant.

  6. If any city in America is well suited to a service like this, it’s LA.

    The issue isn’t one of wealth so much as it’s one of privacy. While NYC and Chicago have plenty of extremely wealthy people, they’re mostly invisibly wealthy. In LA, there’s a lot of very well known faces that put a very high value on both privacy and the relaxation achieved when they’re not having to deal with people seeking autographs and selfies or trying to pitch scripts and treatments.

    And United’s nailed the market here with this partnership. All of the destinations (except, possibly, Cabo) are markets where private might not make sense, either because of distance or airport access*.

    * Aspen airport can be a nightmare at peak times. The ramp is fairly small in that it stretches most of the length of the runway, but isn’t terribly wide. On a peak weekend, the private jets are all but touching one another, crammed in as densely as possible.

  7. Untied Airlines has virtually all mediocre business class seats just like Continental once did
    There is nothing premium about the experience except United marketing Hype spin
    Perhaps better than flying economy cattle minus
    To many Continental folks in management that came over to United poisoned the secret sauce of what made UA once pretty good.
    United once was my fave airline from the 90s on
    Today it is toast destroyed by clueless management
    Untied Airlines wouldn’t know what premium is if it hit them in the face
    Flying First class on Lufthansa out of Chicago I got a taste of What Uniteds FC lounge
    is all about
    Rude surly agents and the most sub par crud served in their cramped so called First Class lounge,Shameful and disgusting.The LUF Frankfurt revived my faith
    How can any a high end private first class lounge ever make for a premium experience once you are stuck flying on United Metal with a culture ruined by management?

    Perhaps one would be better of eating the United pillow and bedding on board
    At least that may be somewhat premium

  8. United can’t even execute their Polaris strategy. It looks like the are subcontracting out the premium experience that Polris was supposed to deliver. Add in United’s cranky employees and this has “bust” written all over it.

  9. The only time I could see this being useful to me is when traveling transcon to EWR. I won’t fly UA internationally anymore. Expensive, yes, but not crazily so if you happen on a decent transcon fare. It would be worth it once for the experience….as long as I got to the airport really early. 😉

  10. In any circumstance with a United booking – international, domestic, transcon domestic – the most cost effective way to enhance the trip is to use the $1,250+ to rebook on nearly any other airline. I can’t even imagine being so mentally limited that I would buy a United ticket, and then think that tacking on $1,250 to sit in a private room before the flight would make up for the wholly underwhelming experience that is endemic of United Airlines, Inc. By the time the short timer flight attendant gives you the stink eye for asking for a refill on your jack and coke that ride across the tarmac in the BMW will be an fading memory. But this kind of service is perfect for America circa 2018, and the Instagram-famous Will absolutely race to be the first among their cohort to post a selfie taken in the “Private Suite” at LAX, wearing sunglasses no doubt.

  11. Tired of reading the comments from the usual DB’s who want to punch holes in anything written on this site. If it was rather obvious, please do share. However the grammar comments as well as the usual DB comments punching holes in minute info is rather exhausting.

    Now, United partnering with this outfit is comedy, and reeks of trying too hard. How about they focus much more on the soft product, instead of catering to the 1%? You suck United, U know it, and your focus if off base yet again. Time to invest in a real brand manager and time to fire your “consultants,” who continually let you down.

  12. This is aimed at corporate clients and the Hollywood studio crowds.

    A few will take up this offer for security reasons and others for privacy.

    Overall its a gimmick for UA and would work better with AA that actually offers a First Class cabin out of LAX.

    Market share is irrelevant! Number of available premium seats would offer a better glimpse of the situation.

    Anyway, AA offers a discreet service to corporate/celebrity clients to get them in and out of the terminal. and so probably sees little need for it.

  13. “My biggest question is that I wonder how big the market for a service like this really is. Huge celebrities typically fly private”. – from you review of the private suite.

    Huge celebs still fly commercial from time to time, but also regular A-listers fly it a lot more than you would imagine, especially international. Many hate the small confines of private jets for long trips.

    People you will NEVER see on commercial planes. Tom Cruise, Babs, Elton John, Beyonce, Bieber, Britney etc.

    David Beckham, Madonna (she uses TP ALOT btw now that she lives in LIS) but also flies BA, VS all the time, mostly BA (ask the upper class passengers about her doing yoga in the aisles)… she does own a private jet as well. Some of the biggest global stars get on commercial jets all the time with special services, so this will appeal to them. Most foreign celebs fly commercial mostly, so will use this service…the price will be nothing to them or their company.

    Many lesser A and B list celebs will also get this worked into their overall deals/rider contracts so that it’s paid for. Unfortunately if its a work trip the PR agency want them to be SEEN so its going to be a toss up.

    Every studio, agency outfit have their special deals with DL (a massive fav with black celebrities – think ATL crowd) and young Hollywood/music stars. Its considered a hip airline! UA and AA retain their fair share.

    The premium game out of LAX is worth a little research! 🙂

  14. Lucky, Four Seasons also has a partnership with the Private Suite! Specifically bora bora, maui, and a couple others!

    I agree with you, this would work much better with American Airlines.

  15. So I’ll give your readers a little bit of an insiders viewpoint here…those of us in the industry know that if you want to be seen at LAX you fly DL and AA. If you want privacy you fly UA. United for all their faults does an amazing job keeping the razzi out of their lobby/terminals and creating a safe under the radar experience. Private Suites is actually a great product because while we have a lot of clients that fly private domestically, they fly commercially overseas…it just makes sense. So they can be picked up at their arriving domestic flight, wait at PS then be escorted onto their Intl flight and never see a camera or microphone. I think the vast majority of your readers really fail to understand who this product is targeted to.

  16. “Dom : LAX market share in 2017: AA 18.83%, DL 16.66% and UA 14.18%. How is a 4.65% gap “a distant third”?
    Luis : it’s not a 4.65% gap. It’s a 32.8% difference (ie. AA’s market share is 32.8% higher than United’s)”

    First of all, Dom is right over there – market share differences are read as “4.65 percentage points higher”, or if you wanna be geeky “465 basis points, or bps, higher”.

    https://www.lawa.org/-/media/lawa-web/statistics/market-share-statistics/aircarrier-2017.ashx?la=en&hash=AFE4FF5BD3111E97F86641BB6B71DB301D2BAE9C

    LAX-only*
    AA 18.83% (465bps higher, or +32.8% over UA in your nomenclature)
    DL 16.66% (248bps higher, or +17.5% over UA; 217bps lower than AA)
    UA 14.18%

    (the spread will actually compress if you include other LA Basin airports that by far skew WN, but i digress)

    And despite how the oneworld fans love hyping how immensely strong they are at global cities like LA, oneworld isn’t even the largest alliance there … that title goes to Star Alliance :

    https://images.cdn.centreforaviation.com/stories/2017/nov/20/Alliance_Share.jpg

    Star 22.1%
    oneworld 21.6%
    Skyteam 19.1%
    Unaligned 37.2%

    Meanwhile in NYC, using official market share for rolling trailing-12mos ending in March-2018 *:

    https://www.panynj.gov/airports/pdf-traffic/REG_MAR_2018.pdf

    UA 23.7% (1,090bps higher, or +85.2%)
    DL 22.4% ( 960bps higher, or +75.0%)
    B6 13.0% ( 20bps higher, or + 1.6%)
    AA 12.8%

    There are **2** airlines with 175% or more of AA’s market share, which puts them on far thinner ice than what AA can do to UA at LAX. (if you really believe there’s such thing as stable state equilibrium for playing significant 2nd fiddle, just look at cases like CO @ Denver Stapleton, DL @ DFW, UA @ JFK etc etc)

    And that’s before we talk about yield (this is single-month domestic-only yield from Aug’17, so take it for what it’s worth):

    https://media.licdn.com/dms/image/C5112AQGkVp7PC8pZtg/article-inline_image-shrink_1500_2232/0?e=2126476800&v=beta&t=lbewdJ2vzBJaqalOWgmsiSG-LCs3XTnfO5BfzSeE2wI

    (US cents)
    UA IAD ~31.0 … UA EWR ~28.0 ……………. UA LAX ~20.0
    AA PHL ~31.0 … AA LGA ~26.0 AA JFK ~22.5 … AA LAX ~21.0
    ……………. DL LGA ~26.0 DL JFK ~23.0 … DL LAX ~19.0

    On the NYC side, despite claims insisting LGA being THE preferred airport and claims of AA focusing on high-yielding business traffic, all 4 combinations of AA/DL-LGA/JFK yields lower than UA-EWR. (I’ve included IAD+PHL just as a reference point in case people want to bring up how far superior choosing PHL must be over the NYC battle)

    On the LAX side, even with Hollywood in AA’s pocket and the only true 3-class service on transcons, they’re yielding just 21 vs. 20 over UA.

    And hopefully this would put to rest any fantasy urban legends that DL is competitive – they yield the lowest in both NYC and LAX.

    https://www.transtats.bts.gov/AverageFare/

    2017 full-year, domestic only average fare

    EWR $ 401.08
    JFK $ 393.56
    LGA $ 316.35

    IAD $ 424.46
    PHL $ 379.35

    (I’m guessing PHL yields higher due to differences in stage length)

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