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How badly does United Airlines want high-paying travelers? It's offering them access to a private terminal.
Business-class travelers will have access to the Private Suite, a new private terminal in Los Angeles International Airport, avoiding the masses in one of the busiest air hubs in the country. Those premium-class passengers will be driven from the terminal to the tarmac to their planes in a BMW 7-Series sedan. A staff of eight is assigned to each booking, United said.
The partnership is United's latest attempt to fill the front of its planes as it works to revamp the business-class product it now calls Polaris. At the same time, global airlines are either building more luxurious business-class cabins or offering over-the-top suites for first-class travelers.
"I think this is a very smart move on United's part to compete," said Henry Harteveldt, founder of travel-industry consulting firm Atmosphere Research Group. Because it's in Los Angeles, the airline may be going after VIP travelers in the entertainment industry, who value privacy, Harteveldt added.
The Private Suite includes dedicated security and customs screening away from the hoards in the main terminals, as well as individual suites.
Access to the Private Suite will be included in some business-class fares, United said, and on routes to or from LAX, to Newark, Aspen, Hawaii, London's Heathrow, Singapore, Tokyo Narita and Sydney, among other destinations.
An annual membership at the Private Terminal normally goes for $4,500, but access will be included in some tickets, United said.