Times used to be, breezing through airport security in front of everyone else and skipping lines during the boarding process was just for the hoity-toity types — the wealthy and celebrities, mainly. But now that regular passengers can pay for fast-track access, airlines are scrambling to provide an even hoity-toitier (new word, deal with it) experience for anyone willing to pay a hefty price.
Since regular people are bypassing lines in security and buying up priority boarding access, airlines are trying to woo their true VIPs with elite experiences that can make a passenger feel like a celebrity, without having to actually be famous. The money part though, you’ve gotta have that.
The Associated Press highlights a few programs airlines are focusing on to soothe their highest-paying customers and make sure they keep coming back.
It’s important to keep them happy, as in many cases a large chunk of revenue comes from the smallest set of passengers. After all, a last-minute business class ticket could cost thousands, compared to a relatively cheaper economy class fare purchased a least a month ahead of time.
In one example of these super elite systems, American Airlines built a private check-in lobby in Los Angeles, where the special people are greeted by name, handed a preprinted boarding pass, and then brought to the front of the security line via elevator. After getting through security, VIPs don’t even have to mingle with the hoi polloi in the terminal, with lounges-within-a-lounge, like Delta’s Sky Club in New York.
American is even trying to reconfigure its jet bridges to allow for boarding through the plane’s second door on some aircraft, allowing first-class passengers to avoid the horror of having commoners push through their section.
Normal people can pay for services like assistance upon arrival with Delta and American, with fees varying according to how many passengers are partaking in the service.
United Airlines has a VIP program but won’t even discuss what’s involved with it, with a spokesman telling the AP that ”the individuals who enjoy the service we are providing understand what it is.”
Meanwhile, the rest of us are recoiling against $25 checked bag fees and the lack of free snacks on some airlines. So it goes.