Oh, the horrors of the airport. They begin even before check-in.
The Lyft driver cancels 15 minutes prior to the scheduled pick-up; the back-up Uber cancels five minutes later. There’s a frantic, panicked rebooking—but all the cars (every car in the entire city!) are occupied. Finally, a booking sticks, a driver arrives. The anxiety lessens. But traffic—there’s so much traffic!—a mile-long backup winds toward the Departures terminal. The planned hour of home-to-airport transport time disintegrates—now, it’s impinging on the scheduled three hours advised prior to international take-off.
Inside, somehow the queue to check-in is even longer than the traffic jam outside. The automatic kiosks are on the fritz. Seemingly no one works here. The agent isn’t wearing a mask. No one is wearing a mask. The line through security is longer than the width of Liechtenstein and the population is greater, too. Everyone is breathing on everyone else.
At last, it’s over. Now there’s even time for a bite. But the lounges are full and no longer accepting Priority Pass. All the sit-down restaurants, whether a chain or a drab, unloved outpost of a beloved local institution, have wait times that extend longer than some airline routes. Fast food it is. But even here, the excruciating wait barely allows time to catch the plane. Besides, the seats—all of them, in the fast-food joint, at the terminals—are occupied. And so, you must ignominiously eat this sad meal on a dirty linoleum floor next to a stranger clipping their toenails.
There’s got to be a better way!
And there is, my friend. There is.
Recommended Fodor’s Video
Magic Airport Land
Two miles away from the entrance to Los Angeles International Airport, there’s a clandestine building surrounded by freight service companies and airline caterers. Two letters mark the entrance, PS, and any sane Uber driver will question your motives for disembarking here with an oversized suitcase rather than at the Departures level. A guard asks the name, checks the list, opens the gate.
Welcome to Magic Airport Land (officially called PS), a wonderland so diametrically opposite from the airport in every conceivable way that after visiting it, you’ll question whether it was real or all just a dream.
A small battalion of black-suited PS employees awaits outside, stiffly standing in a line as though they work at Downton Abbey. These wondrous magicians abracadabra a catalog of tricks to ensure the next couple of hours are smooth, seamless, and—dare it be said—comfortable.
One of the magicians asks for the passport and they make it disappear—gone, poof!—but don’t fret, it’ll reappear, but only when necessary. They’re going to handle check-in and any other hassle directly with the airline. Ta-da! Time to drink!
INSIDER TIPPS is currently only available at Los Angeles International Airport. However, there are expansion plans, with active discussions to open at Miami International Airport, JFK International Airport in New York, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Enter The Salon, a bougie bar, empty of people (typically, only a handful of guests will be sharing the space with you), but stocked with three bartenders. A PS magician notes how long there is until it’s time to leave Magic Airport Land for the flight—turns out it’s plenty of time, because everyone else is handling everything for you. That means there’s plenty of time for many drinks. And plenty more for many, many eats.
The Many, Many Eats of Magic Airport Land
The menu card isn’t long, but it sure is tasty. Though PS used to contract their food via the H.Wood Group (an oh-so-trendy collection of restaurants and bars), they’ve brought on Orange County chef Matt Roman to work his own magic on traveler’s tummies.
All the food is made-to-order, and it’s all-you-can-eat—and eat and eat. And you might as well indulge. You’ve got the time. Try it all!
A few standouts: There’s a Bircher-muesli that’s quite possibly the best oatmeal since the ancient Greeks invented the stuff; even the porridge-skeptic will find themselves licking their plates. A beet-cured applewood smoked salmon tartine is impossible to dislike, except for those prone to mercury poisoning. And Chef Roman concocts a remarkable jackfruit vegan taco that looks so much like chicken you’ll swear you can hear it cluck—and it’s pretty damn scrumptious, too.
A few larger standard plates are offered—a burger, a chicken breast, a hanger steak—each one better than the last, and all superior to the best dish at the best restaurant at the best airport in the United States.
Still hungry? They’ll box it up for the flight. Why not take a doggy bag?
While gorging in The Salon like Tom and Padma at Restaurant Wars, it’s possible to forget that an airport is just outside. The only reminder comes with the occasional dragon roar of a jet engine—a sudden jolt back to reality. But it’s an easy lull back to Magic Airport Land—order another bite, another drink.
The Salon itself feels like a well-designed bar in any international metropolis—blue hues and gold accents, gray chairs and stacks of Assouline books.
Eventually, inevitably, a PS magician will reappear—usually just for a time check. But sometimes they’ll bring along a friend, like an airline desk agent who only wants to look at your face and compare it to the passport that you’d forgotten you’d given away seven entrees and three gins ago. But eventually, inevitably, a magician will be there to tell you that, sadly, it’s time to leave this magic land.
Farewell, Magic Airport Land
And then comes the x-ray. A private TSA x-ray screening in a bland, white room. It’s quick, there’s no one else around—only you and the federal agent. Until, abracadabra, poof! there’s a magician with your passport in hand. But what’s this? As though pulling a rabbit from a hat, they reveal they also have the boarding pass and baggage claim tickets. Houdini couldn’t have done it better himself.
A German luxury vehicle pulls up and off you go, speeding along the tarmac, all the way to the plane. It’s a short ride, under 10 minutes, and then up the steps to the jetway and a priority boarding.
While sitting on the plane, a question might arise: Was it all a dream? No, most certainly not. Need proof? Check your credit card receipt. It ain’t cheap: $995 for non-members. But is it worth it? The carefree experience, the bougie bar, the endless eats (the best damn oatmeal ever!), the magicians? Well, if $995 doesn’t unpleasantly chip away at the bank account, then the answer is undeniable: yeah, of course. It’s worth it.
But for everyone else (including yours truly who got comped the stay), we’ll just have to settle for the Dickensian gruel and the overcrowded terminals, and hope that wherever we’re traveling to will be as glorious as the Magic Airport Land.
Is it possible at all to leave any message on these boards without failing the overly stringent community guidelines?
I have had the same experience.