The business of privacy as a luxury is booming, especially when social distancing during travel.
When I pulled up to the nondescript warehouse-like building marked by high-flying white PS (formerly known as The Private Suite) flags, I couldn’t tell what kind of experience I was about to encounter. I rolled down my window and a man in a fitted navy suit, earpiece, sunglasses, and, of course, a protective mask stood as the guard and checked my name against a list. For a second it felt like a bouncer was determining whether I was being allowed into an exclusive nightclub despite it being only 10:30 a.m. on a Friday. As the double gates opened, I was directed by another man in the same slim-fitting suit uniform—also wearing a mask, sunglasses, and an earpiece—to park in front of a white Bentley SUV. The small lot had about 20 cars parked out front, mainly all on the higher end of the luxury vehicle spectrum—Tesla, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Range Rover, and Porsche took up most of the spots.
As I was greeted, helped out of my car, and escorted directly to my suite, I noticed the row of plants and greenery along the pathway to the private suites. The building itself is very industrial from the outside—think: an airport—but being that you are nowhere close to the actual never-ending circle of doom inching toward your terminal at LAX, the planters lining the walkway signaled that this breezy airport experience was going to be different.
PS is a private and separate airport terminal, located adjacent to LAX, at 6875 W Imperial Highway. Meaning you do not drive to LAX (like I mistakenly did) and you also don’t have to park at a remote lot and then have to take a jam-packed shuttle to the frenzied public terminal. PS has taken the stress that comes with traveling, especially during a pandemic when social distancing is key, and brings a private airport experience to commercial fliers. Think of it as taking a private jet (which I have yet to do), minus the actual jet.
Upon entering my suite, I couldn’t take my eyes off of the airport runway views from the big window across the doorway that gave the room an inside-outside feel. Beneath the window was a comfortable day bed that had a yoga mat and oversized tablet with pre-loaded workouts from PS’ wellness partner Alo Yoga. The terminal’s 12 suites are in the midst of being renovated and glammed up by interior designer Cliff Fong, who brought in residential elements to make the rooms feel warm and luxurious. The suite that I was in even had an outdoor patio that, while it had barbed wire fencing across the top, made it seem like I was sitting at a fancy Restoration Hardware store with minimalist-chic patio furniture. I took the Alo Yoga mat and did some stretches outside, which felt great given my usual airport experience has no breath of fresh air.
The ensuite bathroom had everything you may possibly need when it comes to pre-flight personal care, such as a Tide stain remover, mini Schmidt’s natural deodorant, a bamboo toothbrush, Tom’s natural toothpaste, a comb, and plenty of pocket-sized, over-the-counter medicine (Dayquil, Nyquil, Benadryl, Advil, Tylenol, and more). The room itself looked like a fancy condo, with wanderlust Assouline books and modern art curated by Creative Art Partners (CAP) lining the walls. The art collection at PS, programmed for the entire private terminal by CAP, is a six-figure assortment of works by more than 25 contemporary artists that are also for sale.
I was surprised to see the sheer quantity of freebies in every corner of the suite. The alcohol was top-shelf—the wine on display included Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ Artemis–and I was told that PS has its own cellar on-property should I want something additional. The mini-fridge was stocked and the food and drink nook featured healthy and high-quality snacks such as Bob’s Red Mill oatmeal, Justin’s organic peanut butter cups, Smart Sweets treats, and more. There was also a tray with complimentary tech travel items—chargers, headphones, travel adapters—that you may need for your flight. Plus, the TV had all the DirectTV channels you would need.
All food and drink (including alcohol) is unlimited and included in the visit as long as it’s provided by PS and not from an outside vendor. Their food menu was California cuisine-focused, but soon PS is launching a partnership with hospitality company The h.wood Group. The h.wood Group will revamp the breakfast, lunch, and dinner offerings, adding in more bowls, salads, sandwiches, and kids options as well as desserts, such as fresh-baked cookies. However, for visitors craving something specific from anywhere else in L.A., such as sushi from Nobu or burgers from In-N-Out (their most requested item), the Member Services team arranges whatever you’re craving to be ready for you in-suite upon arrival.
It felt like they thought of everything. PS even provides a branded blue paper lunch box to be filled with more snacks for your flight. Growing up, I was the kid who loved gift bags at birthday parties, so, naturally, I was thrilled to fill my to-go snack box.
When booking travel through PS, the simple process can be done online or over the phone and you just need to book 24 hours in advance of your flight. The Member Services team works like a personal travel concierge—checking flight delays, weather, and rebooking canceled flights. I arrived about two hours before my flight, however, if you give PS the heads up you could check in up to three hours before.
Now that I’ve visited PS I know to leave plenty of time for the spa services also offered in the private suite (and included with membership). Book in-suite services such as a massage or manicure at the time of booking. PS even offers car detailing (complimentary for members) as well as free overnight parking for the duration of the stay.
In terms of safety and cleanliness, PS offers on-site testing for COVID-19 to ensure the safety of their guests. The suite was spotless, as were other areas of the terminal. The biggest draw of the entire experience was the built-in social distancing and privacy—not running into another party even in a security line. And while it was under construction during my visit, there is an outdoor play area for kids as well as a place for pets to roam free before a flight.
Once I was sufficiently indulged in my suite, a PS agent knocked on the door and escorted me directly to their private TSA area. Three agents waited for me at the PS TSA security checkpoint. I was stunned. Until that point, I had only seen three other people, all of which were PS employees. I realized why PS is seeing an uptick in business as more people get comfortable with the idea of flying again during a pandemic. After my bags were checked, I was escorted to a PS-branded white BMW sedan, part of their fleet, and driven directly to the plane.
While I only visited PS for a departure flight, the private terminal is usually used for roundtrip flights, both domestic and international, as they even have a private area with customs and immigration officers. And if you’re arriving at LAX, there is a shower suite with plush robes and a hairdryer to freshen up after you land.
For arrivals, PS launched PS Direct, which gives members an even more private domestic travel experience (if that’s even possible). Upon arrival to LAX, PS Direct will pick you up in one of their BMWs at the plane, take your checked luggage off the plane, place it in the trunk, and drive you directly home or to your hotel, bypassing the airport and PS terminal entirely.
The annual membership fee for PS members is $4,500, with an additional cost of $3,250 for one-way travel with up to four guests; additional guests can be added for $500 per person. For nonmembers, each way costs $4,350 for up to four guests; each additional guest is $800 per person.
If you’re not jetting off in your own plane but want to feel like you are, if you travel often or live bicoastally, if you have a special trip planned (such as an anniversary, birthday, honeymoon), if you’re avoiding paparazzi at LAX, if you’re COVID-conscious and want to avoid the crowds at LAX, or you are just looking to splurge because you haven’t traveled for a year…while it is expensive, PS can be worth it.
With all the perks–food and drink, spa services, car detailing, luxury suite–and the peace of mind it lends, this is the most socially-distanced way to travel during a pandemic. The luxury of privacy shines through at PS, which is worlds away from even the best airport lounge across the tarmac at LAX.