United has soft launched a meet and greet airport assistance program with Global Airport Concierge that so far is available at Newark and Chicago O’Hare.
- At departure they’ll meet you curbside. On arrival they’ll meet you on the jetbridge.
- They’ll monitor your flight and assist with rebookings.
- You get priority check-in and premium security line access.
- You’ll get escorted to and from your gate.
Standard arrival, departure, or connection service runs $250 for one person, $325 for 2 people, or $400 for 3 people. It’s about the same price as American’s Five Star service but doesn’t come with lounge access included.
It’s quite common at airports around the world to be able to pay for premium meet and greet services. VIPconcierge.Paris has spammed comments of this blog promoting their Paris airport assistance. For instance, 320 euros buys arrival assistance for 1-2 passengers: meet at aircraft door and assist with immigration. For 1850 euros they offer VIP tarmac transfer and private customs and immigration for 1-3 passengers.
Bangkok Flight Services does planeside meet and greet and expedited immigration (with or without buggy service through the airport, walks can be long at Suvarnabhumi). Pricing in Southeast Asia is much more manageable than it is in Europe! I’ve converted pricing for some of their services (which they publish in Thai Baht) to US Dollars using current exchange rates:
Jetquay Terminal, Singapore
And of course I’ve used the standalone Lufthansa First Class Terminal.
The First Class Terminal was by virtue of traveling on a Lufthansa first class award. Singapore’s Jetquay Terminal was sold strangely inexpensively several years ago via the Intercontinental hotel there (far cheaper than through other hotels or booking direct).
For hand holding through the traditional airport process, American offers the most formal program that anyone with at least one segment booked in a premium cabin can purchase and that they now offer complimentary for first class passengers booked on their Los Angeles – Sydney flight. I’ve seen American Idol’s Randy Jackson use it (and Billy Crystal not know about it).
Delta has a similar service, Delta VIP Select which at least two years ago was $125 per person or $200 for two.
Here’s Lufthansa’s car service in Frankfurt.. nothing like driving behind a 747!
Airlines do generally offer special services, not publicly for sale, for celebrities and politicians. Sometimes this is referred to as VIP or special services, other times ‘protocol’. There are designated waiting rooms, sometimes off to the side inside of lounges and other times separate from them. They’re a big deal in my old home market of DC, as they are in Los Angeles.
Back in 2002 when US Airways filed bankruptcy (for the first time in the previous decade) their management layoffs included the two ‘special services’ VIP staff at Washington’s National airport. The late Senator Ted Kennedy, then a frequent beneficiary of the service (for the DC-Boston Shuttle), intervened by ringing up the President of the airline to make sure they kept the special accommodation. (Kennedy at the time claimed his intervention wasn’t about his own personal benefit, but was to “save jobs” — the two jobs, of course, that provided him personal assistance at the airport!)
I’m a fan of these offerings, but I like to see them affordable. I think that a meet and greet buggy service at US$55 for 2 people in Bangkok, including assistance from plane through immigration and with baggage claim (with handover to your transportation into the city) is a real value that more travelers would take advantage of if they were aware of the service. At first world prices though it’s strategically useful to be aware of the option but not something most readers will take advantage of.