Come from Harlem and flying first class is a dream. Viewed as a reward for success or simply prudent points collecting, it’s the zenith of commercial air travel. Or is it? What if we told you that there’s a realm between first class and private jet travel, and that its plush, secret spaces are right around the corner from you in major international airports across the world?
“It’s a room within a room within a room—an inner sanctum,” says James Boyd, vice-president of public relations, Americas, for Singapore Airlines, in reference to “The Private Room,” a lounge for the airline’s top-tier travelers. “There’s everything you expect of a premium lounge, plus white tablecloth dining and ultimate privacy,” Boyd tells Condé Nast Traveler. Reaching it means first arriving to the airline’s dedicated VIP driveway and entrance to Changi‘s Terminal 3, and being seated for check-in within a lobby that’s “beautifully done, with orchids everywhere.” This, all before even boarding the plane.
Admittance to similar hallowed spaces can be bought, simply by purchasing a ticket to fly with an airline that has developed VIP channels for their top-tier fliers, such as Singapore Airlines’ Suites Class, or Lufthansa First Class. Entry can also be gifted, typically by an airline to the “C.I.P.,” or Commercially Important Persons within their frequent flier program, those who have spent and traveled enough with the airline that a loss of their loyalty might affect the bottom line. And admittance can be requested by those citing security needs—think traveling VIPs like A-list celebrities or high-ranking politicians.
American Airlines invented the airline lounge in 1936 and, today, consults with Hollywood executives on how best to manage the travel experience for celebrities who value privacy, safety, and discretion. In addition to new Flagship First Class Check-In passages at New York JFK, Miami, Dallas, Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles, and London Heathrow—quiet zones that immediately funnel first class fliers away from the hubbub of the check-in area and into a more private area for checking in—the airline operates a secret side entrance to their terminal at LAX, specifically for celebrities to pull up in their cars, receive luggage assistance and boarding passes, and be whisked through security and up to reserved seating areas within the Admirals Club lounge. Regardless of airline, LAX also boasts the “Private Suite” terminal, newly opened in May, which welcomes any traveler to play VIP with one-on-one service from $3,500 per person. If Harlem diva Cicely Tyson is on your flight, networks like this are the reason you won’t have any idea until he sits down next to you.