Delta Debuts Anti-Paparazzi VIP Service at LAX

THR Delta - H 2015
Noah Webb

THR Delta - H 2015

Terminal 5 gets a $229 million overhaul with secret underground exits, private shower suites and a premium security line: "You won't see TMZ."

This story first appeared in the June 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

While Delta Air Lines is the world's largest in terms of sheer passengers — more than 120 million in 2014 — any traveler passing through Los Angeles International Airport in recent years would have agreed that its West Coast digs were in need of an upgrade. Now, after a five-year, $229 million overhaul (the first since the mid-'80s), Terminal 5 is ready for its close-up. Mayor Eric Garcetti will attend to ribbon-snipping duties at the June 10 unveiling ceremony.

The newly unveiled Delta One lounge.

The check-in desk created by Motoart at the VIP curbside Delta One lounge is made from the wing of a DC9-51 aircraft, of which the airline operated a large fleet during the 1950s.

The project is far smaller than Delta's recent $1.5 billion terminal redo at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport but does not skimp when it comes to servicing coast-hopping influencer clientele. The company even devised a unique method of battling one of LAX's most persistent nuisances: paparazzi. Celebrities, such as Delta flier Nicole Kidman, and under-the-gun industry bigwigs (think Amy Pascal) can request an unadvertised service called VIP Select (from $350 with a first-class ticket), which dispatches a Porsche hybrid to greet them on the tarmac. A Panamera sedan or Cayenne SUV will whisk the passenger and their luggage out of the airport through a special gate to a secret subterranean location somewhere on Century Boulevard, to be met by their own personal driver.

"You avoid the entire arrivals process," says Delta vp Ranjan Goswami. "You won't see TMZ." Says one paparazzo who regularly stalks the Terminal 5 exit, where he has ambushed the likes of Usher and Michael Keaton, "If they're going off the tarmac, there's no way around it."

John Wayne greeted a Delta attendant in 1967.

Outbound travelers like Katy Perry can pull up to the curbside VIP Delta One lounge (hidden behind frosted glass sliding doors) to check their bags. From there, an elevator transports them to a private corridor that funnels directly into a premium security line. An assigned handler, trained in the art of fending off selfie-seekers, will escort them to a renovated Sky Club. There, they can relax with a martini, freshen up in a private shower suite or get down to dealmaking with the likes of, say, Delta regulars Michael Francis, chief creative officer of DreamWorks Animation, or Brent Weinstein, head of digital media at UTA (which represents Delta).

Travelers venturing into the terminal can grab a bite at the L.A.-centric dining court that includes 6-month-old Ford's Filling Station, the comfort-food joint from Harrison Ford's restaurateur son, Ben. There's also a Farmers Market, where you can chow on a charcuterie plate from French grocery store Monsieur Marcel. All it needs is a WGA outpost to complete the Fairfax-and-Third-Street illusion.

Tippi Hedren disembarked with a birdcage in 1963.

Frankie Avalon and crew in 1962.


What Else LAX's $8.5 Billion Makeover Will Buy

After Tom Bradley International Terminal B’s 2013 renovation, Delta is first out of the gate, so to speak, with its redone Terminal 5. More big changes are ahead for LAX, which is undergoing an $8.5 billion face-lift, the largest public works program in the city’s history. Southwest’s Terminal 1, a $508 million project, is scheduled for completion in 2018 and promises shorter lines (thanks to more efficient screening) and redesigned waiting areas. Terminal 2, which services several international airlines, also is undergoing a freshening-up, including new restaurants with a local focus. American Airlines recently announced new plans for premium services at Terminal 4, and ground recently broke on United’s $573 million revamp of Terminal 7, which will include an outdoor terrace overlooking the airfield by late 2017. More good news: A lightrail stop is in the works. Bad news? Construction on those won’t be finished until 2024. Expect traffic into the airport to be abominable till then.