How LAX and Its Airlines Are Upgrading to First Class

LAX Lounge Area - H 2016
Courtesy of American Airlines

As major carriers up their game along America's most valuable route (LAX to JFK), American Airlines reveals its plans for a new, top-tier lounge for its VIP passengers.

This story first appeared in the April 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

LAX is internationally known — mostly for its long lines, puzzling layout and clogged roadways. This year, industry researcher Skytrax ranked LAX 91st on its annual list of the world's top 100 airports, behind such luminary facilities as Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International and Halifax Stanfield in Nova Scotia. But things are looking up. LAX's owner/operator is joining United, Delta and American to invest $8 billion to upgrade facilities.

This spring, American will begin renovations of its Terminal 4 Flagship Lounge, reserved for passengers booked in first class on LAX-JFK and international flights. (American's JFK Flagship Lounge will receive similar upgrades.) The lounge will have a Scandinavian vibe and contain a private dining room where passengers can order a chef-prepared meal.

To help court profitable Hollywood clientele, American recently installed a private door for VIP check-in at Terminal 4 (all first-class passengers get Flagship check-in at JFK and LAX through a private entrance with expedited security). The airline now offers complimentary transfers between terminals at LAX and JFK via chauffeured Cadillacs for all first-class passengers with tight connections, 16 hours daily each day. (United and Delta offer similar services in partnerships with Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.)



DELTA — A $229 million renovation of Terminal 5 at LAX, completed in June, includes a revamped Sky Club lounge and dedicated check-in facilities for Delta One passengers, who can take a private elevator from curbside.

JETBLUE — Mint service, with lie-flat seats and semiprivate suites, has been a game-changer for the LAX-NYC premium market, with fares starting at $599 one way and inventive service — Saxon + Parole tapas, anyone?

UNITED — Newark’s Terminal C just completed a $120 million renovation. At LAX, Terminals 7 and 8 are undergoing a $573 million renovation that will revamp the baggage claim and add a new United Club with an outdoor terrace.

VIRGIN AMERICA — The airline recently announced plans to revamp its A320 fleet (but won’t be adding lie-flat seating on the LAX-JFK route). Since no free elite upgrades are offered, Virgin’s first class is theoretically the most exclusive.