Does VIP Service at the Airport Make Sense?

Isn’t it less hassle to hire an escort to bring you right to the front of airport security and immigration lines? Growing numbers of airport concierge companies promise this service to fliers as they depart or arrive. Companies like these provide their services in airports around the world and are independent of both airports and airlines (they have permission to sell their services in airports they operate in).

In the past several years airports have become busier, which has increased the popularity of these services, according to airline and airport analyst George Hobica. They are ideal for travelers who get frustrated when they have to wait in long lines, need assistance finding their way through airports, or have short connections when time is of the essence. A concierge is very useful if you like to get on the plane just as it’s closing, especially if you like to get on just as the doors close. In addition, the service makes you feel like a VIP.

Those who have an international departure and are flying in economy class may particularly benefit from an airport escort, Mr. Hobica said, because theyre required to arrive at the airport three hours in advance and have to contend with longer security lines, compared with business and first class fliers who usually have separate security lines. He told me that an airport escort can save you tons of time.

A company such as Royal Airport Concierge provides airport escorts. As of June 2018, it operates in more than 550 airports worldwide and chooses to hire local companies for its escorts and greeters. Founder Ron Gorfinkel said that the type of service provided depends on the rules of each airport and country. For a departure from Italy, for example, a greeter is permitted to escort departing passengers onto the plane and help them stow their carry-on luggage while fliers arriving into Londons Heathrow Airport have the option to be met at their gate and taken to customs and immigration in a golf cart, where they are fast tracked through the lanes. Up to four passengers can be transported for $300 to $450 for the company.

My interest in the concept of getting star treatment at an airport prompted me to test out Blacklane PASS last August, a Berlin-based firm that launched an airport concierge service.

The Basics:

As of 2017, Blacklane offers escorts and car services in more than 500 airports worldwide through their Blacklane PASS service. The escorts are either employed by the airport or by a concierge company. Similar to Royal Airport Concierge, Blacklane provides services based on airport and country rules. Airport assistant According to Chief Executive and Co-Founder Jens Wohltorf, escorts fliers through security, customs, and immigration, carries their luggage, and facilitates VAT refunds. They assist passengers at the airport with customs and immigration as well as baggage claim; they can even arrange for transportation and contact a driver for curbside pickup.
The Cost:

Every additional guest is charged $100, with a first-time cost of $200. Children two and under are free. Wohltorf points out that the majority of fliers tip their escorts, but one is not required.
My Experience:

Blacklane PASS was booked for my recent trip from Paris Orly Airport to Newark Liberty International Airport for myself, my two children, and my parents. I reserved the service online a week before our trip (first-time customers must reserve online but subsequent bookings can be made online or via phone) and received a text message from our escort, Reda (only permitted to use his first name), the night before our journey introducing himself and asking if I could text him when we were five minutes away from the airport so that he could greet us. After giving us a drop-off point, when we pulled up at the terminal, he welcomed us with a big smile. The luggage cart Reda used to load our four carry-ons and four check-in bags was at the head of the queue for the check-in desk at La Compagnie, our airline. Despite the fact that the line wasn’t long, I felt a little giddy when Reda flashed his pass to an airline employee, who promptly allowed us to bypass other passengers.

Once we had checked in, it was time to request VAT refunds for our Paris shopping. This is where our situation got sticky: the lady who managed our refund process told us that having receipts for our items wasn’t enough to claim refunds. We needed actual items in order to do that. Since we weren’t aware of this rule, we packed the bulk of our shopping in our check-in luggage. It would have been remiss of us if we did not return the money, since it was worth more than $1000. In spite of my father and myself begging her to allow me to get a refund, she refused.

She was informed that we were VIPs at the airport by Reda. Eventually, she relented and we received our refund. If he hadn’t helped, what would we have done?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *