United will debut independent airport terminals for first class travelers. The private suites or lounges, which will be located in hubs throughout the United States. At LAX, business-class travelers can enjoy the Private Suite, a new VIP terminal, in order to avoid the crowds. Premium-class passengers will be transported from the suite to the plane in a BMW 7-Series sedan. Each booking will have a staff of eight, according to United.
United’s partnership with The Private Suite, which is owned and operated by Gavin de Becker & Associates, a consulting and service firm assigned to protect the rich and famous, is the airline’s latest foray into premium business services that cater to first class passengers. United joins competitors, such as American Airlines and Alaska Airlines, who are also provided exclusive lounges to business class travelers.
"I think this is a very smart move on United's part to compete," said Henry Harteveldt, founder of Atmosphere Research Group, a travel-industry consulting firm.
The Private Suite, which includes its own security and customs screening and individual suites, charges an annual membership of $4,500, but access to the lounge may be included in some business class ticket prices, such as flights from LAX, to Newark, Aspen, Hawaii, Heathrow, Singapore, Tokyo and Sydney, among others. United is currently ranked eighth among American airlines in terms of quality, which may explain the company’s determination to offer better service.
"Over the past three to ﬁve years, airlines have been proﬁtable, and through that proﬁtability they've invested in their product. They've invested in technology to help the airlines run better; to improve ﬂight operations; and in reservations systems, kiosks and mobile to help process and serve customers better. For instance, Delta invested in the RFID technology, which helps with baggage tracking," Harteveldt said.
According to Dean Headley, marketing professor at Wichita State University and co-author of Airline Quality Rating report, airlines are “doing OK — 80 percent on time” in terms of not losing bags overbooking, yet he believes they only tend to react when something bad happens and becomes public, such as when an animal dies aboard a flight or a passenger is forcefully dragged off a plane
“If they can take the involuntary denied boarding rate and cut it in half in less than a year, why didn't you do that before?" he asks.
Though airlines have made progress in some areas, on-time performance fell 0.8 percentage points from 2016 to 2017. Yet passengers being bumped due to overbooking has dropped by 50%, perhaps in response to Dr. David Dao being physically hauled off a United Airlines ﬂight in 2017. After Dao’s face struck an armrest, he was dragged, unconscious and bloodied, off the plane, which resulted in outrage among consumers.