NEW YORK - Airlines are once again upping the ante in their international first-class service. But this time, it has little to do with fancy meals or comfy chairs. The carriers are focused on letting wealthy fliers pass through airports without having to mingle with the masses.
Among the recent additions:
- American Airlines now offers its top customers and anyone flying international first class a private check-in area at its terminals in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and New York. Travelers exit through hidden doors leading to the front of security lines.
- United Airlines has a similar setup in Chicago and Newark, N.J.
- Delta Air Lines will drive its top passengers who have a tight connection in Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York or Minneapolis from one plane to another in a Porsche. They never have to enter the terminal.
- United does the same in Mercedes-Benz GL-Class vehicles at Chicago, Houston and Newark.
- Emirates Airline has separate floors in its Dubai A380 concourse for premium passengers and coach fliers. The two groups board jets through separate gates, never interacting.
- London's Heathrow Airport has opened private suites, originally designed for the royal family, to passengers flying business or first class, for an extra $2,500. Fliers using them receive their own immigration and security screening.
- Lufthansa offers first-class passengers a separate terminal in Frankfurt. There's a restaurant, cigar lounge and dedicated immigration officers. When it's time to board, passengers are driven across the tarmac to their plane in a Mercedes-Benz S-Class or Porsche Cayenne.