Tired of not feeling special at airports? Of watching those frequent flyers sail past you, over and over and over again – at check-in, at security, at the gate, at your destination? United is wondering how much you'll pay to feel like one of them. At least for a day.
The concept of buying yourself a spot in the fast lane isn't new – everyone from top on down sells products designed to help you buck the line, get a slightly larger seat, access to the lounge, you name it.
Neither is the idea of offering a suite of super-elite services to, well, the super-elite. Anyone lucky enough to fly in Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class will never forget the first time a car shows up at that their home to deliver them to the very special check-in at the airport. (They'll also never forget the first time the cost of the flight shows up on their credit card bill.) Here at home, you'll find similar perks when flying the most exclusive of seats in the friendly skies – American Airlines, for example, offers what it calls the AA Five Star service, accessible to anyone in possession of a First or Business class ticket for travel from many of its more popular departure cities. No super-duper status required – just $250 for domestic departures, $300 for international (think London, Milan, Tokyo).
It's United, however, that's really mixing things up, though, removing pretty much all barriers to access and rolling the red carpet all the way to the back of the plane. Anyone in possession of any ticket – yes, including us plebs in economy – can log onto their web site, punch in a few details and purchase their Signature Service for $250.
What's the catch? Well, currently, the service is only available at Chicago O'Hare, Newark, San Francisco and Houston – United's major hubs – but the list of amenities for passengers traveling through these airports is, as you might expect for the price, rather lengthy. In fact, you pretty much need an extra day at the airport to take advantage of everything. It begins with a chauffeured ride, which you arrange when you book online, a curbside meet-up, an assist with priority-check-in, expedited security screening and delivery to the United Club.
There's more – a lot more, in fact – all the way up until you arrive in your destination, where you'll be met and, once again, delivered to wherever you need to be, including the United Club, if you feel like hanging around and getting your $250 worth. Which isn't that much, actually, if you're unlucky enough to be heading to or from one of those destinations where cab fare now runs dangerously close to $100 a shot. (Hello, Newark, where fare + tip + tolls now rings in at just under $90.) On a cheap fare at a holiday period, say, or just for a special occasion, or for someone who just needs to feel special for a change and doesn't mind shelling out a bit of dough, United's come-on suddenly seems awfully tempting.