American Airlines adds helicopter transfers, private terminal access

By Brandon Loo, March 5 2019
American Airlines adds helicopter transfers, private terminal access

Well-heeled Australian travellers heading to the United States can now skip just about every queue in Los Angeles and New York – even those infamous traffic jams – with American Airlines’ expanded 'Five Star Service' options.

Breeze through The Private Suite

For departures from LAX, passengers in business and first class have access to The Private Suite, a completely private terminal within the airport, for security screening and customs formalities with a dedicated officer. Once done, they’ll be whisked off to the gate or the Flagship lounge in a Cadillac escort.

Your dedicated security lane at The Private Suite
Your dedicated security lane at The Private Suite

The same can be done in reverse, with arriving customers clearing immigration and customs in under five minutes at The Private Suite’s dedicated international arrivals hall, rather than the chaos that is often seen in the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

Note that Five Star customers accessing The Private Suite can use only the dedicated security and customs facilities, not The Private Suite lounge itself.

Domestic arriving passengers can choose to either have their bags delivered to anywhere in the Greater Los Angeles area or to rest in the Flagship First Dining Lounge after the flight, before being driven to The Private Suite to collect luggage and be picked up by their own transport.

Prices for either departures or arrivals start at US$1,200 (A$1,602) for the first two passengers, plus US$250 (A$350) for each additional adult or child.

Blade helicopter transfers

Getting to and from LAX and JFK has also been made simpler thanks to American Airlines’ new partnership with Blade, which run helicopter transfers between airports and city centres.

“The number one pain point of travelling from New York City and Los Angeles to the airports is traffic" explains Rob Wiesenthal, founder and CEO of Blade. "Our Blade airport transfer product turns an hour-and-a-half drive into a helicopter flight that’s five to seven minutes.”

Available at LAX airport and JFK in New York, the tie-up means you’ll be picked up from the helicopter in a Cadillac before being transferred to Flagship First check-in. For arrivals, you’ll be escorted to baggage claim before being driven in the Cadillac to your helicopter.

However, the partnership between the American Airlines and Blade isn't quite seamless yet – you still need to order the helicopter transfer separately through Blade's own app or website.

A one-way private charter between LAX and downtown Los Angeles starts at US$1,525 (A$2,140) for up to six people, but you’ll also have to splash out US$350 (A$490) each way to add the American Airlines Five Star Service for the full experience.

American Airlines Five Star Service and Five Star Select

For business travellers wanting something a little more ‘luxe’ but not excessively so, American Airlines' existing Five Star options might be more appealing.

Flagship Dining is included with Five Star Select and Five Star Private Departures
Flagship Dining is included with Five Star Select and Five Star Private Departures

The base-level Five Star Service starts at US$350 ($490) for the first passenger and includes Flagship First check-in, an escort through the airport, Admirals Club access and Cadillac transfers where a Blade helicopter is chartered.

AusBT review: American Airlines' Five Star Service for ConciergeKey

For US$650 (A$910), Five Star Select offers you those same benefits along with access to the Flagship First Dining lounge in Los Angeles, New York JFK, Miami, Chicago and Dallas Fort Worth when it opens later this year.

Brandon Loo

Based in Perth, Brandon enjoys tucking into local delicacies, discovering new cocktails, and making aeroplane food look good on camera.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jan 2015

Total posts 73

So it’s all fun and games on the ground and then you realise that you’re still flying with American when you get on that plane..

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Nov 2013

Total posts 4

I have to say, I've flown AA quite a bit in the past year domestically and internationally - it's improved enormously across the board from lounges to the age of the fleet. Cabin crew and meals are hit and miss but I'd pick their business hard product (at least on the 777) over QF, JAL, AY or BA.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1037

So none of this can be accessed by status or class of service? Just by tossing out more $$$?


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 787

If I was in the airline industry in Oz, I would have helicopter and a small jet for transfers. Camden, Bowral, Newcastle etc to Sydney Airport. Then straight on the plane via an upmarket lounge.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

28 Feb 2017

Total posts 14

Problem here in OZ is, where would you land to pick up at say Camden or Bowral without upsetting the locals, let alone CASA or Airservices Australia?

18 Oct 2015

Total posts 33

Didn’t Chris use this service a year or two ago & not rate it as nothing more than small chat & an escort to the primary line?

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1037

They used to offer helicopter transfers from NRT to/from Tokyo, but discontinued it due to cost.

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