The Board of the Los Angeles Airport Commission voted unanimously to build at taxpayers’ cost a ritzy private lounge to cater to the whims of uber-wealthy Hollywood celebrities, sports figures, diplomats and politicians seeking to avoid mixing with taxpayers.
The number of commercial takeoffs and landings at LAX has been declining for years. The number of “Common Carrier” flights decreased by about -6.95% in 2013 (latest statistic) to 559,080 from 597,944 operations in 2012. Privately owned and chartered flights catering to the growing number of uber-wealthy elites willing and able to pay the price now account for more than 53 percent of all flights at LAX, and leave from luxurious private terminals on the opposite side from commercial flights.
But chartering private jets is much more expensive than paying for a commercial airline first class seat. According to Greg Richman President of Skyjet, “Light Jets start at $2,800 per hour. Mid-Size Jets start at $3,800 per hour. Super Mid-Size Jets start at $4,500 per hour. Large Cabin Jets start at $6,500 per hour.” A true first-class ticket (not business class) from Los Angeles to Las Vegas could cost as much as $1,500, while the same trip on a private jet might come in at $5,000.”
The United States imposes one of the highest set of commercial departure taxes of any G7 economy. At $23 on domestic short-haul flights of less than 400 miles and a $28 tax on long-haul flights, the levy includes transportation taxes, segment taxes, and Transportation Safety Administration security fees, according to acountingweb.com.
About $13.50 of each departure tax payment goes into the “Airport and Airway Trust Fund,” which must be used exclusively for the construction, maintenance and administration of airports and airway systems.
LAX officials have tried to justify using AATF funds to build a ritzy 43,750-square-foot building and 13,840-square-foot adjoining parking structure at the southeast end of the airport to “reduce disturbances by paparazzi, looky-loos and autograph-seekers in the busy central terminal area,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
The lounge portion of the exclusive facility would be built and operated by L.A.-based security firm Gavin de Becker and Associates. GBA has offered to sign a 10-year lease at a rate of about $3.4 million per year. It would open a temporary lounge for up to eight months, while the airport authority spends taxpayer funds to build a permanent site, and GBA funds $3 million in tenant improvements.
Most commercial airlines have special lounges and all have secure LAX passageways to move celebrities. But the beautiful people using GBA’s high-security facility will pay a fee of up to $1,800 per trip for access to highly private drop-off, parking, luxury waiting, and shuttling services in the seven central terminal areas. Posh amenities will include airline meals cooked by celebrity chefs and chauffeur-driven Cadillacs.
The Times notes that LAX planners have pointed out that similar facilities already exist at international airports in Amsterdam, Dubai, London, Moscow, Paris, Frankfurt, Germany, Madrid and other major cities. As America’s second busiest airport, planners tried to portray the new lounge as business-as-usual.