Private airport terminals – to VIP or not to VIP?


Several weeks ago CAPA - Centre for Aviation published an initial report on private terminals at airports, focusing on the 'aether' terminal at Manchester Airport in the UK, which is scheduled to reopen in Nov-2024, rebranded from its original name 'PremiAir'.

That report suggested that aether, mainly because of its relatively low pricing, could become a model for such future terminals at sub-primary or regional airports, where they can be justified.

It turns out that there are at least 30, and possibly 50, such terminals in existence already. Most of them are in Europe, but there is a smattering too in Asia, the Middle East and the US, where a unique individual or corporate membership model is the norm.

This follow-up report examines 10 examples, again mainly in Europe, and at the different models in use. Many of them call themselves 'VIP Terminal', or similar, while their product offers are more in keeping with what a business traveller or 'commercially important' passenger might seek.

The wide range of pricing is also revealed.

The report concludes with a philosophical question about the ethics involved in approving the construction of such terminals in cases where primary terminals are not up to expectations, while acknowledging that demand will probably ensure that their number will continue to grow.

  • The number of private terminals at airports is growing, and may already top 50 worldwide.
  • Most are in Europe, with a smattering elsewhere, and a growing number in the US where a different, membership, model is in use.
  • These terminals service both ‘VIP’ and, more often, ‘CIP’ (commercially important) passengers, although many are designated as ‘VIP’ in their name.
  • They can be owned and operated by public, private, or hybrid entities.
  • Some are situated within existing terminals, others separately, and they can be on the airport estate or on its fringe.
  • There is no fixed-in-stone model yet, but a basic one is evolving, as it did with low cost airports and terminals.
  • Can they be justified ethically if facilities for ‘the masses’ aren’t up to scratch first?

A new breed of terminal, and growing in number...

CAPA - Centre for Aviation published the report What does the opening of Manchester's 'private terminal' say about the future of these facilities? in May-2024 on the forthcoming reopening of 'aether' - a small, private, but not exclusive, terminal at Manchester Airport in the UK.

The report considered whether aether could be the forerunner of a new breed of such terminals that would be identified by their accessibility to the general public at a price point not beyond the pocket of many people.

'Private' here, thus, has no connection to the dictionary definition of the word - "belonging to or for the use of one particular person or group of people only".

It means separate from the main terminal(s), and only accessible on a fee-paying basis: that is the only criterion.

Nor does it have any reference to who owns the terminal. That could be a public sector organisation, a private one, or - as in the case of Manchester - a hybrid one of multiple local councils and a foreign institutional investor and asset manager.

It was mentioned in the previous report that there is now a wide variety of these terminals, which are either stand-alone or (more typically), facilities located within existing main terminals. So therefore, not individual entities in their own right, and the purpose of this second report is to identify many of them and their distinctive offer to passengers.

…so many, that they have their own forum

They have reached a collective stage in their life now that they have their own organisation - WAVF, "a forum for airports that operate services for VIP passengers with an objective of improving VIP services at airports worldwide".

There is an immediate dichotomy there in that the Manchester aether terminal is not designed for 'VIPs' or people who consider themselves to be 'important'. Indeed, it is there for the 'Ordinary Joe' and his family to use, the only requirement being that he has a sufficiently deep pocket to afford it.

There is a subtle difference between a separate private terminal and a VIP service offering the same degree of 'luxury', personal and discrete kerb-to-aircraft experience using dedicated facilities within the footprint of the 'main' terminal.

Possibly 50 exist worldwide

In some situations the terms are interchangeable, although 'VIP service' can also describe a less luxurious product and experience.

There are at least 17 full service offerings at European airports, some of which are physically separate from the main terminal and others are not, in addition to others in the Middle East, Asia Pacific and North America.

WAVF estimates there are at least 30 of these facilities globally - perhaps as many as 50.

This report covers a number of them, 10 in all, and mainly in Europe, which is where the bulk are located.

A useful place to start is with the terminals mentioned in the previous report, namely Dublin Airport's 'Platinum Services' in Ireland and the 'Windsor Suites' at London Heathrow Airport.

Dublin Airport's Platinum Services - private shopping available

'Platinum Services', which could be mistaken for a credit card, is Dublin Airport's 24-hour private terminal.

All passengers, no matter which airline or class of ticket, "can enjoy VIP personalised treatment at Platinum Services with private check-in, security, suites for relaxation, drinks and dining, and chauffeur-driven to your aircraft".

It has both departure and arrival offers and private suites, private security screening, and even 'private shopping' on request, plus a newly introduced chauffeur service (from EUR125) to deliver passengers to the terminal or collect them.

Prices are higher than in the Manchester example, starting at EUR395 per person and a daily parking rate of EUR40.

The facility is located close by the main terminals; in fact, next door to Terminal 1, which makes those terminals more easily accessible than at Manchester. Even so, walking is minimalised and transfers to the aircraft are in private BMW vehicles.

Location of Dublin Airport's Platinum Services terminal

There is a clear effort to attract small number 'fly in/fly out' business meetings.

The terminal is bigger than Manchester's and can accommodate up to 160 people.

There is a transfer passenger option (departing/arriving flights) at EUR570 pp.

Here's a promotional video for the Platinum Services facility in Dublin:

London Heathrow Airport's 'The Windsor Suite' - get treated like royalty, but at a king's ransom

A highly appropriate name as Windsor Castle, one of the British royalty's institutions, is located only eight miles (13 km) to the west of Heathrow Airport, the UK's main gateway and hub, and indeed, it is believed that the UK Royal Family does occasionally use these facilities.

The facility, calling itself "the ultimate airport experience", is unashamedly pitched at 'VIPs' and no one else - although as ever, money talks. If your six numbers just came up on the lottery and you want to splash out, it's yours.

The Windsor Suite comprises eight unique private lounges. They offer a menu by a Michelin-starred chef (the PR doesn't say how many stars) and a "curated menu", the "finest art" to gaze at while you are waiting for your flight, and a chauffeur service to collect or deposit you at either end of your journey.

Indeed the chauffeur service does appear to be an integral part of the product, as are round trip journeys.

You can opt to be escorted into the main terminals accompanied by a personal shopping assistant, while check-in is handled by the VIP service staff.

All security procedures are completed inside the suites and you are driven to your aircraft - which could be a long drive in Heathrow's case, but far better than walking.

The Windsor Suite at London's Heathrow Airport

The entire Heathrow VIP service is available to book only for those travelling on first or business class flight tickets, with all airlines flying to/from Heathrow Airport.

The service is not available to those flying economy or premium economy class - that seems to be stretching the 'VIP' tag a little far, as the class of travel on an aircraft has no bearing on the amount you pay to use these lounges.

Innumerable 'celebrities' and business entrepreneurs are known to prefer to travel in economy, the former because it actually helps retain their anonymity when they board or disembark among the hoi-polloi (and exactly the same reason Paul McCartney used to drive around London in a Mark 1 Ford Escort).

The price is an eye-watering GBP3025 for an individual suite for up to three people for arriving and departing passengers, or transfer ones within three hours, and is not directly comparable to the Manchester or Dublin products.

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport's Schiphol 'VIP Service' - instructions to find it are in double Dutch

In contrast to London Heathrow, Schiphol Airport's VIP service is available to all airline passengers in any ticket class for arrival, departing or connecting flights, which does not exactly identify anyone as a 'VIP'.

There is no limitation to designated airlines.

Like Heathrow, it consists of a collection of 12 individually styled suites or lounges themed on Dutch culture and heritage, framed within contemporary design and artisanship in a 'VIP Service' that does not carry a brand name. Passport formalities are completed within the VIP Centre, along with a private security check.

The service is provided from buildings that are separate from the main terminal (Schiphol, famously, is one of the largest airports anywhere operating a single terminal building).

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport's Schiphol VIP Service

Business services are available for conference calls.

Transport to the aircraft is in an unspecified 'luxury vehicle'.

There does seem to be a particular emphasis on food and beverage services, although a 'carefully curated menu' is available.

There is a spa and, in contrast, a personal shopping service bookable in advance for passengers wishing to avoid staying in the lounge.

The location is quite close to the terminal building, but directions to drive there are convoluted and include the humorous instruction "drive past the backside of the citizenM hotel".

Parking can be booked separately at the time of reservation.

Directions to the VIP Service, Schiphol Airport

The starting fee (without VAT) for the VIP Service for an incoming or departing flight is EUR560 for the 'first passenger'. For each 'additional passenger,' the rate is EUR360.

A different rate applies for a transfer flight (EUR760/530).

Extra costed services such as 'Meeters and Greeters', and last-minute change surcharges, are high.

Here's a promotional video for the facility:

Schiphol airport: 'VIP Service'

Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg's 'VIP Service Zeitgeist' - a taste of Cuba

Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) has only been open a few years and its construction took the best part of a decade, so it could be reasonably expected that the end result to would be of a very high standard.

Its VIP service is one of five such examples at German airports.

BER calls its high-end service offer 'VIP Service Zeitgeist' - literally the intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era, or the spirit of the times as modern slang for zeitgeist would have it.

It is fair to say that BER's product is somewhat scaled down from that of the previous examples, and it is sub-listed on the airport's website under 'Cafes, shops and services'.

It is available for all flights except those operated by Ryanair or Luxair.

Situated within the terminal departure area, essentially it amounts to:

  • Check-in and baggage handling
  • Support with passport and customs formalities
  • Separate security and border control
  • Transfer to or from the aircraft

Berlin Brandenburg Airport's VIP lounge location within terminal layout

You have to delve more deeply into the website for greater detail.

There are two suites, equipped with minibar, TV and a separate bathroom with shower, bookable on request.

There are buffet, à la carte and premium menus - ranging from "extensive breakfasts to exclusive dinners".

Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg's 'VIP Service Zeitgeist'

Unusually, there is a 'Cigar Lounge', promoted as 'A Taste of Cuba' (there are no direct flights there) - where "cigar lovers can look forward to a selection of the finest cigars and selected spirits", and, even more unusually, various other services "exclusively for our guests with exemption status", which require direct personal contact to find out more, hinting at Cold War intrigue and Agent 007.

Prices for both departure and arrival are EUR425 for the main guest then EUR225 for travelling adult companions and EUR200 for children. They are slightly higher (EUR500/300) in the first two categories for transfer passengers.

Food and beverage is charged separately.

Here's a promotional video for the facility:

Berlin Brandenburg Airport 'VIP Service Zeitgeist'

Kraków Airport's 'VIP Service' - low pricing speaks to realistic expectations

Poland's Kraków Airport, serving the country's second largest city, makes no bones of the fact that it "has been providing and perfecting our VIP service for over fifty years".

The service is based around a pre-bookable suite facility "to ensure greater privacy or to hold a meeting at the airport". Transfer passengers are included.

The basic service comprises access to a lounge before or after the flight, including meeters and greeters; dedicated security, check-in, passport and customs points and desks; transport (Lexus vehicle) to the terminal; refreshments (but limited to snacks, hot and cold beverages and spirits); access to business facilities and electronic media in multiple languages; free parking; and service by "staff who speak English and are trained in diplomatic protocol", which would surely appeal to ambassadors (as well as James Bond).

And presumably the cocktails are shaken, not stirred.

There is a general lounge area rather than individual suites. A more comprehensive meal service is bookable, provided by a third party. The main retail area is accessible from the VIP terminal.

There are additional services of the type that could be expected from a standard information desk, such as tourist information, hotel bookings and calling a taxi, but there is one intriguing one - namely, "entry onto the apron of a meeter or greeter, assisted by a VIP Service coordinator". The plot thickens.

The terminal is situated close by the main terminal and on major approach roads, also quite close to an airport hotel.

Location of Kraków Airport's VIP Terminal

Pricing is only available in Polish zlotys, and conversion rates at 30-May-2024 have been used.

The price for the first passenger is EUR246, then for each additional passenger EUR173. The child price is EUR94.

Passengers in transit, or on 'night flights', pay a little more.

There is the option to rent an 'apartment' exclusively for "the duration of the service" for EUR187, but it is unclear what this means. Also, "piloting of a client's vehicle", which weighs in at a not insignificant EUR680.

However, the basic prices levels are quite low. There is little evidence of ostentation here, and the 50 years spent "perfecting the service" may have tailored it to the realistic demands and expectations of most clients.

Here's a promotional video for the facility:

Krakow Airport: 'VIP Service'

Malta International Airport's 'La Valette Club' VIP Terminal - low pricing, unpretentious, and you can opt to walk to the aircraft

Malta International is easily the smallest airport in this survey with 7.8 million passengers in 2023, and it is to be wondered whether it merits a VIP-level service.

It does.

As Malta is an independent state and something of a financial centre, even if there are only 530,000 people, its own government officials and business travellers would demand one, and no self-respecting country would put itself in a position where it could not offer them to visitors who requested them.

Furthermore the airport is part-owned by Flughafen Wien (Vienna Airport), which has its own facility at Vienna.

The 'La Valette Club' (airport frequent flyer loyalty organisation) seems to be a play on words (namely the capital of Malta, Valetta), and includes among its services a VIP Terminal.

Situated close to the runway and quite easily accessible by motor vehicle, the VIP Terminal is accessed separately from the main building, "allowing discerning guests to trade the airport hum for a few moments of tranquility, in surroundings that have been carefully designed to please the senses".

Location of the terminal, Malta

Again, the product offer is a comparatively modest one, comprising a 'private room' as opposed to a lounge.

Business facilities are available. The catering is from a bar with light snacks. Transfer to the aircraft can be way of a 'sleek vehicle' or on foot (escorted).

On arrival, a dedicated chauffeur greets passengers near the aircraft; they are then escorted to the VIP (or correctly 'VVIP' - see the map above, which might mean for very, very important people who know what they really, really want) terminal where they can wait in the lounge before departing from the terminal, or simply continue walking through to their waiting vehicle, where their luggage will be delivered to them.

The greatest "luxury" the VIP Terminal offers, according to the promotion, is the potential to save time "in the unceasing race against the clock".

The Maltese VIP Terminal should really be classed as an entry level facility. Apart from the peculiar 'VVIP' designation, there is no evidence of ostentation, and that is represented in the simple pricing structure: first passenger EUR230; each additional passenger EUR230; first two Meeters and Greeters are free of charge and EUR60 each thereafter.

Avinor Oslo Airport's 'VIP-Terminal' - discreet travel with Norwegian art and culture

The VIP facility at Norway's busiest airport, serving the Oslo capital region, also carries the uninspiring name 'VIP-Terminal,' differentiated only by the addition of a dash (-).

The service is offered to all passengers booked on scheduled flights, irrespective of class of travel, and for departure, arrival and transit.

The VIP-terminal is located near the main terminal (no directional map is available) and is promoted as "particularly suitable for business travellers and others who want to travel discreetly without attracting attention", which again has a mysterious, clandestine feel about it.

Avinor stresses that the VIP-terminal is used by both Norwegian and foreign government officials and heads of state, and that the "team are highly professional and have a duty of confidentiality".

It adds that The VIP-terminal is best suited for smaller groups - recommending 1-5 people, and no more than 10.

Security check and immigration checks are made privately.

Transfers to and from aircraft are made in what appear to be Avinor's own vehicles.

Most of the individual lounges have a view of the airside, similar to the position at Manchester, but a view of the apron, rather than the runway.

Each of the lounges is stocked with snacks - coffee or tea, buffet with chocolate, nuts and fruit, and soft drinks. That appears to be the principal meal service and it is possible to pre-order items.

Avinor Oslo Airport's VIP-Terminal

Showers are also available.

Meeting rooms are equipped with "state-of-the-art technology".

The terminal is big on art and design, incorporating Norwegian images as an attraction to arriving passengers especially. Avinor is a state-owned organisation.

A meet and greet facility is available by which non-passengers can enter the terminal.

The pricing is in NOK, and exchange rates to EUR at 31-May-2024 have been used. Prices are ex-VAT.

The per-person price, unusual when groups are envisaged as the main users, is EUR350. There are no reductions for subsequent passengers. A child under the age of 18 accompanied by parents is not charged at all.

For reasons that are not known, there is an additional charge for using the facility in respect of Emirates Airline and Qatar Airways flights.

Meeters and greeters can use the service for EUR44.

No pricing information is available for parking, and it appears that clients use the regular airport parking.

Riga Airport's 'VIP Centre' - a complicated offer

Latvia's busiest airport, serving the capital, the country and northern Lithuania, blandly calls its facilities 'VIP Centre.'

Riga's offer is segregated confusingly into 'Classic', 'Express' and 'Premium', as well as a 'Transit' option.

To make it easier, the pricing chart is printed below.

Riga Airport's VIP Centre, pricing guide

It does come across as something of a 'bargain basement' offer compared to most of its peers above, with a lead-in price of EUR130 for the Express Service one-way.

There doesn't appear to be a great deal of difference in the level of service offered between the three scales, except that the Express Service does not offer 'individual waiting rooms' and can hardly be considered 'VIP' solely from that viewpoint.

Looking more closely at the Premium Service, the closest to those services at peer airports: that starts at EUR250 - just EUR50 more than for the Classic Service - for one passenger, or EUR470 return, then EUR180 (EUR320 return) for "each next passenger".

Those prices increase depending on how far the client is from the airport (two zones); in respect of the chauffeur service, that is part of the package.

Those prices are still on the low side, but what do you get for your money?

The VIP Centre is a mini terminal in its own right, with what appears to be several large lounges, a duty-free sales area, a viewing area directly onto the apron, and a meeting room.

Riga Airport's VIP Centre entrance

The first observation is that it does not match its own name, as it is more of a 'superior' facility to the main terminal rather than one that relates to the concept of the 'VIP'.

The second is that the offer is overcomplicated, and arguably in need of refinement.

Vienna Airport's 'VIP Terminal' - mixed messages about what to expect

Vienna Airport's again blandly named VIP Terminal web page is the loudest, brashest, and most basic by far of all the examples shown here.

There is little about it that suggests calm, quiet or sophistication. It even appears on screen alongside an advert for jobs at the airport, which takes up one third of the screen and can't be removed.

You have to click on a separate screen, 'Webshop', which suggests an online shopping or duty-free facility, to get to the full pricing.

Prices are quoted inclusive of VAT (only), which makes them tricky to compare directly with others. The rates start at EUR430 for the first passenger and EUR215 for each additional one. Children under six are free.

That is for the most basic 'Silver' service, because the offer is graded, like Riga's.

At the top end of the scale, after 'Gold', the 'Platinum' service costs EUR700/EUR350 respectively. Even allowing for the inclusion of VAT, those are among the highest rates overall.

Owing to the complexity of the offer, the price chart is again included here.

Vienna Airport's VIP Terminal, pricing guide

The Silver service is quite basic compared to many of the peer airports' offers, but probably represents what the typical SME businessman requires: exclusive access to the VIP Terminal and to check-in, security and passport control; a beverage service; limousine travel to and from the aircraft (Mercedes vehicles); and somewhere to work, although 'beverage service' is suggestive of low cost carrier travel (or even full service carrier now on some European routes, where the staple sustenance amounts to a small bottle of water and a packet of crisps).

Unusually, the offer includes grading of a luggage allowance depending on the service level, with only one checked bag permitted at the 'Silver' level but three at 'Platinum.'

That also applies to use of the lounge, which is graded one, two or three hours.

Only Gold and Platinum permit access to a la carte dishes (at an additional charge) and to Meeters and Greeters, and even to shower facilities.

The services are available to passengers on all airlines and at all levels of ticket price, and all levels include a 'Personal Attendant.'

Vienna Airport's VIP Terminal

The terminal is situated some distant away from, and separate from, the main terminals, with the address 'Niki Lauda Allee, Object 140', and with a complex set of online instructions to guide passengers there.

There is a disconnect at Vienna between the various levels of service offered and the promotion of them. The promotion can easily lead a viewer to assume that all the services are available across multiple price levels, when that is not the case, and there are additional fees to pay for some items.

All this transpires to create an image of high pricing, which is true at the top end, but not so much so at the bottom end - which will be the chief attraction to a business traveller under pressure.

It might be beneficial to simplify the pricing levels along with the services available accordingly.

Here's a promotional video for the facility:

Vienna Airport: 'VIP Service'

Singapore Changi Airport's 'JetQuay CIP facility - overcomplexity?

For the final example, another continent and Singapore Changi International Airport's JetQuay, which distinguishes itself with an attention-grabbing brand name, and by referring to itself as an elite CIP (Commercially Important Passenger) Terminal, thus immediately dispensing with any legacy references to royalty, personal wealth or snobbery.

(There is however a separate VIP terminal, close by, and there is some confusion in JetQuay's promotion, in which it is referred to as 'VIP service').

It is Asia's first dedicated terminal for CIPs with the original intention of offering services at a level previously available only to those using private jets at the airport.

JetQuay's services are available for almost every airline - arriving, departing, or transiting through Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 4, the exceptions being low cost carriers (all), Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines.

JetQuay's main image on its website does let it down a little; a passenger having just disembarked a buggy which looks like it could double as a baggage truck, in what could be a long service corridor with signs saying 'toilets' and 'exit' in the frame.

No politician worth his salt would ever let that happen.

Singapore Changi Airport's JetQuay CIP facility

The raison d'être behind JetQuay is a rational one - namely, that the network of terminals at Changi Airport can be bewildering for travellers and that alone is justification for a private terminal area. The same would apply to London Heathrow, where there are also four, and possibly others with three.

Its location is handily found between Terminals 2 and 3.

Singapore Changi Airport's JetQuay CIP facility location (yellow shaded area)

In common with most other examples here, there are designated, separate immigration and customs counters for arriving passengers. They arrive by way of chauffeured limousine and the electric buggy (pictured), which is not available in Terminal 4 for unknown reasons, in advance of using the lounge facility. It seems that every passenger using the service gets a 'Guest Relations Officer', as in the image above.

USPs offered by Changi include a lounge with outdoor patios (for smokers), complimentary use of a suite that has an en-suite bathroom, and a personal butler, 'nap-rooms' and an 'event venue' for up to 400 guests .

Champagne and light refreshments form the basis of the FBO offer. No mention is made of catering beyond that level.

Despite an extensive search of the JetQuay website, it was not possible to locate a price list, however Changi Airport immediately supplied one by email.

The service levels are divided into three - identified as 'Gateway Service', 'Quayside Service' and 'Jetside Service'.

Gateway Service is similar in nature to entry-level offers at other airports for a basic meet and greet service, and costs SGD350 (USD260/EUR240).

Quayside Service adds private terminal clearance, in-house immigration and customs clearance, dedicated check-in counters, baggage assistance and use of the Jet Quay Private Airport facility; it costs SGD450 (USD333/EUR307).

Jetside Service is the 5-Star one, adding meet and greet service with limousine transfer on the tarmac with in-house immigrations and customs clearance, dedicated check-in counters, baggage assistance and use of Jet Quay Private Airport facility. Also: complimentary bottle of champagne, light refreshments, and personal butler.

The price rise is quite dramatic for the Jetside Service, up to SGD1800 (USD1330/EUR1228) per passenger. And these are one-way prices.

Additionally, there is the option to purchase land transfer from the terminal to a hotel and vice versa, at prices between SGD150 and SGD300.

And there are other surcharges, such as a 20% surcharge on 29 days of the year, which count as 'blackout periods' (e.g. Christmas, New Year, and when the Formula 1 race takes place); also SGD100 for any service provided in Terminal 4, and a 15% surcharge for 'peak season', on-the-day bookings, and for scheduled flight arrival/departure times between 2200hrs to 0700hrs - all of which makes for a complicated set of minutiae to wade through.

The JetQuay is a long-established facility, but one that could perhaps be rationalised.

US examples exist too; mainly on a membership basis

It was mentioned earlier that there may be as many as 50 of these terminals worldwide.

Apart from those described here others may be found at the following airports:

List of airports with 'VIP facilities










All are accessible for further information via WAVF.

In addition there is a growing number of private terminals, or lounges as they are sometimes known, in use or due to open in the USA, especially so at very large gateway/hub airports like Los Angeles, Atlanta and Miami.

They tend to operate on a membership basis rather than one of ad-hoc use, and for that reason can be expensive (USD5000 per annum for example) if usage is occasional, but inexpensive if it is regular.

These were highlighted in the Jun-2023 CAPA - Centre for Aviation report: Private terminals becoming popular at US airports but limited elsewhere.

The model is still evolving

Few definitive conclusions can be drawn from this brief overview of private terminals.

Some are long-established, while others are fairly new, and it is conceivable that more may be hatched as interest grows.

Pricing and services vary considerably, and at times there is an unnecessary degree of complexity.

Even though ostentation in private terminals is measured as much by disposable income as was austerity in the low cost terminals when they first appeared in the early 2000s, there is no private terminal 'model' as such - yet.

Eventually, there will be, just as it became possible to identify the essential features of a low cost terminal.

Although there is still a wide variation in services provided, for now the model approximates to:

  • Separate lounge(s) with separate entrance/exit though not necessarily at a separate location, with separate car parking;
  • Quiet - the facilities are aimed primarily at business people although where children are encouraged that might be difficult;
  • Business facilities on demand;
  • Private check-in and security/immigration;
  • Transfer to and from the aircraft;
  • Higher standard food and beverage service;
  • Bundled pricing.

Can they even be justified when only basic facilities exist in main terminals?

One question that arises immediately is whether they can be justified at all.

Even though they have to be paid for, sometimes through the nose, can the mere existence of such a terminal be vindicated when, in the main terminals, the escalators or travelators don't work, or rain is coming in through a ceiling, or the toilets are overflowing?

There is a thread on the social media website Reddit that poses the question "have the travelators at Manchester Airport - which run the length of parts of T1 and along the Skywalk connector between T1/3, T2 and the central public transport 'Station' - ever worked?"

And the same question has appeared on travel industry news sites - most respondents say they can't remember when they did.

Moreover, Terminal 2, which is close to a kilometre in length, has been extended without any travelators at all.

The 99.9% of Manchester Airport passengers who will not be using the aether private terminal there (the cost of which has not been revealed by Manchester Airports Group) might well ask why money was spent on a facility meant to house no more than a dozen people at a time, as they lug their bags along the hiking trail to the far end of T2.

To VIP or not to VIP, that is the question

Then there is the question of how best to differentiate the terminals.

Many of them carry the 'VIP' cachet, even though they are not targeted principally at 'VIPs', rather at 'Commercially Important Passengers' (the obvious exception in the examples are the Heathrow Airport 'Windsor Suites').

It is to the credit of airports like Manchester with aether, Malta with La Valette, and Singapore with JetQuay, that they have avoided being sucked into this VIP elitism name game.

Arguably there is too much segregation already in the air transport business, but that is a philosophical argument. There will always be people prepared to pay to distance themselves from the hoi polloi, and there have been ever since Frank Sinatra coined the expression 'public abuse factor', decades ago.

What can be said with certainty is that there will be more private terminals; perhaps 100 or so in total before the end of the decade.

And as it did with the low cost airports and terminals explosion 20 years ago, CAPA - Centre for Aviation will keep regular tabs on this sub-sector of the airports business.

This article was written on 30-May-2024.

Want More Analysis Like This?

CAPA Membership provides access to all news and analysis on the site, along with access to many areas of our comprehensive databases and toolsets.
Find Out More