Private Terminal at Atlanta Int’l Offers Commercial Passengers VIP Treatment

Private Terminal at Atlanta Int’l Offers Commercial Passengers VIP Treatment
Jodi Richards
Published in: 

Airline passengers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) can now experience the privacy and luxury typically only available to corporate and general aviation customers, thanks to a private terminal operated by PS (formerly known as The Private Suite).

The posh facility that opened in September 2023 is a subtenant of Signature Aviation, which has provided FBO services, including private and general aviation aircraft handling, on the north side of ATL since 2017. The private terminal operates as a sublease to the 20-year lease agreement between Signature and the airport, with a five-year option to renew. It accounts for more than one half of the FBO’s total square footage at ATL.

Jai Ferrell, deputy general manager and chief commercial officer at ATL, explains that Signature demolished and completely rebuilt some of its preexisting structures to create the new PS terminal in 2018. Atlanta’s preponderance of “A listers” in professional sports and the TV and film industries makes ATL an ideal location for this kind of service, she explains.


Project: Private Terminal for Commercial Passengers

Location: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Int’l Airport

Operator: PS (formerly The Private Suite)

Subtenant of: Signature Aviation

Opened: Sept. 2023

Terms: 20-year lease between Signature & ATL,
with 5-year option to renew

Special Services/Amenities: Expedited TSA screening/CBP processing; chauffer service to/from aircraft; private suites include a day bed, private restroom & shower, spa services, extensive cocktail menu & chef-prepared meals

Admission Prices: All-access PS membership costs $4,850 annually, plus $750 per person to use The Salon at PS ATL, or $3,550 for a PS suite. Without a membership, access to The Salon is $1,095 per person or $4,850 for a PS suite that accommodates up to 4 travelers

The idea of offering celebrity-level service was originally floated by Signature about five years ago. At the time, the FBO was reimagining its service model and considered launching its own VVIP branch, but instead developed a strategic partnership with PS, which was established in that sector of the travel industry. 

“There’s a particular type of clientele and passenger profile for that members-only space,” Ferrell says. “It’s really great to see that we’re diversifying those offerings.”

“When PS approached Signature and shared their vision of the elite concierge experience, we saw the importance of the luxury experience for their customers,” adds Sanchia Rivera-Beckno, Signature’s regional vice president. “We’re customer-obsessed. Our partnership with PS is another way of not just being a transportation company, but a hospitality business.”

Jim Hopkins, senior vice president of Airport Relations and Strategic Programs for Signature, emphasizes the role that relationships play in turning opportunities like this into a reality. “Our partnership with PS and the airport allowed us to continue elevating our offerings and deliver a truly exceptional customer experience,” says Hopkins. “We’re thrilled to do this in Atlanta, and we’re always looking for opportunities to expand efforts like these across our network, providing a level of hospitality that is in a class of its own.”

PS Chief Executive Officer Amina Porter notes that the private terminal’s location immediately adjacent to Signature’s facility at ATL enables a seamless transition between private aircraft and commercial airlines for customers. “PS would love to be in every major airport in the U.S., and Hartsfield-Jackson was a natural next step in our expansion plan,” Porter remarks. “As the nation’s busiest airport and a major hub, we are thrilled to be able to offer Atlantans and travelers connecting through ATL a luxurious airport alternative.”

The company has operated a similar private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) since 2017.

Why It Works

Porter says two key travel trends align well with the luxury service provider’s business model: the increasing desire for privacy, and the desire for people to splurge on travel. “In an age of data breaches and social distancing, PS offers a promise of privacy and security that is difficult to match during travel,” she explains. “We offer a premium experience that can make the journey as enjoyable as the destination, which has appealed strongly in this post-pandemic travel boom.”

For Signature, developing the new terminal was about seizing an opportunity that made sense. “We are always listening and evolving as the world changes,” says Rivera-Beckno.

“Flight behaviors have changed,” Ferrell agrees. “The COVID passenger who left is not the one who returned.” By that, she means passenger expectations have changed regarding airport services, amenities and technology. As always, there are still multiple demographic groups within the general category of the flying public—from those who want the most economical experience possible to those who desire a premium experience in members-only airline lounges, and everything in between.

“But we were also looking at the emergence of the more super-premium VIP passenger, if you will,” Ferrell explains. And that’s where PS came in. Previously, only passengers traveling by private jet had access to the airport’s FBO. But since the emergence of PS, commercial airline travelers can have that exclusive experience, too. “PS provides us with the opportunity to meet the need of that passenger who doesn’t want to come into the [main commercial] terminals and has the financial means to be a PS member,” says Ferrell.  

Arriving PS customers are picked up on the tarmac, with private U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) clearance provided for international travelers. Departing passengers have access to private TSA screening, away from the security lines inside ATL’s busy public terminals.

An all-access PS membership costs $4,850 per year, plus $750 per person for The Salon at ATL, or $3,550 for a private suite within the PS facility. Without a membership, access to The Salon is $1,095 per person or $4,850 for a PS suite that can accommodate up to four travelers. PS suites include a day bed, private restroom and shower, spa services such as massages and manicures (also complimentary to All Access and Salon Members), an extensive cocktail menu and chef-prepared meals, and private chauffer service to and from the aircraft.

“We believe we have managed to bring two operations that may seem at odds with one another—an airport and a luxury hotel or private club—and fuse them harmoniously,” Porter summarizes.

Luxury Meets Function

The building PS occupies at ATL was originally designed and purpose-built to support Signature Aviation operations. “This called for a significant redesign in order for it to be reimagined as a stand-alone terminal,” says Porter. “We worked in partnership with all major stakeholders—especially the Atlanta Aviation Department and CBP to create a functional, welcoming space within the existing constraints.”

“The PS team has put a lot of money and resources into being here and providing the most exceptional services,” Ferrell says, noting that the design team reconfigured the TSA and CBP spaces three times to optimize throughput and create an exclusive private security experience. “It was very intentionally designed,” she emphasizes.

Like the public terminals at ATL, the private PS facility is required to comply with all airport, TSA and FAA requirements to ensure safety and security. Passenger and baggage screening occurs onsite. Per an agreement approved by Atlanta City Council in May 2023, Signature Aviation and PS reimburse expenses for the TSA screening program.

ATL has provided guidance and support to ensure that terminal and airside operations at PS meet all safety, security and Customs requirements.  “We supported them through all of their clearances for TSA and CBP and coordination with the airlines, operations and safety teams,” says Ferrell. “We have a shared guest, a shared passenger. We’re excited to be part of that network.”

As a business already operating at ATL in concert with CBP and TSA, Signature was also “happy to leverage our relationships and knowledge to bridge all parties and face any challenge that may come our way,” says Rivera-Beckno.

Keeping the Peace

The exclusive service concept by PS required additional stakeholder engagement and buy-in beyond the federal agencies, even though the terminal would not be located in ATL’s main facility. Ferrell notes that it was important to convince commercial carriers that it would be a complementary offering and not a competing one. “There were a lot of tours and meetings with the airlines to let them know this wasn’t taking anything away from them,” she relates. “As a matter of fact, it was creating an even more premium product and helping with airline club relief, too.”

An option like PS helps the airport meet the needs of high-profile travelers and enables the entire facility to remain operationally efficient when they are onsite, Ferrell explains. It also reflects the innovation and forward thinking that ATL likes to cultivate. “We’re looking forward to seeing more folks pitch these types of ideas and really bring them to life, because our passengers are very dynamic and diverse,” says Ferrell. “Having offerings at all levels is really important.”

In that vein, she encourages other airports to keep an open mind about this type of concept. “There’s a market for any and everything,” she advises. “This is one of those examples of ‘If you build it, they will come.’”

PS did a great job marketing the new service, she adds. In fact, customers were already interested and asking about the service well before the new terminal opened. The idea wasn’t new to that clientele, but rather a “sigh of relief” for those who had seen it at LAX and were excited to have the same experience at ATL. 

Currently, PS is in development for similar facilities at Dallas Fort Worth International in 2024 and Miami International in 2025. “We hope to have a few more to announce soon,” Porter adds.


2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement

Giving back to the community is central to what Charlotte Douglas International Airport and its operator, the City of Charlotte Aviation Department, is about, and last year was no different. 

Throughout 2022, while recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued our efforts to have a positive impact on the Charlotte community. Of particular note, we spent the year sharing stories of how Connections Don't Just Happen at the Terminal - from creating homeownership and employment opportunities to supporting economic growth through small-business development and offering outreach programs to help residents understand the Airport better.

This whitepaper highlights the construction projects, initiatives, programs and events that validate Charlotte Douglas as a premier airport.

Download the whitepaper: 2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement.



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