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April 10, 2013

VIP Travel Amenities

Courtesy of St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel

Whether on the ground or in the air, these ten special extras offer elite travelers an elevated experience.

Jacob Pabst is the globe-trotting CEO of Artnet, the art world’s premier trading platform. Given China’s cultural boom, it is not surprising that he is often called to Beijing from his New York base. On his first visit there, Pabst, a Centurion cardholder, booked a fast-track greeting service via American Express. While fellow passengers boarded a bus to the airport terminal, Pabst stepped into a limo on the tarmac, which took him seamlessly through immigration and customs. “I could sit in the car and call a couple of friends, then I was on my way to the hotel,” he recalls. “I felt like President Obama sitting in the back of that car.”

Such discreet services have become an increasingly important lure for the traveling elite, whether offered in airports, on planes or at hotels. See how American Airlines subtly launched an entirely stand-alone service—Concierge Key—from its AAdvantage loyalty program (aa.com). Made famous by George Clooney’s character in the film Up in the Air, this is a frequent-flier Fight Club with an order of omertà. Its reported benefits are crave-worthy, though, and include a personal in-terminal escort, dedicated phone line and VIP pre-boarding.

According to Nina Flohr of fractional flying firm VistaJet, one driving factor lies behind the boom in such ultra-exclusive travel amenities: “The art of travel is disappearing fast—it’s no longer Pan Am, when the whole thing was a special, luxury experience,” she says. “Today it’s about getting from A to B quite effectively. But you want people to feel more comfortable on the way.”

Niche amenities, Flohr says, aren’t simply boldfaced blandishments. Rather, as the elites travel more often and go farther, “it all relates back to time: Everybody is busy, so how can we make more time available for you, yourself, your family?”

We traveled the world to unearth ten enviable, exclusive travel benefits. Each of them cuts corners in the most luxurious of ways, from saving time on shopping via unique in-flight treats to a private check-in at Europe’s busiest airport to a private elevator straight to a Presidential Suite—if standing in a hotel lobby for even an instant is unbearable.