For a fee, a movie star, sports legend, diplomat, business magnate or regular private citizen who craves privacy will be able to enter through a private gate, avoid the infamous airport traffic and wait far from the crush of people at the central LAX terminal.

Share story

LOS ANGELES — Kanye West has had words (and more) with photographers chasing him at Los Angeles International Airport; a friend of actor Jared Leto tangled with one in August; the list of disturbances involving celebrities goes on — and on.

Soon such celebrities coming through the airport will be able to avoid the paparazzi and security lines, the long walk to gates and contact with autograph-seekers now that a plan has been approved to set up a private lounge for the rich and famous.

The proposal was approved Thursday by the Board of Airport Commissioners. A security firm that caters to the 1 percent will turn an old cargo facility into a special lounge for those who can afford it, to open as early as next spring. The proposed project includes a 43,750-square-foot building and a 13,840-square-foot parking lot.

For a fee that will most likely run about $1,800 per trip, a movie star, sports legend, diplomat, business magnate or regular private citizen who craves privacy will be able to enter through a private gate, avoid the infamous airport traffic and wait far from the crush of people at the central terminal of the airport, known as LAX. They will be shuttled from the lounge to their flights and back to the lounge upon return, and receive various other amenities to be determined.

“We’ve had a lot of issues over the years with paparazzi around celebrities, making it difficult for other passengers,” said Sean Burton, president of the Board of Airport Commissioners. “We’ve had incidents where paparazzi have knocked people over. We had one incident last year when someone in a wheelchair was knocked down.”

Ordinary passengers will also benefit, Burton said, because the lounge will help allay the crowding, pileups at security and occasional violence that follow movie stars at the airport.

A private celebrity-security firm, Gavin de Becker & Associates, will build and run the lounge, which is expected to bring in $34 million for the airport over 10 years, and help pay for a major airport expansion, which includes a project to connect the airport to the region’s rail system.

The Gavin de Becker company would be responsible for investing at least $3 million to renovate the property and manage the lounge during the 10-year lease. It also must make all necessary arrangements with airlines, the federal Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The lounge in Los Angeles is to be modeled on one at Heathrow Airport in London that was originally designed for the royal family before opening to the general public for a fee starting at 2,000 pounds, or about $3,000. At Heathrow, those who use the special lounge do not have to wait in line at security or Customs; such details are still being figured out for Los Angeles.

Similar facilities exist at international airports in Amsterdam; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Moscow; Paris; Frankfurt, Germany; Madrid; and other major cities. But LAX will be the first in the United States.

Gavin de Becker has also expressed interest in expanding the celebrity-lounge program to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and airports in Miami and elsewhere.

Burton said it was fitting that the first lounge of this type would be in Hollywood’s backyard. “With all the celebrities that come in and out of the airport,” he said, “we really do think it will benefit all passengers at LAX.”