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The Cost of Airport Convenience: Worth It?

Travel is constant weighing of savings vs. convenience. When you travel with kids the equation gets more complicated. When is paying more to make travel less stressful really worth it?

The airport VIP services that airports, airlines, credit card companies and private firms are offering these days raised this question for me. These for-fee perks start at around $50 and go beyond $1,000 per person.  I think that at the low end they’re worth the splurge if you are flying solo with a child, flying with multiple small kids, or traveling with both older grandparents and children.

We tried AA’s Five Star Service, which they now offer in a dozen airports. For $250 (rates have since gone up), my husband and I were greeted at the curb at the American Airlines terminal at New York’s JFK. Our escort took some of our bags while I wheeled the stroller and steered us to priority check-in. About ten minutes later, with boarding passes in hand, she walked us to the front of the very long security line and delivered us to the AA Admirals Club lounge. At boarding time our escort came back and brought us to the front of the line at the gate. We still had to make due with our economy seats, but with no one else on the plane it was easy to get our stuff tucked away and our daughter situated.

For a lower fee we could have hired a private company to escort us from the curb through check-in and security and then fended for ourselves in the common seating areas. Unless you really need help maneuvering your kids and stuff through the airport, I can’t say the AA lounge was worth the extra $150.

The services that top $1,000 per person come with private airport entrances and dedicated security checks. Their people will have boarding passes waiting for you and even drive you to your plane over the tarmac so you don’t have to deal with the riff-raff at the gate. This is a level of service I doubt I will ever experience. 

However, a major hub like AA’s JFK terminal can be a total zoo at prime hours. It’s probably worth it ‑ at least in some situations­ – to pay up to bypass lines that snake all over the place and spend less than 30 minutes getting from curbside to airside. I would do it again.

Have you ever paid for VIP service? Would you?


We are currently planning a trip and I feel so overwhelmed trying to get the best deals because it can get so expensive sometimes!


Eileen Gunn is the founder of FamiliesGo!, a travel website that makes vacation planning easier for busy parents. She is also a veteran journalist who has written for top consumer wbsites, magazines and newspapers. You can follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.