On Wednesday, United Insider shared with FlyerTalk the news about Executive Assistance, it’s new concierge meet-and-greet service available for purchase during your next trip. This is currently available only at the Chicago O’Hare and Newark airports and is most likely to help those traveling in a group or who might otherwise require assistance getting through the airport and onto their flight.
A large part of Executive Assistance involves meeting passengers at the curb, escorting them through the Premier Access check-in and security queues, escorting them to the lounge and/or departure gate, monitoring flight status, and rebooking passengers in the event of a flight disruption. Other services can be arranged for an additional fee, such as United Club access and ground transportation to the airport. Personal shopping services are also available.
I can’t imagine an individual business traveler wanting to be slowed down by an escort, especially when many of the benefits are included with elite status or irrelevant to a regular customer. Just having access to the lounge could go a long way toward facilitating the rebooking process since these agents are often less busy than the ones out in the terminal. (If big storms or other delays hit your airport, it’s worth buying a day pass just for this reason.) For that reason, I’m disappointed to see that lounge access isn’t included by default.
Pricing is unclear. Apparently this service has been outsourced and you must request a quote depending on the services required. One reader on FlyerTalk was asked for $325 for a two-person itinerary and an additional $100 for lounge access (the standard price for two day passes).
How Does This Compare to Five Star Service?
American Airlines has long offered a similar program at several major airports called Five Star Service. In my view it’s more transparent, includes Admirals Club access, and — as far as I know — has the advantage of being operated using American’s own employees. Where available American will also provide Flagship Check-in, which would be comparable to United’s Global Services check-in. I don’t believe United is including this with Executive Assistance.
Pricing for Five Star Service begins at $250 for one adult at this U.S. airports: Boston (BOS), Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), New York Kennedy (JFK), New York LaGuardia (LGA), San Francisco (SFO) and Washington Reagan (DCA). Fees at Buenos Aires (EZE), London Heathrow (LHR), Milan (MXP), Tokyo Narita (NRT) and Sao Paulo (GRU) start at $300. Additional adults are $75, and children are $50 each.
So, American’s Five Star Service would charge the same $325 that was quoted to the above FlyerTalk member for United Executive Assistance. The added bonus is that American is not charging extra for the lounge access. I suppose you could argue that United offers to provide additional concierge services like hotel reservations and arranging a car, but it doesn’t pay for them. Nothing stops you from booking your own hotel or car.
Not a Replacement for Passengers Who Need Assistance
Neither United nor American markets these services for unattended minors, travelers with mobility issues, or other customers who require assistance on a regular basis. Executive Assistance and Five Star Service are intended as convenience services. That said, you can request both. American Airlines recommends you call Reservations (1-800-433-7300) to request travel care, and United has an entire page for customers with special travel needs. You can then forward the information to your airport concierge.