In bid to win L.A. customers, Delta offers special on-tarmac Porsche rides

Delta will now drive some of its best customers to their gates at LAX. On Thursday, the airline held a swanky event in Beverly Hills to celebrate its commitment to Los Angeles.

Delta will now drive some of its best customers to their gates at LAX. On Thursday, the airline held a swanky event in Beverly Hills to celebrate its commitment to Los Angeles.

In yet another sign it wants to capture more West Coast business, Delta Air Lines is bringing its fleet of chauffeur-driven Porsche to the tarmac of Los Angeles International Airport.

In a service similar to what Delta has at its Atlanta hub, the airline will now drive some high-level frequent fliers directly to the gate. That means no waiting around in the boarding area for your zone to be called. It’s an especially useful service for passengers making tight connections at LAX.

The key here is that Delta will be surprising its best customers. That’s a better strategy, airline officials believe, than promising gate-to-gate car service and then, for whatever reason, not delivering.

This appears to be part of a broader push by Delta to gain share in Los Angeles – one of the nation’s most lucrative air travel markets. On Thursday night, the airline hosted a swanky party in Beverly Hills to promote its stature here. Delta especially underscored its improvements to its Business Elite service between Los Angeles and New York, which includes high-quality bedding and flat seats. Delta wants to show Angelenos — especially those who control corporate travel accounts – that it wants be a major player in Los Angeles.

In the last five years, American and United have generally dueled to attract high-yield passengers from LAX, but it’s clear that Delta is interesting in taking them on. Delta or its joint venture partners fly from Los Angeles to almost every major city in the world, with only one glaring exception – Chicago. And Delta recently announced it will provide hourly shuttle service, 14 times a day, between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Still don’t think Delta is serious about L.A.? Maybe the picture below will change your mind. Delta brought John Stamos to its Beverly Hills party. So that must mean something.

John Stamos!

Delta brought out the heavy hitters for Thursday’s Beverly Hills event.

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LAX passenger traffic up considerably from last year

Passenger traffic at Los Angeles International Airport rose considerably in June compared to the prior year, statistics show.

Domestic traffic rose 7.8 percent compared to June 2012, up to roughly 4.5 million passengers. International traffic was up 3 percent, to a little more than 1.6 million passengers.

Overall, traffic for the first six months of the year was up 4.1 percent compared to the same period last year.

Between January and June, United was the No. 1 carrier at LAX with almost 5.5 million passengers. That number does not include flights operated by regional carriers doing business as United Express.

American was second with roughly 5.2 million passengers while Delta was third with about 4.2 million.

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United Airlines to drive some passengers to gates in Mercedes cars

United Airlines will soon drive some of its best customers to the gate using Mercedes cars like this one.

United Airlines will soon drive some of its best customers to the gate using Mercedes cars like this one.

Want to be driven to your next flight in a chauffeured Mercedes? You may now have your chance.

United Airlines plans to shuttle some of its top fliers around the tarmac using Mercedes Benz cars. It just soft-launched the program at its Houston hub, where it will initially have two cars –  one S-Class sedan and one GL-Class SUV.

With only two cars, it’ll be hit or miss on who gets the service. But fliers eligible to get the special ride will be United’s elite Global Services members, as well as passengers traveling on international first class flights.

Lucky customers will be picked up at one gate and shuttled on the airport tarmac to their connecting flight. The customer will then board via the jet bridge stairs. No need to go into the terminal. Priority will go to passengers on tight connections.

United officials say they’ll soon launch the project a second hub. My guess is that second hub is not LAX – Newark, perhaps – but who knows? Maybe Angelenos will get lucky.

United is actually a little late to this party. Lufthansa has had the service at its Frankfurt and Munich hubs for years, and its Mercedes/Porsche fleet is far larger than two cars. I recently experienced the Mercedes service in Frankfurt and let me tell you, it was pretty cool. The luxury is nice, but it’s the increased efficiency that is even better. There’s no waiting for anything.

Delta has also rolled out a similar program at its Atlanta hub using Porsches, a convenience detailed in a recent Wall Street Journal article.

What do you think of this service? Do you hope to use it?

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