LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Plans for construction of a Los Angeles International Airport VIP lounge “shouldn’t be the priority” in the wake of the attacks in Paris, airport police union officials said Tuesday.
Los Angeles World Airport executives voted unanimously last week to allow an exclusive facility that would offer privacy to Hollywood celebrities, pro athletes and public officials for VIP departures and arrivals at LAX, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Travelers could fork over as much as $1,800 for access to a secured parking and drop-off zone that would allow celebs seeking to avoid the spotlight to sidestep both holiday crowds and paparazzi.
For fees as high as $1,800 per trip, travelers would be able to drive into a secure parking and drop-off area, avoiding the main terminals, which can be crowded with people and jammed with traffic.
But with the airport on its way to being the busiest in the U.S. ahead of the holiday travel season, Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association President Marshall McClain says airport officials should instead address security following several recent public safety incidents “instead [of] announcing the construction of a VIP lounge for the 1 percent.”
LAWA officials responded Tuesday in a statement: “No LAWA funds are being used for the development of the lounge. The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners approved a 10-year lease to a local firm, Gavin de Becker and Associates, to convert a cargo facility into a private lounge. The lease calls for the company to invest at least $3 million to renovate the property and to manage the lounge. LAWA expects to earn about $34 million during the 10-year lease. ”
McClain cited an incident from last Thursday when a man dressed in a pilot’s uniform was seen trying to get on the wrong plane, prompting the bomb squad to shut down a portion of the airport.
Airport police later confirmed the “unauthorized person” was an off-duty pilot in uniform.
Just a few hours later, four juveniles were taken into custody and cited after airport police received a report of someone jumping the fence surrounding the LAX Sand Dunes and Blue Butterfly Preserve.
McClain said these incidents, which came roughly two years after the Nov. 1, 2013, LAX shooting in which TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez as killed, should push airport officials to reconsider their plans.
“LAX continues to be considered the highest terrorist target on the West Coast. The policing and security gaps that exist at LAX are clear,” said McClain. “Before airport executives spend money to build a VIP lounge to be used by the wealthy, they need to fund the necessary improvements to the overall public safety of the airport.”
Instead, McClain recommended LAWA officials invest in higher reinforced fencing and detection devices “to make the more than 8 miles of perimeter fencing at LAX less vulnerable to would-be terrorists, criminals and juvenile fence jumpers.”
As for security, the airport said: “LAWA recently completed a $48 million closed-circuit TV system that now includes more than 3,000 cameras and enhances the perimeter security at LAX. Los Angeles Airport Police is undertaking another project that will add more cameras.”
McClain also called for increased spending to boost LAX police staffing numbers and patrols.
“Sworn police officer levels at LAX is the highest it has ever been. There are now more than 550 sworn officers,” the airport said.