Parents know that the hardest part about traveling with kids isn’t jet lag or long family dinners after bedtime. Often it is not even the flight. In my experience, the toughest moments of traveling with kids happen at the airport — when pent-up excitement, coupled with missed naps and late or early flight times, leads to meltdowns, tantrums, and overzealous toddlers racing through an endless security line.
Luckily for parents around the world, SkyVIP Services (formerly known as Universal Sky Services) is the airport savior we’re all looking for. In its eighth year, it is the world’s largest meet and greet operator, offering a range of airport services to make traveling less stressful – with or without children.
Founded by Anna Kunakkuzina and Elena Ermolenko, SkyVIP started with one airport in Miami in 2014 and has since grown to 195 destinations, with 45 new airports just opening in 2022. On average, the company organizes 8,638 flights per year across North and Latin America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and Indonesia.
“It all started with VIP tourism in Miami, but that’s not all our service is about today,” says Ermolenko. “Customers came back to us asking for services for their elderly parents or children traveling alone, luggage assistance, transfers and all kinds of travel inquiries – even city tours. They pushed us to expand globally and add premium options. So we decided to enter two markets – Airport Assistance for families and VVIP Airport Assistance for celebrities, executives and diplomats.”
The two types of SkyVIP services include the VIP Meet and Greet, which covers arrival, departure and all connections, providing door-to-door assistance, baggage assistance, customs, security checks, unaccompanied minors, seniors and mobility-impaired passengers. Prices start at $325 for two people. This option is primarily intended for families.
For those who want more hand-holding, SkyVIP also offers a Premium VIP Meet & Greet that starts on the tarmac. Passengers are whisked away in a luxury vehicle to the VIP lounge in a comfortable setting or a fully private suite with pre-ordered food and refreshments. Behind the scenes, the team collects the luggage while the dedicated officer handles all immigration formalities. Prices start at $2000 for two people.
SkyVIP’s most popular destinations include London, Los Angeles, Paris, Zurich and Dubai, but its presence is growing rapidly. “The biggest feedback and the biggest request from 2022 is to expand our service to exotic destinations with more airports,” says Ermolenko. “Now we are working to expand our geography across South America, Botswana, Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, Fiji and private Caribbean islands.”
SkyVIP also works at the enterprise level with brands such as Netflix, Youtube, American Express, Rolzo, St. Regis, The Ritz Carlton, Quintessentially and Virtuoso. It supports events such as fashion shows, beauty pageants, award ceremonies, concerts and sporting events.
I had the unique privilege of trying SkyVIP on a recent trip to Israel. Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport is known for its seemingly endless lines and multiple security checkpoints. With my kids in tow I figured it would be the perfect place to sample what’s on offer. After an 11 hour red eye, we were greeted by a friendly handler who met us just outside the arrival gate. From there, we followed him through the terminal, through customs, through security, and past lines that wound around themselves. Within 10 minutes we were at baggage claim where he kindly secured our bags and loaded them into a luxury sedan that drove to our hotel.
On the way home we were even more grateful to SkyVIP. Leaving Israel can be more time-consuming than entering. We strolled past the check-in lines, security checkpoints, and passport control, and ate kosher Big Macs near our gate—all within 20 minutes of arrival.
In 2023, SkyVIP improves guest user experience by launching a new booking system with a membership club and loyalty program.
“The most common feedback is why we don’t offer a full travel service with flights, luxury hotels and experiences, and that’s our new challenge for 2023,” says Kunakkuzina. After more than eight years with us, we know some customers as family members. We planned their destination wedding and we watched their children grow up. Our customers know that our team will do everything right. It is their confidence in our service and our integrity.”