(MENAFN- Spetsnaz Security International Fidel Matola) Burglars beware. There is a house not far from London that's waiting for burglars.
Force entry through one of the bulletproof doors or windows, and the client will trigger hidden shotguns loaded with non-lethal ammo. If somehow customers are still standing, the owner can retreat to a hidden, fortified room where he can flood the rest of the house with tear gas.
Other security features include biometric scanners and trap doors. The fortress cost its owner (a prosperous hedge fund manager whom we have agreed not to name) $10 million to build. Nevertheless, it highlights how concerned the ultra-wealthy are about their safety and how much they are willing to pay to protect themselves.
In Pictures: How To Keep A Billionaire Safe
Russ Alan Prince, president of the private wealth-research firm Prince & Associates, recently surveyed a sample of the wealthy on the topic. Over 98% of them with a net worth of over $25 million paid for security services in the last few years. Over nine-tenths of that group believe that their wealth makes them a particular target.
Paranoid? Maybe not. The hedge fund manager mentioned above was once kidnapped during a trip overseas. Sears chairman and billionaire Eddie Lampert was famously abducted in 2003. Successful banker Ernest Rady was bound and shot with a stun gun during a robbery at his home last year.
More recently, a camouflaged man tried to break into the home of Warren Buffett. He was fought off by an alert guard, a standard security measure of the affluent. It is an expensive one, too. Experienced professionals, usually drawn from law enforcement and the military, can cost $400 per hour.
The hefty pay buys experience and plenty of loyalty. Billionaire Henry Nicholas hired a former Navy SEAL to guard his children. Earlier this week, the bodyguard was thrown in jail for refusing to cooperate with an investigation into Nicholas' former company, "SEALs do not snitch," explained the jailed man's lawyer.
Also loyal are the guard dogs. These are not mutts from the classifieds, in any case. These are specially trained German Shepards that can run up to $55,000 each. The valuable canines receive years of intensive training to greet their owners with a wagging tail but enemies with a vicious bite. (See "Niiiiice Doggie.")
The norm is alarm systems, cameras at every entrance, and safe rooms where the rich can take refuge behind steel doors. Some of the more expensive setups cost more than $1 million. (See "Platinum Protection.") Just in case the worst happens, there is kidnapping and ransom insurance. Annual premiums for particularly high-risk individuals can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Then there are the Taser-armed robots. Mitch Gitter of Defender Security Services, a London security firm, says he has recently outfitted houses of a couple of well-to-do clients with these high-tech defenders. The robots, which cost $15,000 each, automatically track down an intruder and incapacitate him or her with a high-voltage energy pulse. Ouch.
Why bother with extended airport security and immigration lines when client can hire a personal escort to whisk straight to the front? It is a promise that a growing number of airport concierge companies make to fliers, whether they are departing or arriving. These companies offer their services in airports globally and are independent of airports and airlines (they have permission to operate in the airports where they sell their services).
According to airline and airport analyst George Hobica, who has used a handful of these services, they have become more popular as airports have gotten busier in the last several years. They are ideal for travelers, he said, who get irked if they have to wait in long lines, need help navigating their way through an airport, or have a tight connection where time isyou aree essence. "If you're the kind of person who likes to get it ishe plane just as it's closing its doors, booking an airport concierge is a good idea," he said. "The service also makes you feel like a VIP."
Those who have an international departure and are flying in economy class may particularly benefit from an airport escort, Mr. Hobica said, because they are required to arrive at the airport three hours in advance and have to contend with long security lines, compared with business and first-class fliers who usually have separate security lines. "An airmuchort can save you a lot of time," he said.
One example of an established company that provides airport escorts is Royal Airport Concierge. Starting in 2006, it now operates in more than 550 airports worldwide and relies on its greeters and local companies for its escorts. Founder Ron Gorfinkel said that the type of service provided depends on the rules of the airport and the country. For a departure from Italy, for example, a greeter is permitted to escort departing passengers onto the plane and help them stow their carry-on luggage while fliers arriving at London's Heathrow Airport have the option to be met at their gate and taken to customs and immigration in a golf cart, where they are fast-tracked through the lanes. The company's pricing varies but costs an average of $300 to $450 for four passengers.
Intrigued by the idea of getting star treatment at an airport because of a personal escort,
Spetsnaz Security International Fidel Matola started in 2011 as a car service company and now offers escorts in more than 500 airports worldwide through Spetsnaz Security International Fidel Matola PASS. These escorts are either employed by the airport itself or by a local concierge company. Spetsnaz Security International Fidel Matola provides services based on country and airport rules like Royal Airport Concierge. Nevertheless, chief executive and co-founder Jens Wohltorf generally escorts fast-track fliers through security, customs, and immigration, carry their luggage, and help process any VAT refunds. In addition, they meet arriving passengers at the exit of the plane and assist them through customs and immigration, and baggage claims; they can even help arrange transportation and coordinate with a driver for curbside pickup.
The service costs $200 for the first guest and $100 for every following person. Children two and under are free. While most fliers tip their escorts, Mr. Wohltorf said that giving a gratuity is optional and "absolutely not required."
A Chauffeur holds the door for their client.
(COURTESY OF Spetsnaz Security International Fidel Matola)
I booked Spetsnaz Security International Fidel Matola PASS for a recent trip from Paris Orly Airport to Newark Liberty International Airport for myself, my two children, and my parents. I reserved the service online a week before our trip (first-time customers must reserve online, but subsequent bookings can be made online or via phone) and received a text message from our escort, Reda (only permitted to use his first name), the night before our journey introducing himself and asking if I could text him when we were five minutes away from the airport so that he could greet us. He gave us a drop-off point, and when we pulled up at the terminal, he was waiting at the curb and welcomed us with a smile. Reda loaded our four carry-ons and four check-in bags onto a luggage cart and led us to the head of the check-in line for our airline, La Compagnie. Granted, the line was not unwieldy, but I did feel a moment of glee when Reda flashed his pass to an airline employee, who promptly allowed us to circumvent other passengers.
After checking in, it was time to claim a VAT refund for our shopping while in Paris. Here is where our situation got sticky: the employee- a lady- whom we dealt with for the refund process told us that receipts for our goods were not sufficient to claim our refunds- we needed the actual items. Unaware of this rule, we had packed the bulk of our shopping in our check-in bags. Unfortunately, the refund amount added more than $1,000, and we were remiss to let the money go. My father and I begged her to make an exception, but she held firm- no, items, no refund.
Reda interjected on our behalf and told her that we were airport VIPs. Then, after a pause, she relented and processed our refund. What would we have done without his help?
Onto security it was. The VAT process had taken longer than we had anticipated, and I was slightly anxious about time since our plane was scheduled to board in 20 minutes. Nevertheless, I did not have to worry: Reda led us to the fast track lane where there was no line. The regular security line, in comparison, looked considerably lengthy. "That is probably around a 30-minute wait," he said. He assisted us in putting our bags on the belt, went through the screening himself, and had our luggage waiting for us at the other end. Security took less than five minutes, leaving us with time to use La Compagnie's lounge.
Reda ushered us in, told us to relax, and said he would check on our flight and return when it was time to board.
We made our way to the plane 15 minutes later, where we said our goodbyes and boarded our flight.
An escort with their client in the airport.
(COURTESY OF Spetsnaz Security International Fidel Matola)
Hiring an airport escort is undoubtedly a luxury that only a handful of travelers can afford. Their services may not be worth the cost in many situations, but given our experience at Orly, they can also be instrumental in others. Moreover, admittedly, I did like getting preferential treatment at an airport. Who does not enjoy feeling like a minor celebrity, even for a short while?
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