Domestic terminal developments at LAX

Los Angeles International airport is undergoing a more than $1.4 billion upgrade – to its domestic terminals.

The airline-led projects in partnership with operator Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) will see significant passenger-facing improvements to terminals 1, 4, 5, 7 and 8 by 2016. These are in addition to the $1.9 billion that is being invested in the new Tom Bradley International Terminal, whose first phase fully opened in September 2013.

With domestic traffic account for about three-quarters of the airport’s 60.9 million passengers – more then five-times those who used the Tom Bradley terminal - during the first 11 months of 2013, these improvements will be experienced by many.

Terminal 1 – Southwest Airlines is investing $400 million in a complete facelift for the 1984-era terminal. The concourse, ticketing area and baggage claim will be renovated, security will be expanded and 13 of its 14 gates will be reorganised so that they all meet the airline’s requirements for Boeing 737-800s with winglets.

“I think it’s going to improve our operations and customer service,” says Steve Hubbell, senior manager of airport affairs at the Dallas-based low-fare carrier. “This does provide us with greater expansion opportunities, especially with the -800 capabilities at all of the gates.”

Terminal 4 – American Airlines is chipping in $33 million to LAWA’s $148 million connector to the Tom Bradley terminal. This will ease connections to the carrier’s international flights from the new facility (and to its Oneworld alliance partners), create a new security checkpoint for arriving international travellers and install a new in-line baggage system.

An added benefit is the 24.4m (80ft) of additional alleyway that the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier will gain between 4 and Tom Bradley – I see far less aircraft towing in its future.

Terminal 5Delta Air Lines is sinking $229 million in its home at LAX. A new ticketing lobby, baggage claim area, expanded checkpoint and premier lounge will significantly “improve the passenger experience”, says Ranjan Goswami, vice-president of Los Angeles at the Atlanta-based carrier.

What’s not on the list – a connection to the Tom Bradley terminal, the possibility of which gets Goswami “excited”, he says.

Terminals 7 and 8United Airlines is putting $412 million into its redevelopment plan for just about everything “customer-facing”, it says. This includes the concourses, ticketing lobby, baggage claim and security checkpoint.

One thing is missing from these plans – gates. “We are out of gates,” Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of LAWA, so aptly put it at a board meeting on 13 January. Major domestic carriers already average about 10 turns per gate – higher than the recommended maximum of eight turns by the US National Transportation Research Board – at LAX.

The planned Midfield concourse, due in 2019, will begin to tackle the gate issue. Roger Johnson, deputy executive director of the airport development group at LAWA, calls it a “first step” and says that it will give the operator the “flexibility” to make other improvements, the first of which will be the demolition and replacement of terminal 3.

“The Midfield [concourse] is pretty integral in addressing our constraints,” he says.

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