After years of neglect, progress is being made on the dilapidated Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. Phase I of the update on the 26-year old structure is now complete.
By far the most important change:
The largest part of the project added 45,000 square feet to house a $140-million in-line baggage system that employs elaborate conveyors to move luggage from ticket counters to security scanners before it is loaded onto planes.
The system has eliminated the large boxy scanners in the Bradley lobby, which were a major inconvenience for passengers who had to carry their luggage to the devices during check-in.
I rarely check luggage, but when I flew on Swiss Air last year from TBIT, there were literally thousands of people waiting in line to have their bags screened. The lines stretched up and down the check-in lobby, outside the terminal, and all the way down to Terminal 4.
With the new baggage system in place, passengers will only have to wait in two lines–check-in and security, and will no longer have to lug their checked bags around the terminal and face additional harassment from the TSA.
- Two new boarding gates to handle the A380 and 747-8.
- A new restaurant: Daniels Bistro+Bar
The menu includes items not found at other airports, such as chicken and apple panini, flatbread pizzas and the house special — beef brisket panini with grilled onions, cheddar and arugula.
- New florist shop
- New money exchange
- New passenger greeting lobby
There is a halo of lights in the ceiling and the longest video project ever installed at a U.S. airport to entertain people as they wait for passengers. Suspended from the roof, the media wall of 29 side-to-side, 46-inch display screens extends 90 feet in a serpentine pattern.
Seems like an odd expenditure when Los Angeles is broke…
But plan on a mess in the months (and years) to come:
LAX officials say, however, the next phase requires that at least $100 million worth of current improvements to 10 of 11 gates at the terminal will have to be torn out to make way for future construction.
Even when Phase II is complete, problems will remain:
Arriving passengers are still being bused from remote gates to the Bradley terminal and traffic around the airport is terrible, Keady said. The new renovation “won’t help if international travelers continue to come out of the Bradley and are met by diesel fumes and traffic congestion.”
Keady and airport officials say the next phase of the Bradley overhaul should help relieve some of these concerns. Plans call for new concourses, additional gates that can handle larger aircraft and a grand central hall filled with restaurants and retail shopping.
I’ve experienced the Frankfurt-style bussing before at LAX and find it extremely burdensome. Rather than spending so much to improve TBIT cosmetically, I would have constructed a brand new international terminal that would alleviate the need for many of the remote gates. As mentioned upthread, though, it’s kind of hard to do when the city can’t pay it other bills.
There are two major improvements that I would like to see at LAX. One is very doable, the other is a pipedream. I have illustrated my desires (in yellow) on the LAX terminal map below.
First, the eight terminals should be connected and passengers should be free to roam from terminal to terminal once they clear security. Right now, only T5-8 are connected on the secure side. Connecting the terminals through pedestrian bridges would make accessing the Air New Zealand Koru Club and Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge easy (at least easier than it is now). More importantly, it would allow passengers connecting to different airlines to avoid the annoyance of having to exit one terminal, wait for a inter-terminal bus, and re-clearing security.
Second, the Metro Green Line (or a brand new line) needs to reach LAX. I think it is a travesty that America’s second largest city has a third-world public transportation system and no rail service to the international airport. Currently, a shuttle bus runs from airport to the “airport Metro station” and the ride into downtown LA takes far too long and requires connections. LAX is an international gateway to the world and it pains me to think that the first impression of America for many is Los Angeles International.
A Metro extension would cost billions, however, and I concede that at this time it is unrealistic to do anything more than dream about a SFO/YVR/STL/ORD/DCA-style train link to LAX. Anyways, at least progress has been made at TBIT.