Reviving Los Angeles International - LAX
Gateway to Hollywood and with as many facelifts, Los Angeles International is both iconic and in constant need of attention, just like the stars who frequent it.
On the west coast of the US, Los Angeles International (LAX) remains by far the biggest airport by passenger numbers, but it is battling both San Francisco
, and Vancouver
in Canada for growing transPacific traffic from Asia.
Poor service has dogged LAX thanks to its complex, old infrastructure: nine terminals with cramped adjacencies make it awkward to manage. But changes are afoot. A $4.11-billion capital improvement programme is underway, the centrepiece being the $1.5 billion Bradley West Project at the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) first built for the Olympics in LA in 1984 and which itself underwent a revamp to bring it into the 21st century (completed in 2010) with much improved passenger services especially lounge facilities.
The Bradley West scheme goes a stage further. Here extra gates for new-generation aircraft like the Airbus A380 and Boeing B787 Dreamliner are being built along with concourses featuring large open-plan retail and food-and-beverage offerings that are set to bring LAX some new fans judging by the artists impressions and the scale of development • but they will have to wait. The project will not be completed until 2014, but phased in from 2012. It is a vital new piece of infrastructure for LAX because TBIT serves more than half of all international passengers.
In the meantime, like many US airports, LAX’s main shopping offer is based on the standard duty-free store. There are 10, currently all operated by DFS Group: five at TBIT, and one each in terminals 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7. They offer a pretty standard mix of liquor, tobacco, perfumes and accessories and are not particularly inspiring in TBIT as investment is on hold due to the new offerings coming on stream at Bradley West, and because the airport will be issuing new contracts for its enhanced duty free space to start in 2013.
Other retail options are available in the form of standalone stores present in most departure lounges. These include See’s, the confectioner from south San Francisco in T1 and T3; Crews of California which sells all things media (T1 and five locations in TBIT); gadget retailer Brookstone (T1); Kidsworks which sells character novelties from Disney, Dora the Explorer, Sesame Street etc (T1, T7, TBIT); I Love LA, Destinations LA/LA Edge, and The Hollywood Store for souvenirs (T2, T4 and TBIT); InMotion for entertainment (TBIT), and a string of Hudson News stands across the airport.
Passenger numbers, 2011: 61.8 million
Airlines: Around 60 among the biggest of which (by number of routes) are Delta, United, United Express, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and American Eagle.
LAX Key airlines by terminal
- T1: Southwest Airlines, US Airways
- T2: A mix of mainly non-US airlines that do not operate from TBIT
- T3: AirTran, Alaska Airlines and subsidiary Horizon, JetBlue, Virgin Australia, Virgin America
- T4: American Airlines, American eagle, Qantas
- T5: Delta
- T6: Continental and mixed tenants
- T7: United
- T8: United Express
- Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT): Major international airlines including all Asian airlines except Air China, British Airways, Lufthansa and Swiss
Worth knowing: LAX’s flying saucer-like Theme Building and its cool retro Encounter Restaurant have been refurbished and the Observation Deck was reopened again in 2010 after closure following the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York. The deck has a 360-degree view of the airport and is accessible at weekends from 8am to 5pm. It’s plane-spotter heave