TBIT, as shown on the left (thanks Virtual Earth), was part of the LAX makeover to prepare for the 1984 Olympics that included adding the upper level roadway and constructing Terminal 1. Over the years, it has been the object of hate of many an international traveler. The terminal is dark and crowded, there aren’t many shopping or dining options, and the lounges were inadequate.
I’d guess that just about everyone in Hollywood has some sort of work done before they turn 25, and the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at LAX is no exception. Yesterday, ground was broken on a renovation project almost 23 years after the terminal opened.
Personally, I have many fond memories of the terminal. I can remember waiting at the end of the ramp on the arrivals level for family to come back from exotic trips. As a little kid, that ramp seemed to stretch on forever. I also remember flying to far off places like Denmark and Brazil from the terminal. And in high school, I spent hours and hours in the Traveler’s Aid booth helping people who spoke every language imaginable. Even with those memories, there is no question in my mind that a lot of work needs to be done.
This renovation will focus on a couple area, according to the press release. The biggest project is the installation of an inline baggage system so that the massive x-ray machines will be removed from the floor and put into the background. This will open up a great deal of room for customers in the lobby area. There will also be a general rehab of the interior and a new gate added to handle the A380. Lastly, the 16 individual airline lounges will be replaced with only four. There will be one for Star Alliance, one for oneworld, one for SkyTeam, and one for all unaligned airlines. By the time it finishes in 3 years, the project will cost over $700m.
Lately, there has been a lot of talk about LAX losing service to places with far superior facilities, like San Francisco. This has been especially noticeable among Asian airlines. So will this new project fix the problem? No way.
This is like putting a bandage on a cut artery. It may help reduce the blood loss in the short term, but the patient is still going to die without additional help. The other terminals at the airport are still inadequate, and there is no plan for expansion. In fact, the Mayor has agreed to a plan to reduce capacity if it gets too high. His whole plan to regionalize air travel in the LA area isn’t going to fly when the only options are Palmdale and Ontario. Those may serve niche markets but they’re hardly going to relieve LAX in any large scale.
There needs to be a much larger comprehensive plan for renovating and expanding LAX.