A Sneak Peek of the New Long Beach Airport Concourse

Long time readers of the blog know that I’ve been waiting to write this post for nearly four years. In less than a week, on December 12, the brand new Long Beach Airport concourse will finally open. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek of what is truly a great facility. If you live in the area, you can get your own sneak peek at the community open house all day Sunday, December 9. [UPDATE: If you want to go to the open house, you have to RSVP. Call 562-570-2678 to do so.]

New LGB Concourse

It was back in March of 2009 that I did an interview with JetBlue CEO Dave Barger where he ruffled some feathers here in Long Beach. The wide-ranging interview began with a message for the city and the airport.

Municipalities must make good on their commitments. That includes parking, terminals, baggage claim and every other part of the experience. The message I would give is that especially in a recession, you shouldn’t take air service for granted.

Specifically, he was talking about the new concourse that was promised to replace the trailers back at the beginning of the decade but never materialized. The Long Beach and LA news exploded with word that JetBlue might leave, and the city council started pointing fingers with me inexplicably caught in the middle.

Around the same time, Mario Rodriguez took over as airport director and with the city willpower in the right place (finally), he got things moving. The new parking garage went up first, but then the concourse broke ground. After many, many years, it finally opens next week. I was able to go for a sneak peek and I put together this 4m46s video of the walkthrough.

It’s a fantastic facility and with a mere $45 million budgeted price tag (it will likely come in about a million dollars under that), it won’t raise operating costs for the airlines. This should be a model for airports around the country on how to create something great without breaking the bank.

Of course, there is always more to worry about. JetBlue cut back its off-peak flights significantly this winter, so clearly all is not perfect. But the airline is thrilled to have the new facility up and running. (I tried to do a follow-up interview with Dave Barger, but I was told that he won’t have time in the near future.)

In the meantime, let’s enjoy the death of the trailer park. If you live in the area, there will be a community open house where people can walk freely through the new concourse this Sunday, December 9 from 10 to 4 without getting a TSA groping. [UPDATE: If you want to go to the open house, you have to RSVP. Call 562-570-2678 to do so.] I’ll be volunteering at the event to help answer questions, so please come on by and look for me in a green volunteer vest.

27 Responses to A Sneak Peek of the New Long Beach Airport Concourse

  1. Brian Lusk says:

    That looks great Brett. Really glad to see the changes for the good in restoring the terminal building. Southern Cal is like a lot of other areas in that there is little regard for historic buildings. Also all the open air areas of the new concourse remind me a bit of the old 1950s LAX terminal area off of Century.

    • CF says:

      Brian Lusk – You’re just going to have to come on out sometime for a visit. Let me know when you’re in town and I’ll give you a tour myself.

  2. Maybe part of Jetblues cut back was a lost of people who didn’t want to use the old LGB and may not return with the new digs which should makes things much better.

  3. Looks great. I may have to fly to Long Beach just to have a look around.

  4. Jon says:

    definitely better than the trailers that were there the last time (only time) i was at LGB! looks great!

  5. Sanjeev M says:

    Awesome! Do you have any insight to how they kept the cost down and is that a model for other airports?

    Also, nice anti-shaking in the video. What program did you use?

    • CF says:

      Sanjeev – Yes, absolutely it should be a model for other airports. Part of the cost reduction was in the ability to keep it at one story. Not having that second level for jet bridges avoids things like escalators, elevators, etc. But there’s more to it than that. They architectural design is pleasing but it’s not over the top. There is no attempt to match the waves and the mountains as LAX has done with the Bradley Terminal. That absurdity costs a ton and means very little for travelers. There are no worthless people movers like in Sacramento either. It’s a stripped down facility that puts money where it can really benefit the traveler.

    • CF says:

      Sanjeev – Forgot to respond. The anti-shaking is actually just the one that YouTube now offers.

  6. BarryATL says:

    I have never been to the Long Beach Airport. I am amazed at the outdoor design of the facility. What happens if there is rain? Is there rain in that area?

    • CF says:

      BarryATL – Well it is Southern California so we do get some rain in the winter. Not a ton – average around 15 inches a year. Once you get into the main terminal, you walk out through a covered breezeway to get to the security area. So you aren’t really outside there. Then once through, there is an overhang for you to get to your gates without getting rained on. So you can avoid the rain for the most part when it happens, but it happens pretty infrequently.

      • BarryATL says:

        I thought that was the case. It really has a Key West kind of feel in the video. The open air design is the big cost saver in this project. Also, it adds local flavor to the airport that is not found in other metro type airports.

        • CF says:

          BarryATL – The outdoor design was something of a happy accident. There was a very long, contentious battle with people in the city over the terminal. In the end, they ended up with a hard cap on the square footage that could be built because people were afraid that if it were too big, airlines would add a million flights. (The logic was completely flawed, but whatever.)

          Of course, for the 11 airplane parking spots they were building, the terminal needed to stretch much wider than they could actually do under the hard cap, so they put this open air area in the middle since that doesn’t count as part of the building square footage.

  7. Thanks for the post and video! It’s nice to see LGB with a concourse that it can be proud of. I hope other airports take notice. See you Sunday at the Open House.

  8. That’ll be quite a nice airport. Very nice job on the video editing CF!

    I really appreciate airports that have outdoor space.

    I need to write up my trip report of getting to walk on the SEA ramp to get on my Q400.

  9. Ron says:

    Great work on the terminal; it’s especially impressive that they got it done under budget and ahead of schedule.

    Now what’s next for LGB? How about some transit improvements? A little over a year ago they finally started running a bus to the Blue Line station at Willow, twice hourly, weekdays only (routes 102/104). Any idea how well this is performing? How about additional connections, such as extending Metro 265/266 from the Green Line (currently terminating at the Lakewood Mall)?

    Also, what’s the deal with the taxi situation? Last year I landed late at night and there were no taxis. The dispatcher explained to me that the taxi stand only has room for 9 vehicles, and the rest are kept off-premises. So when a plane lands, the first 9 taxi customers get to go, and the rest have to wait a long time and are dispatched in groups of 9. Sounds to me like there’s room for improvement.

    • CF says:

      Ron – No clue how the different ground transport options are working. I can tell you that there is a plan to replace the ground transportation area with something that isn’t in trailers. (Yes, everything in this airport is in trailers). So maybe if that ever is put into action, they can fix the taxi queuing issue.

      • Ron says:

        I think the taxi situation has to do with curb space: the taxi stand is adjacent to the north side of parking structure A, and if the taxi line snakes around the corner then it will block the exit from the structure. So I see why they don’t want more taxis waiting than can fit at the curb, but I think that keeping the additional taxis completely outside the airport is a bit too far. They should have an overflow taxi lot that’s no more than a minute or two from the taxi stand.

        • CF says:

          Ron – Yes, it has to do with curb space. But the idea is to turn the current rental car area into a transit center that would have a lot more room. The rental car facility would then be right across the street in the same area as the airport information center today. I don’t know how far off that is, but it would solve the curb issue.

  10. Jim says:

    Do you know if this new concourse is going to have body-scanning machines? If so, I fear that LGB will lose some passengers. I know many people who live closer to SNA but make it a point to fly out of LGB in order to avoid the radiation from these machines. If LGB now has the machines, might as well stick to SNA.

  11. JayManLB says:

    Brett… thank you! I couldnt be more prouder of this new terminal. As a long time Long Beach resident and business-owner, my quality of life is enhanced by our wonderful airport! I travel almost every week for my work, and I dont mind taking a connection in PHX or SLC or elsewhere if I have to if I can avoid LAX and SNA. I walked the long “perp walk” around the construction when I landed today on US 130 from PHX this morning (a mainline plane!!) for the last time! Everyone was buzzing… the construction crews, the airline crews, the airport crews, everyone is excited about the opening of our new terminal.

    I LOVE this new terminal, and it is a fitting gateway to our community. It is very “SoCal”, and will only enhance my travel experience and that of my colleagues and visitors. Thanks to everyone for a (too long coming) great job! I will see you on Sunday at the Community Open House (it looked like they weren’t quite ready yet… but we’ll see!)

  12. chemist661 says:

    I live close enough that the cab fare is not too bad. (2.7 miles away). The parking rates are quite expensive ($17+ daily) compared to 10 yrs ago or so when it was $3/$6 per day.

    Too bad American Airlines do not fly out of LGB because between my wife & I, we have well over 1 Million AA miles and with AA, our preferred airport is SNA over LAX.

    On alot of flights, flying out of LGB adds an extra connection (US Airways & DL) but with the new terminal, it looks quite nice!!

    We have $200+ of Jet Blue credits so we will take a few flights out of LGB sometime in 2013.

  13. Ron says:

    Well, I was there at the open house today with my 6-year-old son (I looked for you, Cranky, but I couldn’t find you). We had a lot of fun. We spent most of our time at the food court, and I have a few comments about that.

    The food court is great (and we got a free souvlaki from George’s Greek Café), but there’s hardly any seating in front of the food court. People told me the intention is for customers to carry their food outside to the open area seating, but that seems a bit far to me. There is this strange iPad bar in front of the food court and the iPads are supposed to have a way to order food (even though it wasn’t really working yet), but there’s not a lot of table space next to the iPads to actually sit down and eat. The food court has the fanciest soda machine I’ve ever seen, but it takes like 30 seconds to make your choice, and that’s after you’ve figured out how the machine works. With just one machine shared among all the restaurants at the food court, I don’t see how it’s going to work.

    Also, I’m curious about how this event was publicized. I only learned about it through Cranky, and I didn’t even see it on the website.

    But overall the new concourse looks great. It’s definitely gives me more incentive to fly out of Long Beach rather than LAX. I now need to look for an occasion to book a flight out of there myself.

    • CF says:

      Ron – I was there in that ugly green vest. They had us in heavy rotation – just coming to the entrance, grabbing small groups, and taking them inside on a tour. It was a lot of fun – hundreds of people showed up.

      As for the food court, you may have noticed that there are automatic doors next to Taco Beach. Those will go out to an open air patio for eating. While I’m sure the airport would have liked more indoor seating, they were hamstrung by the overly strict sq ft limit that was imposed upon them in order to appease the neighbors who somehow thought that a new concourse meant massive flight expansion. So there wasn’t much they could do.

      The iPads will allow for food ordering and they’ll just bring the food right out to your unit. In the meantime, you can play on the iPad, but it’s really more of a takeout delivery style – they aren’t bringing it to you to eat right there. They’re just helping you avoid the lines.

      As for the soda fountain – we were discussing that yesterday. It’s going to be a disaster. I spoke with the architect who worked on that space and they designed it for a traditional soda fountain with a lot of spouts. This one just has a single spout and with so many choices – it takes forever to find what you want on the electronic display. There will be huge lines and they will need to figure out a solution quickly.

      As for publicity, they did a terrible job. It was in the local paper, but the website had no mention of it at all. Still, hundreds of people showed up but it could have been a lot more.

  14. Ron says:

    Yeah, the soda fountain appears to be designed for something like a car dealership or doctor’s waiting room — a space with little traffic, where people are bored and trying to pass the time. Let me know when they’re selling it at a discount :-)

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