LAX opened the doors of the new concourse at the Tom Bradley International Terminal last week for a media sneak preview. The new building has been delayed and won’t actually open for weeks (or maybe months, we’ll see), but Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa leaves office on July 1 and wanted to make sure he could take credit for getting it done during his term. So, to support his ego and help build his legacy, they cleaned up all the construction equipment and make it look as done as possible.
I’ve had plenty of criticism for this project, but it’s hard to deny that the new concourse is a vast improvement over what’s there today. Is it worth the multi-billion dollar price tag? I think they could have gotten more bang for the buck, but it’s done. So let’s just enjoy it for what it is.
The centerpiece of the new concourse is the Great Hall which has now been renamed by the mayor… for himself. Here is a 2m34s video tour of the new Villaraigosa Pavilion at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. Take a look and then we’ll discuss.
Though the ticketing lobby building isn’t changing, they have done work to fix it up. You notice that right when you pull up front. The bulky overhang is gone with a new sleeker version that says Tom Bradley International on it.
Once you get past ticketing, security will initially remain as is with two lines on the north and south side. But eventually a new entrance will open going directly into the west side with one checkpoint, as you could see in the video. The old concourse will be mostly demolished except for a gate at the north end.
The great hall is full of shopping and dining so it’s a big change of pace from what you get today at Bradley, which is basically nothing behind security. Here you have a ton of local brands including Fred Segal and Kitson along with the usual big retailers. But there is a ton of high end stuff here, and I assume that it will significantly increase the amount of revenue the airport brings in from shopping sales.
If you’ve ever been to LA Live, the shopping and dining project in downtown LA, then this hall may feel familiar to you. Like LA Live, it is filled with massive video screens constantly flashing and drawing your eye. It’s a bit overwhelming, but at least it was full of pleasant images of airplane porn. I imagine in the future it will be filled with ads.
If sensory overload is not your thing, then you have a couple options. If you go upstairs to the mezzanine, there are some sit down areas that may escape the hustle and bustle a little, but they will still be surrounded by video screens. A better option is to go behind the restaurants and shops (Vino Volo wine bar and more) to the west window where you can grab a seat and watch airplanes go by. This backs up on to a taxiway so there should be plenty to see.
You can also head toward the gates if you’d like, where you have a more normal airport feel. There is some gate number inflation here. Bradley gates today go from 101 to 123 (with the remote bus gates higher), but now the new concourse will have gates 130 – 148 on the north and 150 to 159 on the south. In these areas, the ceilings are lower and the hold rooms are spacious. They’re even more spacious for now because gates only line one side of the concourse. Eventually there will be gates on both sides.
So what do you think? Is this the greatest terminal in the world? That’s how they were talking about it at the media preview. And heck, even the signage makes it seem that way…
(I’m guessing they didn’t actually mean that to be interpreted as a “greater than” symbol, but still.)
Anyway, now that the festivities are done, they can go ahead and keep working on actually getting it ready to open. All we know is that it will open sometime later this year. Hopefully it doesn’t slip much further.