LAX Trying to Make Room for More Airlines

Aeromexico, Delta, LAX - Los Angeles, Southwest, US Airways
Thanks to an ill-advised agreement with surrounding communities that limits the number of gates at LAX, operator LAWA is looking for ways to optimize the gates that already exist.

First, let’s describe LAX for those who aren’t in the know. The terminals are all in a horseshoe shape, as you can see below.


Of the nine terminals at LAX, fewer than half are run by the airport itself. For example Delta leases out Terminal 5 and nobody else can fly there unless Delta subleases them the space. On the other hand, LAX runs Terminal 1 where US Airways and Southwest fly and those terminals are bursting at the seams. If you don’t see where I’m going, I’ll be blunt:

Terminal 1 – 9.4 flights per gate per day
Terminal 5 – 4.5 flights per gate per day

Hmm, you think Terminal 5 is underutilized? Clearly.

For those who are interested in the details, I looked at today’s (Jan 11) schedule for both terminals.*

Terminal 1 (16 gates)
Southwest – 118 flights
US Airways – 33 flights

Terminal 5 (13 gates)**
Delta – 50 flights***
Aeromexico – 9 flights

Do you think that JetBlue would like to get their hands on those gates now that they’ve gone into SFO? Maybe Southwest wants some more room to grow? You know it. For that reason, consumers should rejoice that LAWA has decided to take back the leases on Terminals 2 and 5 so they can control them going forward. This means Delta will no longer be able to squat on those gates and other airlines will have a shot to use them.

I know I’m often critical of LAWA but this move deserves praise. It’s going to cost a pretty penny, $150 million or so, but it’s worth it in the long run.

*Additional info: Terminal 1 is full of narrowbody flights with only 5 regional jets. In Terminal 5, they may have 11 widebodies but they also have 15 regional jets.

**I know Terminal 1 has 16 gates, but Terminal 5 has either 13 or 14. I count 50B, 51A/B, 52A, 53A/B, 54A/B, 55A, 56, 57, 58A, 59A so I think it’s 13, but worst case it could have even lower utilization if there is one more gate.

***Delta actually has 58 flights scheduled today, but 8 of those are flying out of Terminal 6 so I didn’t count them.

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6 comments on “LAX Trying to Make Room for More Airlines

  1. Ah. Perhaps this is why Delta couldn’t tell me whether I’d need to be changing terminals during a 51-minute layover (en route between Portland, Oregon and Mexico) because it was in the far-off distant future of, oh, 3 months from now…

  2. Kate –

    Probably not. Methinks both flights (if they are four-digit numbers) are Delta Connection flights, possibly operated by ExpressJet. (Delta Res is in India and so has no clue about this). If they are both DL Conx flights, it’s the same terminal. If not, and your flight from PDX is late getting in and you miss your conx to Mexico they owe you alternate transportation on the next flight. Or you might want to look at changing to an earlier flight out of PDX to ensure the connection (if there is one) … and be sure that DL waives the fee for making that change! Good luck …

  3. Kate – Catherine is right. They are most likely Connection flights, though I don’t know where you’re going in Mexico. The good news is that if you’re traveling in the summer, the weather should be good so delays won’t be a big problem (at least from weather). Also, if for some reason you do have to change terminals, it’s easy to change between 5 and 6 (the only terminals Delta uses). There is a tunnel that goes from 5 to 6 behind security, so you wouldn’t have to go through security again.

  4. Yes, they are 4-digit numbers, and they do appear to be Delta Connection flights operated by ExpressJet. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)

    Using Delta’s web page to check flight status for the equivalent flights tomorrow, it shows them getting in at Gate 63 and leaving from Gate 51-B respectively. Terminal maps tell me that neither of those is way out at the tip of its concourse. So that bodes well.

    I recognize that gates change from day to day, much less month to month. And clearly sub-contractors are involved here for both reservations & airplanes. But if Delta Airlines on the Delta web site is willing to sell tickets on “Delta flights” X and Y, they need to be able to tell their customer basic information about those flights. Good grief.

    Thanks for your information and reassurances.

  5. Unfortunately, airline operations can be very fluid. One delay over here might mean they have to move gates around to avoid delaying more flights. So, Delta has made the decision, as most airlines do, to not tell you one thing if there’s a decent chance it will change on you.

    If you do in fact have to go between Terminal 5 and Terminal 6, you’d actually rather be at the tip of the concourse because that’s where the walkway is. The good news is that these are not like most big hub airports. These are very small concourses and it won’t take you long to walk between them.

    Check out this map on Delta’s site. It’s very simplistic, but you get a good idea of where each gate is and where the walkway is.

    If you’d like to do some more research on the on time performance of your flights, give FlightStats a try. I think you need to create a free account to use this part of the site, but you can look up the historical performance of all your flights. It, of course, does not guarantee how things will go when you fly, but it will give you an idea.

    You’ll have to report back and let us know how it went.

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