Virgin America Moves Into Renovated LAX Terminal 3

Airport Experience, Schedule Changes, Virgin America

As I mentioned, the reason I had the chance to interview Virgin America CEO David Cush yesterday was because he was in town for the ribbon-cutting on the airline’s newly renovated space in LAX Terminal 3. They’ve done a great job here, and it really didn’t cost very much at all (about $2.5 million in all, and some of that will be reimbursed by the airport through lease rebates). These are the kind of projects I like to see.

The biggest changes were in the ticketing area where Virgin America and V Australia (which begins flying to LA on February 27) knocked out some offices and pushed the ticket counters further back. This gives a lot more room for travelers, and the way they’ve laid it out makes for a very well-flowing space. I still need to get a bigger memory card for my camera, but until that happens I have to settle for slightly worse video quality than I’d like. Still, it’s worth a view.

Click if you can’t see the video

I know I said in the video that I would be back with video of the gate areas, but I lied. It turns out that very little had changed since my first visit a couple weeks ago. The biggest change is the podiums sitting in the middle. Virgin America’s facilities guy Len Sloper has years of experience in Terminal 3 since he used to be Alaska’s general manager at LAX. So we were lucky to have him come with us and point out some of the things they want to do in phase two. (None of these things are finalized.)

  • The posts in the middle of the terminal would be renovated to fit the Virgin America style
  • Mood lighting will be added
  • They want to add either a tree or a bamboo plant, or something alive to the middle of the terminal
  • The signage layer that rings around the terminal half way up will be removed to open up the views further
  • There is a ring around the outside of the terminal with ramp lighting that they want to replace with purple lighting so it glows like the pylons at the entrance to LAX

Some of these things sound kind of wacky, but the artist drawings looked pretty cool. Len kept talking about how this one is the only terminal still in its original form, and it has some of the best views of all the terminals at the airport. He wants to open those up and restore it to being much better than it is today. That’s a great goal, but it sounds like he should be working for the airport instead of Virgin America.

Anyway, what they’ve done so far is taken a relatively poor passenger experience and improved it significantly with a more functional check-in area and better passenger flow around the gate areas. For a couple million dollars (much of which will be reimbursed by the airport) this is a smart move.

On an unrelated note, I didn’t cover the airline’s announcement that it would be starting Boston flights for fear of Virgin America overload, but I like this move. The long haul routes make the onboard product advantage that much more important for the customer, and existing airlines have cut their schedules so much on the route that Virgin has a competitive if not superior schedule compared to just about everyone else. Good stuff.

[See all my pictures of LAX Terminal 3]

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5 comments on “Virgin America Moves Into Renovated LAX Terminal 3

  1. I like the mosaic tile on the posts but hate the color. I wonder what VX has in mind for them…

    The purple lighting on the outside ring would be great!

  2. Two things I noticed:
    1. Really simple, but the Departure screens have weather information for the destination. Its a simple touch, probably didn’t cost a whole lot, and is a nice piece of elegantly displayed, useful information.
    2. The checkin counters look more like a concierge desk than a checkin counter. Kudos to Virgin America for taking down the high wall (which inhibits natural communication, and probably has contributed negatively to people thinking counter agents are snooty and unhelpfu.)

    A very nice terminal.

    CF – when are we going to get your personal review of T5 at JFK?

  3. Oh, one more thing, I really like how Virgin America is keeping a very strong integrated marketing focus. Their checkin counters/gate counters, etc all look similar enough that you know it Virgin America. This should help them build brand awareness.

  4. I doubt I will be going there anytime soon, but it does look very smart. Doesn’t their brand presentation put the rest to shame? Thank god somebody is trying to put some glamour back into travel.

  5. Nicholas – I know, I know. I would love to get to JFK T5, but then that actually involves going to New York! It’s not that I have anything against NYC, but it’s just too much for me. That being said, everybody needs to go there sometime, so I’ll do my best to fly JetBlue the next time I head that way.

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