Southwest to Get More Gates in Los Angeles

LAX - Los Angeles, Southwest

It has been rumored for years, but now it looks like it’s finally going to happen. US Airways is going to leave Terminal 1 so Southwest can have the place all to itself, assuming the LA City Council approves. That means Southwest can go into growth mode in LA while also making the experience much better for everyone at the airport.

Southwest and LA World Airports are going to pour $400 million into the renovation of Terminal 1. That money will be used to do all kinds of things.

Southwest will build a new checked baggage security system, improve passenger security checkpoints, refresh passenger waiting areas, refurbish the baggage claim area, construct new passenger boarding bridges and renovate the terminal lobby

Huzzah! Let’s map this out so you can see what’s happening.

LAX Terminal 1

Today Southwest has 12 gates of the 15 in the terminal. US Airways has just gates 6, 8, and 10 but I seem to recall that they sometimes bleed over on occasion into 4B if needed for redeyes. But Southwest is bursting at the seams and needs more room.

Looking at the weekday schedule in June, Southwest appears to have 113 departures per day plus 3 that are under AirTran. That means Southwest is currently putting 9.67 flights out of each gate at LAX every weekday. That is tremendous utilization. But up until now, it has had no opportunity to grow unless it wanted to split its operation into a different terminal, something that would be a real mess.

As you can imagine, US Airways took a very smart stance over the years. Historically it hasn’t really cared if Southwest got more gates from a competitive perspective since it doesn’t have much overlap anyway. But it sure as heck wasn’t going to spend any of its own money just to make life easier for Southwest.

For that reason, I have to assume that either Southwest or LAWA is paying all the costs for US Airways to get out of town. It appears that US Airways will be heading to underutilized Terminal 3, undoubtedly into some of the old Alaska Airlines gates before that airline left for Terminal 6.

This will also make connections to American easier once the merger goes through. (Heh, heh.) But really, American is currently maxed out in Terminal 4 anyway, so it’s not like US Airways could move right in there until a combined management team decided to cut out some flights of the LA schedule. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Now the question is… what will Southwest do in that space? Well, it will take over 3 more gates so that means nearly 30 more daily flights are possible. But it will also take over the old US Airways Club. I imagine that will be gutted to either create a proper waiting area for the awkward gate 2 or it will be part of a new mega-security checkpoint makeover.

I hope we’ll also see the big bulky bag screening machines removed from the ticketing lobby and put elsewhere to free up some space and make it so travelers don’t have to lug their own bags to the machines. Southwest can also take over more counter space if it wants.

This move is a good one for all Angelenos. For US Airways fliers, it takes them away from the madness that is Terminal 1 and puts them in a much more relaxed place. For Southwest fliers, it should give a little more space to stretch out once the renovations are complete, but it also means that there will be more flights available on Southwest.

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28 comments on “Southwest to Get More Gates in Los Angeles

  1. I’m sure the LA City Council approves it… especially if Southwest is picking up part of the tab. It’s too bad they can’t make the terminal wider like terminal 2.
    Good riddance US Airways… hate them! I’m a red belly lover!
    Fix the TSA passenger screening area! It’s a mess! I know it’s hard since gates 1 and 2 are in awkward places… but please!!! Getting rid of the US Airways Club should make gate 2 better. Add a connector to terminal 2.

    1. I doubt Southwest agrees to pay for a connector to T-2….unless they start flying international (they can’t do it now) into T2 (since there’s a CBP Screening facility there) or they really ramp up the codeshare with Volaris… Southwest has NO incentive to provide feed into T-2 otherwise…

      1. I totally agree! It’s just when you have time to kill walking around the airport allows you to stretch your legs. Plus some terminals have better food/bar options ;)

      2. Or at least make it possible for a future connection to T2. They could actually do the connection or reserve the space and create a stub corridor that can then be used once they decide to connect. I would think that once Southwest goes (short) international, LAX would be one of the obvious gateways.

  2. PS… I’m not a fan of the LAX type airports… I like the modern airports that allow you to pass through TSA and then you are able roam the entire airport. ATL, DEN, AUS, HOU, SNA, etc… Atlanta’s International Terminal is heaven!

  3. Pardon the ignorance as I don’t spend a whole lot of time at LAX, but will this redesign finally address the crazy long lines that snake out of the terminal at peak times, or the traffic congestion at the arrivals area? Seems like those are two complaints I hear all the time from people who fly WN to LAX. I’m guessing the changes to the baggage system and the security screening area will at least help with the queues?

    1. sadly, in any big WN station, WN peak is WN peak. They push through so many flights per gate and such short turn times that most cities at peak times are a madhouse. I remember MDW lines that went outside, and they have 70% of the ticket counter space! They need to keep growing kiosks away from the counter so people who dont check bags and dont check in online can get a BP without holding up everyone else and being held up by the baggage checkers!
      WN also chooses its investments carefully, and unnecessary space isnt value-added.

    2. MeanMeosh – There are two lines that can snake outside. The first is the security line, and if they add more lanes or create more inside waiting areas, then that will stop snaking. The second is the baggage check line. If they take over more counter space as part of this deal, then that could go away as well.

  4. Poor LAX, I always feel for administrators and airline planners for their never ending rearrangement of deck chairs. The words ‘functionality’ and LAX should be forbidden in the same sentence. The TBIT being the closest to a utilitarian structure…and that is a questionable statement.

    Like JFK, there is no dominant player in the market…unlike JFK, LAWA planners dont have much wiggle room to modernize the terminal schematic to a comprehensive, praticable system….so all solutions are driven by ‘least-worse’ options. This is definitely a win for WN….a reasonable ad-hoc for US..but falls short of solving larger aggregate issues.

    1. they could go the route of many international (and now domestic) airports and require all changes to terminals to include common use equipment. By putting screens in place of hard branding fixtures, common computers that can run each airline’s systems, etc. it would allow for easier “arranging of deck chairs” in the future.

      The problem is that airports don’t want to invest any more than they have to, airlines like their turf (as well as equipment) and don’t want to make it easier for competition even if they could shrink footprint to save money or pay. But hopefully this will change in the next decade.

      1. Airlines IN THE USA like their turf. Everywhere else they’re ok with common use gates and such.

        LAX should have long ago gone with a toast rack solution like LHR. Tear down the parking garages and everything in the middle there except for the iconic structure. We could easily have 3 “racks” like LHR. The only difference is that 40% of passengers at LHR arrive by transit (Tube, Heathrow Express, or hundreds of National Express buses) which takes up far less space than auto-oriented LA.

        Anyway, this move is a win for all parties involved and since US isn’t really growing LAX much anyway this works for them. I doubt they’ll redo a club unless the old Alaska club in T3 still exists. Maybe they’ll just partner with ANZ or whoever has a lounge in that T3.

      2. As I recall, Alaska’s move to T6 involved just such an installation of common-use equipement at their gates. AS has preferential access, but the gates are common use.

        1. Todd is right – it’s all common use stuff in T6 (except for the neck which United controls) but Alaska has preferential use. I believe T2 and T3 are mostly common use as well.

  5. Granted I haven’t flown there in about a year, but when I was flying to LAX every week throughout 2011, US definitely had full control of gate 12 as well, for a total of 4 active gates.

    Perhaps that’s changed since they dropped their flights to LAS?

    1. I don’t see any US Airways airplanes using gate 12 now and I really don’t see 4B either. There really are so few flights these days. There are no more than 6 a day to Phoenix, 5 to Charlotte, and 5 to Philly. Three gates works for that.

  6. Okay two questions:
    1. WTF was US Airways thinking not keeping their gates near their club?

    2. Wasn’t there a fancy pansy CF designed rearrangement of all the airlines at LAX so all of the alliances would share terminals.. I can’t seem to find it for the life of me..

    1. USAir built the club just after the PSA merger, taking a chunk of Gate 2 for it. PSA originally had the entire west side of T1 (even numbered gates) so it was fine for that.

      After the cutbacks, USAir ended up at gates at the end but kept the club. The club was closed for a short period (April 2005 through 2006-ish) but reopened after the AWA merger.

      1. US did use gate 12 at one time for it’s CLT & PHL flights as well as 4B as that was a HP gate along with 9, 11& 13, now WN will have the whole terminal.

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