LAX Opens the New Bradley Terminal Concourse for a Sneak Preview

LAX - Los Angeles

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.

[See more photos here]

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33 comments on “LAX Opens the New Bradley Terminal Concourse for a Sneak Preview

    1. Yeah if they can cram high-end shopping in like LHR, then that will somewhat make up for the high cost of construction.

      Is the plan eventually (I’m talking 10-20 years) to move all international ops to this terminal? Cause all those transit passengers on United and the T3 group is not using this facility at all. Also, did they provision this building for international transit a la the ANZ deal?

      1. I was wondering that too. Seems like a lot of money to spend on an international terminal that is only used by some of the airlines.

        Another question… Isn’t there supposed to be a satellite pier too as part of the new Bradley terminal? Is that part of phase II? Or is that typical airport master plan dream world sort of thing of we’ll build it when you take a flying car to get here?

      2. Sanjeev – No, no plan to move all international ops here as of now. In the long run, T4 and T3 are supposed to be connected behind security to Bradley, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the T4 customs facility goes away when that happens. But T2 will remain an international facility, even though Air NZ is moving to Bradley. And I have heard nothing about Delta or United giving up their customs facilities in T5 and 6/7.

        Ben – The long term plan is to create another new concourse further to the west. That would require a larger ticketing lobby so they would demolish the garages next to Bradley today and build a new lobby there. I think that part of the plan is pretty terrible so hopefully the new mayor decides this is a bad idea.

        1. What’s happening with the remote gates? And are they renovating the bus terminal on the ground level?

          1. Ron – Some remote gates will stay, but I believe that there can’t be any net gain in gates. So since there will be a few more at Bradley, remote gates will have to be shut. And the bus corral for the remote gates will stay as far as I know.

  1. Looks like they just combined design elements from Denver International and the McNamara terminal at DTW. In that last photo, you’ve got this wonderful wood overhang complimented by bad carpet and generic airport seating. Not impressed.

  2. Regarding your observation about the new food court in the video, I believe Panda Express originated in the LA-area so I guess it counts as a local restaurant.

  3. It doesn’t look like anything groundbreaking that hasn’t been done at other airports in the US already. Nicer experience sure, but worth the $$$, probably not.

    Also, who goes to the airport to shop? At most I’d buy some headphones or a book to stay entertained in flight. I guess now if I forget my designer suit at home I’ll just pick one up at the airport….

    1. Mostly last minute gifts. As an aside I love ATL mostly because it has this feeling of being almost a city unto itself, which is partially true, as it even has it’s own Doctor’s office and minisuites to rest your head in. If they built a true hotel in there you could effectively never leave.

    2. A – I’m writing about this in my next report from my Korean Air trip tomorrow, but Asians shop in airport a lot more. And there will be a lot of Asian travelers going through this terminal.

  4. I’ve been flying Int’l out of Bradley for at least 20 years, and it seems that it is always under renovation…will be nice when they finally finish (at least for a few years)

    1. Phil/Brandon – Yes, Panda Express is local, but I hardly think anyone would consider it local food. It’s the same thing about a Chili’s in Dallas. Anyone want to call that local?

      (And don’t get me wrong – I have a sick love for Panda and all other fast food Chinese.)

  5. Panda Express is “local” and is different than Chili’s in Dallas. Panda Express was started by Peggy and Andrew Cherng as Panda Inn right here in Southern California (they still operate the Panda Inn full service restaurants here in Southern California). Panda Express started as a offshoot of those full service restaurants, and although they have expanded throughout the country… it still is a local, Southern California company that is privately-held and originated with Chinese immigrants here. It still has its heartbeat here, and it is local– it is an all-American success story. And, many originating travelers to the food court will be local Southern Californians, who will appreciate the familiarity.

    Chili’s was started as a local restaurant in Dallas, but is now part of a giant global, publicly traded restaurant conglomerate, Brinker International.

    1. I think what he means is that you can get Panda Express at just about any mall food court, strip mall, or airport in the country. However you can’t get something like Philippe’s or Original Tommy’s anywhere except LA.

  6. To be certain, it is an impressive building. That said, I have to wonder about the true focus of the design. Is this an AIRPORT terminal, designed to move PAX through as quickly as possible -while accommodating their in-transit needs, or is it a SHOPPING mall, designed to slow the traffic flow and separate PAX from as much money as possible? SoCal has plenty of shopping malls to accommodate those who enjoy that experience. I’m beginning to believe that the TBT is a shopping mall with a few jet-ways attached. Once it is functionally open, PAX with than unlimited ‘pocket change,’ are well advised to keep one hand on their wallets and bee-line for their gate. Does a people-moving space really need that much bling?

    1. MIA’s renovation (Concourse D) and additions (Concourses H&J) have so much retail built into them that MIA even promotes the airport as a mall. Many of the connections that come through MIA are International based (being enroute to/from South America/Caribbean) and people are buying a lot of Duty Free once they have cleared Customs. If you build it, they will come (and spend).

    2. MIA’s renovation (Concourse D) and additions (Concourses H&J) have so much retail built into them that MIA even promotes the airport as a mall. Many of the connections that come through MIA are International based (being enroute to/from South America/Caribbean) and people are buying a lot of Duty Free once they have cleared Customs. If you build it, they will come (and spend). Its just another revenue stream for the airport.

  7. Seems comparable to the new ATL intl facility in look and feel (except TBIT is probably much bigger).

    Doesn’t seem anywhere near as nice as the SFO intl terminal.

    I’m interested in the terminal/gate footprint, comparing what existed previously to what exists now to what is “planned” (whether it happens or not). Sounds like a new concourse was part of this, were the existing gates refurbed? Why are gates only on one side of the concourse?

    1. Bill – Gates are going to be on both sides, but this is how they had to phase it. The current Bradley gates all face east, and those are mostly all in operation (they had to take one or two out of service during construction). They built the new concourse to the west of the existing concourse and put the first gates on the west side so that they could operate in tandem. Once they open up enough of the new gates, they will close the old concourse and knock it down. Then new gates will be built on the east side of the existing concourse. The only thing that will remain from the old concourse will be the northernmost A380 gate. That sits north of the line where development is allowed under the master plan, so they are grandfathering that in to get the extra gate. Oh, and that bus corral will remain.

  8. After reading the first paragraph, I can see kitty likes to scratch. Meow! The look of the terminal probably was dictated by Westfield. I fail to see the need for places to eat given the fact that most international flights serve meals. Imagine if Costco was allowed to sell their gourmet food items and electronics inside the terminal. The picture of economy passengers loading on caviar, Moet and Belgian chocolates would be priceless.

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