Delta’s Newly-Renovated Terminal 5 at LAX Creates Three Distinct Passenger Flows

Delta, LAX - Los Angeles

Last week, Delta unveiled the final results of the renovation of its Terminal 5 at Los Angeles International Airport. Travelers will love the new ticket counter areas which allow you to check in and flow through toward security. And the new security area is much bigger and better-designed than the mess that was there before. But what I found most interesting is that Delta has really created a system where coach, SkyPriority, and Delta One customers remain segregated until they get to the other side of those security lines.

Delta Terminal 5 at LAX

The east side of the terminal (on the left in the photo above) is the area that was finished first. Now, that area is reserved for coach travelers. You can go through the ticket counter line and then once on the other side, there’s a walkway that leads to an escalator up to security.

At the top, the area that used to be open to the ticketing level below has been closed in. That means there’s plenty of room for security lines now. (The escalator you see next to me is coming down from the walkway to the parking garage.)

Terminal 5 Regular Security

Elite members of SkyMiles and partner programs along with travelers flying domestic First Class (those who have SkyPriority), however, have a new ticket counter area on the west side of the building. This is a smaller counter but it looks just like the larger area for coach travelers. (All travelers on the SFO shuttle also use this area.)

Delta Terminal 5 LAX SkyPriority Ticket Counter

After checking in there and walking through, there is a different escalator that leads up to security. This goes into a security area that’s west of the big coach security area, and it’s reserved for SkyPriority travelers. So those who fly SkyPriority won’t even see coach passengers until they finished getting frisked.

Delta LAX Terminal 5 SkyPriority Security

Then there are the airline’s most coveted travelers. Anyone flying in Delta One (or, uh, it seems to be styled ONE now) get a completely separate entrance.

Remember, Delta One is Delta’s newly-rebranded international business cabin. The only people who use this area are those flying in Business Class on Delta flights outside of North America or in Business Class to New York/JFK. (I think if you’re connecting to international business class, you can also use this.)

Delta One Entrance at LAX

Think of this like American’s Flagship Check-in (which is really just a few feet to the west in Terminal 4) on steroids. There is someone at the entrance who will check to make sure you’re allowed to use this facility. Once you’re cleared, the fun begins. Just past the entrance is the best part of the entire facility…

N401EA Delta DC-9 Desk

That desk just happens to be the horizontal stabilizer from N401EA, a DC-9-51 that was built just down the road in Long Beach. (I believe part of the reason they chose this was because of its Southern California roots.) The aircraft would have been 40 years old this year. It was delivered to Allegheny in 1975 but by 1978 it had made its way to Eastern. That’s where it picked up the registration it would carry for the rest of its life. In 1994 it went to Northwest and then flew with Delta post-merger until 2013. So there’s a bit of the red tail (not actually painted, of course) alive and well in LA.

Of course, most people who use this facility will just cruise right through, maybe stopping to get a boarding pass or ask a question, without realizing the significance of this piece.

On the other side, there’s a fairly large lobby lounge area which I assume will have refreshments stocked for those who want to sit.

Delta One Lobby Lounge

I personally can’t really imagine why anyone would use this. Once you’re in the airport, wouldn’t you just want to go through security and get to the lounge? But I suppose if you’re waiting for a friend, or you want a quiet place to finish a phone call before security, this would be a good spot. Plus, it’s exclusive. And that’s what is most important about this facility. A lot of Hollywood-types want exclusivity and this gives it to them. (Don’t even get me started on the private car escort which takes celebrities from the airplane to an undisclosed location off-airport where they can meet their driver, solely to avoid the paparazzi.)

From this area, there’s a stairway and elevator that goes up to a private corridor which will let Delta One passengers out right next to the the SkyPriority security checkpoint. There is no private security for this group, likely because the TSA doesn’t want multiple tiers of premium security lines.

Once through security, not much changed with this reveal. Delta has already done a great job of fixing up that area and putting in much better food options. I did hear that the lounge was expanded again, but we weren’t taken on that side of security to see it.

The end result is that everyone who flies Delta from Terminal 5 is going to have a much easier and more pleasant experience getting to the gate. (It’s just some will have a nicer experience than others.)

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25 comments on “Delta’s Newly-Renovated Terminal 5 at LAX Creates Three Distinct Passenger Flows

  1. If only they’d been smart enough to do this in Dublin (DUB). Just went through that horror-show of US Customs clearance. As a front-cabin flyer, the whole line was a disaster. I’d sooner fly back to LHR and take my chances with customs in NY rather than go through that again.

  2. Just used the SkyPriority lobby and escalator that funnels you right into the priority pre-check lane. This set-up works great! The pre-check lane does merge with the regular pre-check lane right before you show your boarding pass. At that point they alternate one person per lane. This was a slow time of day,so perhaps the premium lane doesn’t merge when there are more pax and TSA agents.

    1. Still waiting for an airport that has a sky priority + PreCheck lane as more people are getting precheck, especially those that are not “fast” travellers

  3. So let me get this straight – if you are going through security away from coach passengers you will be frisked in private? Sounds scary to me!

  4. So I realized the other day that if you get a Comfort + seat they give you Sky Priority boarding now. So…does that mean you can do Sky Priority check-in without having status? If I’m paying a couple extra $$ to sit in the front of cattle class I want to go through security and get frisked with the elites as well!

    1. welcome to the confusion of poor branding – you only get sky priority boarding benefits, no other Sky Priority benefits apply. Which is nice as it gives you better access to overhead bin space.

      Snarky answer – It basically allows some Silver Medallions who get a comfort seat to board ahead of credit card holders who share [practically, as silver upgrades don’t happen,] all other benefits with them but they didn’t have to fly 25,000 miles to get it. (look at the little 1 at the bottom)

      1. Silver upgrades happen, just not as often. It just depends on which flights you’re on. I’ve been upgraded of 5 of the 7 flights I’ve taken this year even though I only have silver status.

    2. I was about to say that you get “priority boarding”, not “Sky Priority boarding”, which was enough of a branding mess. But I see you’re right: you get “Sky Priority boarding1” (with the “1” footnote being Sky Priority boarding but no other Sky Priority benefits). Delta, could you confuse your branding any more?

      The “Sky Priority” branding does make some sense in principle in that it lumps together a large number of ways of getting priority (Business or First class [or whatever they call it now], Delta Gold/Platinum/Diamond, Sky Team Elite Plus, Virgin Australia Gold/Platinum, Virgin Atlantic Gold [I think], formerly Alaska MVP Gold [but no more] — have I missed any?). Much better to have one brand for all of that instead of rattling off the whole list. But then they had to go out and confuse that “simple” brand.

  5. I guess those that fly Main Cabin should be lucky DL doesn’t have them checking in at the bus depot and then being bused directly to the back entrance of the aircraft so business and first passengers don’t have to even see these low life passengers. Nothing like giving your business to a company that makes sure to treat you like the peon class traveler airlines seem to class coach passengers as these days. At least the ULCC/LCC airlines treat everyone steerage passengers.

    1. In most cases the elite travelers are subsidizing the cost of the ticket for those in Economy. Most of the revenue comes from the front of the plane, which enables airlines to price Economy fares below cost – making air travel affordable for millions of Americans.

      Given that I’m fine with airlines providing a higher level of service to the elites that are paying top dollars. They make air travel affordable to most everyone else.

      1. I am not sure it is fair to make a blanket statement that elite travelers are subsidizing the cost of economy tickets. It is true that airlines make significantly more profit from business and first class seats, but economy and non-refundable tickets provide the advance financing to support the frequent flight schedules. (I’m sure CF will correct the innacuracies in this statement).

        So I agree that for the most part, elite flyers should have perks and benefits, this is a good example where Delta is enhancing the experience for everybody, just a bit more for elite travelers. This is the way it should be, since there are some (probably not many) regular economy fliers that do not have status but are flying for business on Y tickets, which can be as or more profitable than the discounted business class tickets, or more valuable than an elite flyer who is always purchasing the lowest cost economy ticket.

        This is in contrast to United who seems to make improvements to the business and first class experience, but the only improvements “offered” in economy seems to be the pre-flight video that brags about the premium class improvements.

      2. “In most cases the elite travelers are subsidizing the cost of the ticket for those in Economy. Most of the revenue comes from the front of the plane, which enables airlines to price Economy fares below cost – making air travel affordable for millions of Americans.”


        I suggest you take some time an compare the RPM yield numbers at United, American and Delta to the Number at WN. WN has no premium cabin, so there can be no contribution to the revenue stream from it. On a number of occasions in the past several years WN’s RPM yield was actually HIGHER than one or more of the legacies even with their premium cabin. The reality is domestically the premium cabins have in fact become the frequent flyer cabins. The reason the majors have been so reluctant to spend money on the domestic premium cabin product is because they give it away, so there is NO ROI if you improve the product.. So the average price of the ticket in the premium cabin on US flag carriers is often no higher than the average price of the ticket in the economy cabin, particularly if you have some Y cabin passengers who have paid the ‘rape and pillage’ fare.

        What pays the bills on US flag carrier is the rape and pillage that occurs if you need to buy a ticket today for tomorrow’s flight. These fares are often substantially higher than the average fare actually paid in the F cabin.

        On foreign flag carriers who refuse to give away premium seats, I am sure the folks in the P/F J/C cabins are paying real money to ride there, and that certainly does dramatically increase the average RPM yield on the whole airplane.

        1. I think that US carriers have gotten a lot better at selling F domestically, albeit largely by reducing the fare premium for discounted first class over discounted economy to $100-$200 or even less for some short flights, largely using “instant upgrade” fares. Certainly upgrade rates for elites have gone down at all three majors, way down in some cases (though the merging of frequent flyer programs through mergers is a large part of that).

      3. By front of plane, I assume David means premium, frequent fliers (not necessarily paid F/J tickets). Many travel companies are over the 80/20 metric (80% revenue from 20% of customers). The general idea is that frequent fliers, those in the elite tiers, for the most part, are flying for business, getting expensive tickets booked close in at peak times. While there are exceptions, in general, by having them pay higher fares, it enables lower fares to be had by others. Price descrimination at its finest.


      4. The mix of coach and premium cabin is what makes it profitable. It’s not like coach passengers are leeches getting a free ride because of the generosity of premium cabin. If that were the case, then United would get of its 747s and instead fly all-premium 787-8s around.

    2. As Cranky had pointed out, there is a separate check-in area “reserved” for coach passengers.

      Also, I had the pleasure of boarding a DL flight from the rear of MD-88 from the moon buggie/mobile lounge because the front 2 doors were blocked by another moon buggie and catering truck, respectively. The FA in the back was not expecting me and was surprised by the knock on the door.

  6. CF, I’m surprised you don’t like the Anti-Paparazzi feature! Its a unbundled product offered to those who want to pay for it. Its $350, so it might not be a money maker, but that seems reasonable for a ten minute journey in a car. You like fees right?

    Also, I found it funny the Hollywood Reporter said the DC-9 “… is made from the wing of a DC9-51 aircraft, of which the airline operated a large fleet during the 1950s.” mainstream media fails badly at aviation…

    1. Do you have a source or cite for the Anti-Paparazzi ride? I am unlikely ever to need it, but it sounds fascinating.

      1. Grichard – It’s not a secret. Plenty of Delta people have spoken to me about it, though I’ve yet to find one who will tell me the exact location. My guess is that if you need this service, then you’ll know how to get it. (Er, uh, your assistant’s assistant’s assistant will.)

    2. Nick – It’s not that I don’t like it. I think Delta is smart for serving this niche. I just find it absurd that this is what’s needed in society. Just so goofy.

      1. Ah that makes sense.

        I agree. the only time that celebrities should be subject to having their photos taken obsessively is at movie premiers, public hearings, and award shows. Everywhere else give folks some respect. (And from what I’ve heard if you do recognize them, lots of famous people don’t mind being politely asked for a photo.)

  7. It looks nice. I wonder if DL will do this for JFK, ATL, and other markets that they really care about (SEA)?

    1. They might at JFK. But these things tend to happen at competitive airports, not fortress hubs, so ATL seems unlikely. It’s very obviously a response to American’s Flagship check-in at LAX. SEA seems unlikely, partly since it’s not the sort of thing that the competition there does. The fact that Delta withdrew JFK-SEA as a premium transcon market says something about the premium demand there.

      Also, of course, LAX is unique in its celebrity/premium focus. I just don’t think the market for this check-in experience is there anywhere else except maybe JFK.

      1. I could perhaps see ATL. There is a fair amount of television production that happens there. It’s also home to several large companies with Execs that might take advantage of a feature like that.

        Sent from my computer that moonlights as a phone.

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