It’s been discussed for ages, but now the plans are real. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) will (eventually) build a bunch more gates in Concourse 0 and Terminal 9. When done, this will eliminate all remote gates and allow for a more sensible organization at the airport between alliances while quite possibly snarling road traffic. But don’t expect this to happen any time soon. If it’s done by the 2028 Olympics, I’ll consider this to have been a speedy project.
Though the optimal solution for LAX’s terminal issues would be to simply mow the thing down and start over, the airport has instead opted for incremental improvement. The original terminal layout from the 1960s remains intact, but they keep adding on. The first big expansion occurred in time for the last Olympics in LA in 1984. At that time, Terminal 1 and the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) were built and the upper deck roadway was added to push departures up top. Terminal 2 was rebuilt shortly after, and that was pretty much it for decades.
LAX has since been trying to make up for lost time. The TBIT concourse which was woefully undersized has been knocked down and rebuilt with more gates. The north half of a Midfield Satellite Concourse (MSC) is underway, and a southern half will eventually be built. That will be connected to TBIT by an underground walkway. Nearly all of the existing terminals have already been redone or are in the process of being fixed. And a people mover that will connect the central terminal area to parking, public transport, and rental cars is underway.
But even with all this, there are still problems. Southwest has to bus passengers across the airport for international flights, United is far from its international partners, and American still has that awful remote Eagle’s Nest gate area for regional flights. When this work is done, those problems will all be solved, and the airport will have been broken down into fiefdoms. I present to you… some terrible art.
Now, here’s how we get to this point.
Concourse 0 and Terminal 1 – The Southwest Fiefdom
What today is a parking lot used to be a manufacturing site, but it’s also a hot commodity. It’s the only undeveloped part of the central terminal area west of Sepulveda Blvd that has direct access to the airfield. For years there has been talk about creating Terminal 0, but instead it looks like it will be Concourse 0. What’s the difference? Well, there won’t be an area outside security for that concourse. People will still check in and claim bags in Terminal 1 but then walk over to have more gates in 0.
The plan is to build an 11-gate concourse that will include a customs facility. Gates 9 and 11A in Terminal 1 today will be removed as part of this build-out, so it’s really an addition of 9 new gates. Assuming Southwest becomes the primary tenant, this will allow Southwest to not only move its international operation back from far-away TBIT, but it will also give the airline room to grow. It’s already out of room in Terminal 1, so this will be good news for the airline. The northeast corner will become Southwest territory.
Terminal 7/8/9 – The United/Star Alliance Fiefdom
The other big build is the long-awaited Terminal 9. This is a mess, because it will be the first terminal built east of Sepulveda Blvd since the original terminals shut down 50+ years ago. (I’ll talk about why it’s a mess a bit later, but yes, it involves roadway access.)
Terminal 9 will be a 12-gate facility meant to house United and Star Alliance partners. Today, the airlines are scattered with United in Terminals 7 and 8, Air Canada in 6, and most other international Star partners in TBIT. This will be built to handle big airplanes, and there will be a customs facility. Once it’s done, United can lock down the southeast corner of the airport.
The problem is that this will be built right on top of the Eagle’s Nest remote gates that currently serve as American’s remote regional terminal. That will be gone, and officially, those gates will be moved to the southern half of the new Midfield Satellite Concourse (MSC), but I’ll bet American never uses those gates once. Here’s why.
TBIT South and Terminal 4/5 – The American/oneworld Fiefdom
Ever since the merger with US Airways, American has tried to better consolidate its gates. It succeeded by swapping gates in Terminal 6 for those in Terminal 5 to complement Terminal 4 after Delta moved over to T2/3. But today it still has a couple gates is uses in TBIT and most of Terminal 5 is used by cats and dogs, the unaligned airlines like Spirit, Hawaiian, JetBlue, etc. It also has that dreaded bus terminal for regional flights.
You can see where this is going, and where it should go. American has already broken ground (officially) on a new single headhouse for Terminals 4 and 5, so there will be one ticketing area and one security checkpoint. It would stand to reason that American could move its regionals into Terminal 5 and take over the whole complex. Then the cats and dogs would move out to the MSC when it’s built. American can then conquer the southwest corner of the airport and consolidate with its oneworld partners in TBIT.
TBIT North and Terminal 2/3 – The Delta/SkyTeam Fiefdom
That leaves the northwest corner for Delta which is working on rebuilding Terminal 3 and connecting it behind security with Terminal 2 and TBIT. This should give Delta control of that corner of the airport along with its SkyTeam partners spilling into the north half of TBIT as needed.
Terminal 6 – The Alaska… Outpost
As long as Alaska still wants to have an LAX hublet, then Terminal 6 will be its place. Maybe an acquistion or merger will change who ends up being in there, but for now, I’m calling it the Alaska outpost (not quite a fiefdom) in the south-central terminal area. There likely would be room for some other carriers there as well, possibly even keeping Air Canada there.
TBIT MSC and Terminal 1.5 – Cats and Dogs
And what about those cats and dogs? Where will they go? The old remote gates at the west end of the airport will be demolished, so that isn’t an option (not that it was a good one anyway). If this plays out as I expect, then they will have two primary locations, but I’d imagine most gates will be in the MSC. Some will probably have ticket counters in TBIT while others will use the new Terminal 1.5 ticket area which will shuttle people out to TBIT/MSC gates. Depending upon how much demand there is, maybe some room can be dug up in other terminals at a gate here or there, but the basic layout of the airport makes sense this way.
Massive Roadway Changes
One of the biggest impacts of building Terminal 9 and Concourse 0 will be in the roadways at the airport. The primary airport entrance from the north is right on top of where Concourse 0 will be, so that has to go. Meanwhile, the primary entrance from the south is right where Terminal 9 will be. So, take a look at this.
No this is not a diagram of Norwegian’s corporate structure. This is a look at how the roads will be realigned. In short.
- Cars coming from the primary north/south route, Sepulveda Blvd, will be shoe-horned north and east of the airport to get into it. 98th St appears to be the entry point, and cars will have to go east before turning south just west of the Sheraton before they can head in to the terminals.
- Cars coming from the main east road, Century, will still go right into the terminal area.
- For those going to Terminal 9, there will be a cut-off right before the road goes into the central terminal area. People coming from the south may have a separate ramp to go right into Terminal 9.
This design will make the people mover sound even more appealing, because nobody is going to want to deal with the central terminal area roadway.
If this comes to fruition as planned, then it will be net better for travelers than it is today, primarily for those who will no longer have to use remote gates (American Eagle, I’m looking at you). But, you know, we’ll have to wait a decade and see how it all really turns out.