A couple years ago, Delta moved from its long-time home in Terminal 5 at LAX (along with a few gates in Terminal 6) for control of the combined Terminals 2 and 3. It could also use gates in the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), where many of its international partners flew.
In the short run, this was a bad plan since Terminal 3 was in awful shape, and none of them were connected behind security. But for Delta this wasn’t about the short term. It gladly moved in, set up a bus to connect the terminals behind security, and set forth on a plan to remake the terminal into the Delta Sky Way, a 27-gate fortress where Delta and partners could work to dominate the world.
This plan has now been accelerated thanks to the pandemic. Traffic is so low that Delta could shut down Terminal 3 entirely and do the work needed to make it functional. Today we’ll walk through that plan.
Here is the Delta complex in its entirety.
(Ok, ok, TBIT shows just the northern half, but you get the point.) Remember, T3 and T2 may look connected, but that’s not the case behind security. T3 is the one terminal that’s about as close to its original form as possible, and that’s not a good thing. It’s just not functional.
With that in mind, Delta has, as mentioned, shut the thing down. It is now a complete and total construction zone while Delta runs its entire operation out of T2. It is busing some travelers to airplanes parked off the end of T3, but they never set foot in the terminal itself. So it looks roughly like this:
This will be the state of affairs for awhile. We won’t see anything new open until the first quarter of 2022, a little over a year from now. That’s when the giant new headhouse makes its debut:
A headhouse is usually the area before security where people can check in upstairs and reclaim bags downstairs, but this one is going to do several important things. When Delta gave me a tour at LAX recently, I was able to get a look at the construction. This will better help explain what’s going on.
The image above is the view from T2 looking southwest. The scalloped TBIT roof can be seen behind the construction. The horseshoe roadway is just on the other side of this steel structure, which will become the giant new headhouse. What Delta is effectively doing here is making T2 and T3 into one terminal. All of Delta’s (and partners) check-in counters will be located in this building. (I’m told what happens with the old counter area in T2 hasn’t been decided.)
There will now be a central security checkpoint in this headhouse, so everyone will go through security there before turning left to go to T3 and right to go to T2. That means that there is a secure corridor that runs the length, making it easy to walk between T2 and T3 for connections.
You might be wondering why this headhouse looks so big. Well, this will also have a gigantic Sky Club running the entire length of the headhouse on the upper level. As part of this, there will be an outdoor Sky Deck as part of the club which I’m told has a retractable roof in case it rains. This is going to be a pretty great setup.
By the middle of 2022, the next phase opens. That’s when we get our first glimpse at the “new” Terminal 3:
I put “new” in quotes, because technically this isn’t brand new construction. They are just renovating it until it’s virtually unrecognizable.
When T3 was first built, it was just a satellite connected via underground corridor to the ticketing area. Back in the day they built an above ground corridor connecting the satellite and headhouse, but it was pretty useless. That corridor holds a grand total of… 1 gate. The new T3 will have a wider corridor with more gates on both sides.
Here’s a look at T3 today with the original satellite rotunda topped by that dirty brownish bulge:
As you can see in the photo I took above, the connector that goes into T3 from the left will also be multi-level. That’s where Delta will have offices above the behind-security walkway from the headhouse.
The random extenders that come off the rotunda are being pulled down, and the rotunda itself will be expanded and squared off. In short, it’ll be unrecognizable, but I’m assured that the old tunnel to baggage claim below ground will remain for those who want to hunt for history when they fly through.
By mid-2022, the biggest work is done, but there are two more phases. The next is when the West Headhouse opens in T3 by the end of 2022.
The West Headhouse is going to be the point where the automated people mover connects into the terminal complex. People will come in from the people mover that connects to long term parking, public transit, rental cars, etc, and walk over the parking lots and roads via tunnel to enter here.
Now we get to the final phase, which has moved up by 18 months to mid-2023. This is what it will look like in the end:
T2 will be renovated to remove the security checkpoint and create more space/concessions on the concourse level. It’s also possible that the old ticketing area will be part of this, depending upon what happens. But this is also when the connector between T3 and TBIT opens. If you’ve used the connector between T4 and TBIT on the south side of the terminal, you know what this will do. It opens up the ability to connect behind security between Delta and its partners that use TBIT, airlines like Air France/KLM, Korean, and others.
When this is done, Delta will control 27 gates that it and some partners will use. All gates will be connected behind security, and walking to every partner in TBIT will be simple. As an added bonus, there will be a world-class lounge with the outdoor deck. It’s hard to imagine this considering the state of affairs today, but in less than 3 years, it’ll be a whole new world.