The Next Phase of LAX Terminal 3: Come for the View, Stay for the Flight

Delta, LAX - Los Angeles

With the pandemic lull in air travel, Delta decided it was a great time to speed up its construction projects. And so, more than a year early, the airline is preparing to open the first part of the new Terminal 3 at LAX on April 20. There was a ceremony on Tuesday to celebrate along with a tour of the parts that will open first, and I was able to tag along.

When Delta moved over to Terminal 2 and 3, it had a plan to create the SkyWay, Delta’s gateway from LA that would not only improve both terminals but also connect with the Bradley Terminal. The old layout looked like this:

via LAWA

Terminal 2 had recently undergone a renovation, so it didn’t need much work, but Terminal 3 was easily the worst terminal in the airport. Many airlines had gone through that place, including the original tenant, TWA, but unlike the other terminals it had barely been changed. The satellite building remained in the same shape as when it was built, only connected by a narrow and nearly useless connector from the ticketing area that had only a single gate on it.

When Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) approved a plan to build a people mover down the spine of the airport, it created an opportunity to consolidate every terminal. Now, though there will be two access points from the people mover into Terminals 2 and 3, the goal is to funnel everyone into a single ticketing area, single checkpoint, and a massive Sky Club on top of the connectors between the two terminals.

via LAWA

To accomplish this, Terminal 3 was shut down entirely and almost completely rebuilt. The large ticketing area in Terminal 3 has a nice slanted wood finish on the roof which feels remarkably open compared to the old setup. Also, behind the counters is a very long video board that Delta was using to show off photos while we were there.

It’s not just about being pretty, however. Here it is with some actual information being shown.

Eventually, they expect this to be the primary — and possibly only — ticketing area. It is quite large and has a small but growing army of kiosks already installed.

On the east side, travelers will be able to walk right into the Terminal 2 ticketing area with its existing counters. Some of those may stick around for partners, but it sounds like much of it, including the existing security checkpoint entrance which is under the glass structure in T2, will be closed. It’s not clear to me what they will eventually use the area for, but I suppose there’s time to figure that out.

Right in between the check-in counters for T2 and T3 lies a new giant escalator bank which goes down toward baggage claim. These six carousels will be the only baggage claim Delta uses for domestic flights.

There was some confusion on the Delta comms team about this, but as I understand it, there will continue to be a customs and immigration facility (FIS) in Terminal 2 and the facility in the Bradley Terminal will be an option as well. International arrivals will pass through one of those places and then it will be a quick jaunt through the security checkpoint to get back landside for domestic connections.

If instead of going down those escalators you go up, then you get into a high-ceilinged top level which will connect with the T2 people mover bridge.

In this photo, the escalator is just to my right and the bridge is behind and to the left. But straight ahead is the entrance to the consolidated security checkpoint which will also have an entrance from the T3 people mover bridge on the far side.

The security checkpoint will open on April 20 with seven lines, but that will double by the summer when it is fully built out.

After going through security, you are not going to want to move. The huge picture windows have a sweeping view of the north runways, into the westside, and beyond toward downtown LA itself. A storm had just cleared out on Tuesday and the Hollywood Sign was easily visible in the distance.

At this point, travelers can walk left to go to the Bradley Terminal behind security and to the new T3 concourse which is not yet ready for primetime. You can see it taking shape in this picture.

The three gates you can see above will open in May. The building at the far end is actually the old T3 satellite building which, while still having the same pillars as the original, is completely redone. Those gates will open in summer and fall, followed by some on the far side of the terminal before it is complete. Unfortunately, they did not let us go into see the concourse as a work in progress.

If you turn right after security, you go to Terminal 2 (and 1 beyond now that a behind-security connector is open there) along with the entrance to the new, massive Sky Club.

After entering, you take an escalator up to the top level. To the right is a food station and there are windows throughout.

Straight ahead is a bar, and behind that is an outdoor Sky Deck.

It’s not much to look at yet while they still work on it, but the view again can’t be beat.

Further to the left there is an indoor viewing area which, though currently furniture-less, looks like the place to be on the rare day when the weather isn’t great for being outside.

Beyond that is an entrance to the shower and rest rooms.

There was even more beyond that, but it was curtained off, so I couldn’t see what was going in there, but it looked like maybe another bar.

Toward the front, Delta has installed some private phone booths that block out most sounds.

I spent a little time in there and enjoyed the silence as the crowd around us — filled with dignitaries and sales invitees — schmoozed, drank, and snacked.

And that is what will open on April 20. I couldn’t see the connector to T2 since this area is not yet behind security, but there’s little doubt that this will be a huge improvement for Delta travelers. Seeing the long lines snaking out the door of T2 when I was done reminded me just how tough it has been to run a two terminal airline in one terminal in recent months. That pain will soon start to dissipate.

33 comments on “The Next Phase of LAX Terminal 3: Come for the View, Stay for the Flight

  1. You’d think LAWA could give you a satellite map that didn’t still include part of the old Bradley gates which haven’t existed for years…

  2. Nice. Now I wonder what LAWA has in store for Terminals 5-8 as they to are ready for renovations. Especially with the olympic games in 2028.

    I also await Tim Dunn’s commentary on the renovations as it involves his beloved Delta.

    1. SEAN – That is all already underway. They are building a new central headhouse between Terminals 4 and 5, similar to what is being done at 2 and 3. There is also more work being done at 6 and 7 for a central core to meet the people mover. There is also going to be the new Terminal 9 which will give United the same thing Delta and American have built, multiple terminals that directly connect to international partners.

  3. I attended the operational readiness trial yesterday. The new space is beautiful throughout. There were definitely some hiccups tho – most of the self service kiosks couldn’t print bag tags and contractors were scrambling on the spot to fix them. I’m sure these will be ready by the official opening. The huge TSA checkpoint will be a big plus as long as all lanes are open and operational.

    With this phase complete I’m excited to see what AA has in store for the T4/5 head house (I’m an AA flier) and Alaska lobby renovation

    1. First I have hear of an AS lobby renovation please share if you can. Any current work in the lobby appears related to the 5.5 core work which when complete should, figures crossed, FINALLY give AS more than one baggage carousel. It would be nice to get some more height in the ticketing portion but haven’t seen anything pop up in regards to that on LAWA.

  4. Very nice. I particularly like the wood ceilings, helps break up the overly chrome-and-glass so many new or remodeled terminals have today.

    And, of course, the views!

    1. And it kind of gives off a mid century vibe that’s fitting for terminals originally built in that era. The sleek white/chrome with LED strip lights looked fresh and modern when it first appeared in remodels but adding some organic hues and fixtures really does breathe some life back into the space while keeping the more open feeling started with the white/chrome look compared to earlier drop ceilings, bad fluorescent lights, and functionally obsolete 80s/90s designs

  5. A very nice facility, indeed. Mr. Snyder, while we are on the topic of Delta in LAX, what do you make of Virgin Australia kicking their Joint Venture with Delta to the curb and opting for ties with United? This was a full Joint Venture, not some side-letter codeshare. Clearly, Virgin’s discontinue of widebody services affected the JV with Delta. However, Virgin’s pursuit of United speaks volumes about who they believe is the U.S. player in Oceania. Also, now that Delta stands alone vis-a-vis Australia, do you expect them to pursue a Joint Venture with Qantas? Will they steal Qantas from American just as they stole LATAM from AA in South America?

    1. Miss – Delta is useless in Australia. Virgin Australia liked Delta because it could feed the VA flights in the US. But without any US flights, that becomes irrelevant. Delta feeds very little into Australia itself, so going over to United is a no-brainer. United serves more gateways with more flights and can help fill those VA aircraft much better than Delta’s paltry LA service (which did just go up to 10x weekly, but still). I can’t imagine a world where Delta takes Qantas away from American.

      1. I like (and agree with) your use of the term “paltry.” It describes not only Delta’s Australian presence, but also its footprint in all of Oceania. In Delta’s defense, it cannot (and should not) try to be all things to all people. However, Virgin Australia’s move to United demonstrates that Bain Capital knows the wheat from the chaff.

        None of this will preclude Delta from flirting with Qantas. Of course, all the other airlines in the world that have made out with Delta got the gift that keeps giving: plenty of cash (that Delta could have invested in its own hard and soft assets) and a trip through bankruptcy/reorganization. So, let’s see what happens next.

        1. The mere fact that Delta has increased its service to Australia – even as American quit flying there – would seem to say that the partnership with Virgin Australia has had no impact on Delta – in fact, perhaps the opposite.

          And since you managed to throw international partnerships into a discussion about Delta’s LAX terminal, you should be far more concerned about the Asiana/Korean merger and the implications that it will have for United. As long as the DL/KE JV continues – which is just as relevant as any financial discussion of the UA-Virgin Australia partnership, DL will have by far the largest transpacific JV – and it is a true JV, not just a loyal program, ground amenities, and codeshare partnership.

          And if you really want to worry about airlines at LAX, Aeromexico’s emergence from bankruptcy with DL as a joint venture partner and Latam’s movement toward bankruptcy exit and a DL JV – with both as equity partners to DL, have far, far larger implications to UA in Latin America where it has been the number 2 US airline in Latin America – ahead of DL – but that will most assuredly change in the coming years.

          Or, we could just focus on Delta’s terminals and the implications for actual operations for existing partnerships and known schedules.

          and to Julie below,
          AA, AS and B6 are all separate companies. Even if B6 and AA are allowed to operate as a joint venture in the NE, the JV has virtually no impact on LAX.
          AA and AS have nothing more than a codeshare and alliance partnership. They are still legal competitors.
          Even in a joint venture, money is divided and distributed by some secret formula to each of the partners; there is no such thing as “joint venture revenue” other than as the basis for how to divide it among the participants which each put that revenue on their own financial statements.

          yes, Julie, it looks like Delta spent its money well in building upgraded facilities and access to a whole lot more real estate at LAX.

          1. Right… the ability for current AAdvantage members in LA to utilize the Alaska network in LAX and up/down the west coast with their elite status honored as though they were flying aa metal means absolutely nothing? Ok Tim. I hope you’re in Colorado today, because you’re you’re smoking something amazing.

            And please, JetBlue’s product and frequency on lax-jfk and lax-bos provides zero value on such an important route to all carriers? Especially to delta in all three markets? Of course those two routes and JetBlue’s presence on those two routes matter in LAX. It’s silly to suggest otherwise.
            You discredit yourself so much some days… suggesting delta is now benefiting from losing Virgin Australia as a partner?

            Sometimes I wonder if you even read what you write.

          2. Tim,

            As usual, you conveniently left out some extenuating circumstances and other aspects of the story. Qantas has a joint venture with American to Oceania. Qantas can take up some of the temporary slack American has, and has even announced new service between DFW and Melbourne. Since Delta now has no joint venture partner to Australia or New Zealand, it has no choice but to fly there on its own metal if it wants to serve the market. Why are you apparently rejoicing about American’s delivery problems? And why are you putting so much stock in temporary situations?

            I don’t care about the minutiae surrounding The Asiana/Korean merger. Nor do I worry about AeroMexico, LATAM, etc. Those issues will all sort themselves out eventually. As for Korea, United can always work out a codeshare arrangement with regional airlines that aren’t part of the Asiana/Korean merger. Unlike Delta, United doesn’t need a regional hub or joint venture partner at Incheon. Both United and American have regional hubs and joint venture partners at Tokyo, remember? United and America also have strong partners and a decent presence in Latin America. I’m guessing there’ll be plenty of competition among the airlines at LAX. Codeshares aren’t totally useless, as your comment to Julie implies. And airline management teams aren’t quite as stupid as armchair CEOs think they are.

            Each airline will find its market niche at LAX at some point. As I wrote here a few days ago, I’ll take your word that you don’t want to see United and American suffer financial difficulties, but your incessant “Delta is perfect” comparisons are why a number of people, here and elsewhere, accuse you of wanting Delta’s competitors to be liquidated.

  6. Any airline or airport can spend money to update facilities, even if that task is very costly and difficult to do because of the inherently flawed structure of terminal designs which is true at LAX.
    The real significance of what DL is doing at LAX is that they are positioned to potentially – and likely – overtake AA’s position as the largest airline by local market revenue at LAX, the largest airport in the US for local market revenue. DL consistently was at about 80% of AA’s local LAX revenue pre-covid even though DL spent the last 30 years in T5 with just 15 gates. With a near doubling of their available gates when the T2/3 rebuild is complete and the connection to TBIT, DL will create on the north side of LAX a mirror image of what AA achieved on the south side – a multiple terminal facility that is connected to TBIT which allows AA and DL to have high percentages of the gates in the domestic terminal complex while also being connected to TBIT, allowing seamless behind security connections for its partner airlines.
    While a major part of AA’s current domestic strategy is to outsource part of its east and west coast flying to AS and B6, DL is keeping its domestic flying in its own fold. Given that a major part of the LAX revenue size advantage that AA had was because of transpacific flying which the company finally admitted was unprofitable, the title of largest airline at LAX – which has huge implications for nationwide corporate revenue – will be up for grabs.
    UA is clearly shut out of the top 2 airline spaces at LAX while DL has managed to build a true 2 hub west coast system, something AA has not done.
    While the incremental improvement in facilities is significant, the real significance will be in the coming years as Delta gains access to all of the gates and expanded facilities that the terminal rebuild offers.

    as to the question about Australia, there will be no joint venture between UA and Virgin Australia until and if they decide to start flying to the US again and then it is far from clear that the current administration will approve any transactions that further concentrate the market whether internationally or domestically. And the whole question belies the reality that a partnership does not eliminate standard industry interline connections which is EXACTLY how United functioned for domestic flights beyond their Australia gateways for years.

    1. You’re strangely obsessed with AA’s size at LAX relative to Delta when the true comparison will be and is Delta vs AA+AS+B6 at lax given the new partnerships AA has entered that allow its customers the ability to fly AS and be treated as an elite or MINT on JetBlue to their destinations while maintaining the mileage program loyalty to American that delta and aa desire most.

      AA, B6, and AS are all easily next door to one another at LAX behind security.
      Loyalty in a segmented market like LA is hugely important and delta is, for better or worse, far behind AA and its domestic partners in size and scope at LAX.

      Beautiful new delta terminal though.

    2. Tim.

      Delta looks like it’s building a very nice facility that will help both its operations and the customer experience. To your other comments:

      It’s not important if Delta, United Southwest, or America have a half percent more or less market share at LAX. The important question for each carrier is to find the right service level to be reasonably profitable at the airport and add value to their networks. And only they have the information needed to know that. DOT data won’t give us that information. The kinds of gloating, disparaging comparisons you make are why people get the impression that you want to see American and United liquidated, or at least suffer financially. The fact that American is “outsourcing” some of its flying in Seattle and New York is irrelevant. American has a right to enter into partnerships it determines are beneficial, just as Delta did with LATAM (since you constantly gloat about that). But of course, Delta’s partnerships are acts of pure “genius” while American’s are acts of utter “desperation.” Neither is the case.

      To Seattle: Delta has had a number of years to build up its Seattle operation. American didn’t start until right before the pandemic. Delta built up its own connecting network in Seattle. American is relying on a partner to provide most of its domestic feed. When did it become a crime to have different operating models?

      American’s change to a split hub via Seattle and LAX was and is largely one of geography and competition. Seattle is quite a bit closer to northern Asia than LAX, and isn’t as far out of the way for connecting passengers. It also has far less competition from foreign carriers. That’s why Delta created its main west coast hub in Seattle. James J. Hill touted Seattle’s geographic advantage over other west coast ports for routing Asian traffic during the late 1800s, and named his railroad’s premier passenger train “The Oriental Limited” to showcase that advantage. But I digress … The bottom line is that American and Alaska have every right to compete with Delta in Seattle. I’m convinced that all three can profitably compete and prosper there. There’ll be some head-to-head competition, of course, but there will also be unique destinations. It’ll be no different at LAX. Both American and United have a strong presence in Oceania, Delta not so much. But that’s not important. There’s no reason to believe that all three legacy airlines won’t find their profitable market niches at LAX. So will Southwest and the other airlines that serve the airport. None of this is rocket science.

      1. I have no idea how many moons I have left but I do hope I see the day when a post from you doesn’t include “is it a crime…” (of course it isn’t which is why I have never said it) or “all you want is to see American and United liquidated” (which I have also not said but if you said “American OR United”…. I kid, I kid). Making valid business assessments of strategies and positions is neither a crime or a desire to see anyone fail. Such assessments are part of what happens given that ALL US large jet airlines are for-profit, publicly traded companies.
        Now that is all out of the way…
        – Size does matter because AA has bragged for years that it is the world’s largest airline (even though in 2021, just as was true for a number of years pre-covid), DL was the largest airline by revenue. Size in LAX matters. All of these terminal expansions aren’t done for reasons of charity.
        – you do realize that Latam is a foreign airline that operates precisely ZERO flights within the United States while Alaska and JetBlue are both domestic airlines as is American?
        – AA is clearly counting on lower cost airlines with different business models to fill in parts of AA’s network where it has not been successful. AA wants to believe that customers will see AA/AS and AA/B6 as a single company from a customer perspective; even if customers do that, all 3 companies are still competitors outside of, possibly and to be determined later this year, a part of AA and B6’ network.
        – Let’s be honest. American doesn’t operate a hub in Seattle. It said it would operate some transpacific flights and re-added a flight to LHR which is not really new. AA operates nothing beyond SEA except LHR (sometimes) and may very well not. The notion that AA is creating a two hub west coast system is quite a stretch….
        – which brings us back to LAX. Maybe AA will find some routes that they can add on their own metal but for now, Delta is challenging AA’s position at LAX and that will continue. Whether the terminals are pretty or not, DL will have a lot more real estate to work with and the ability to create a fairly significant corner of the airport populated by the tails of its own aircraft as well as those of its partners, something it was unable to do in Terminal 5.
        Delta’s terminal expansions are first and foremost about taking a bigger share of the lucrative and large Southern California market.

        btw, in case you or others were hoping I’ll drop off the planet soon, I have no terminal diseases (other than I like being in airport terminals) and I expect to see many more moons.

        1. Tim,

          With all due respect, your rhetoric consistently Implies (sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly) that it’s some kind of crime to do something in a manner different from Delta. That’s why I keep asking you the rhetorical question. The constant gloating and “Delta is perfect” comparisons are my evidence. There’s no need to gloat. While Delta runs a great operation, it’s not as perfect as you imply. No airline is. They all have things they can improve on, as do we all for that matter. Delta, United, and American are different airlines. I like that. It certainly beats “AmAir.” in my opinion (which is all it is).

          Technically speaking(?) you’re probably right about American in Seattle. It doesn’t operate a hub on its own. On the other hand, I’ve never seen a clear definition of a hub. I’m kind of thinking it’s not unlike U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography. Do 190 daily departures qualify as a hub? Eh! That’s pretty paltry compared to other hubs. Alaska currently operates 307 departures at SEA, according to its website, and American operates a few more. If one defines a hub as an airport with a significant number of flights, many of which are optimized to allow easy connections, it qualifies, but the term “joint hub” would have been more accurate, but why the need to nitpick? If Delta had formed a codeshare arrangement with Alaska, would you be disparaging it as you do its arrangement with American? Since Delta can do no wrong in your eyes, I’m guessing you would be effusive in your praise.

          No one wrote that Delta isn’t challenging American’s position at LAX. I wrote that a slight difference in market share really doesn’t make much difference, and that profitability is important. Don’t you think profitability matters? Many of your other comments say you do, so why isn’t it germane to this counterpoint? Healthy competition is usually good for everyone.

          Re: LATAM, I was simply writing about partnerships. Airlines form partnerships all the time. Here goes: When did that become a crime? If the NEA gets overturned in court, plan B is always a simple codeshare. I seriously doubt it will, by the way. I still think there’ll be a settlement.

          Whoever said anyone wanted you to drop off the planet? The people on “One Mile at a Time” were relieved when you finally commented about Deta’s A321 premium configuration. I don’t know about the others, but I enjoy most of our encounters, even if I do go a bit overboard with the sarcasm at times. I try to be facetious, not sarcastic, but sometimes fail.

          1. Yes, sir, I do enjoy our meetings here and am indebted to Cranky for hosting a forum where we can have good ole fashioned civil discussions on a regular basis.

            It is precisely because American IS a for-profit company that it has to cut services that don’t make money. When it cuts something, someone else will add and grow. That is true with the entire hugely competitive airline industry.

            Since I could find data that showed how low American’s average fares were on some of its LAX routes, I am certain Delta knew it as well and started the process of moving from 80% of AA’s local LAX market revenue to something bigger – the final destination of which we can’t see just yet.

            I do know that DL doesn’t consider it a crime for AA to employ other large jet carriers like AS and B6 to finish out its domestic route network – and I don’t consider it a crime either, btw – but anyone can see that American is going to be smaller at LAX than it was and DL wants to take a shot at being the leader at LAX. Remember that AA was once the largest airline at JFK – and yet DL wears that title now. DL was once a distant #2 at DFW and took its toys to the NE where AA now talks about the need for a partnership to counter the growth that DL and UA engaged in that have left AA a distant #3 in the global airline race.

            Just as Delta didn’t just open the brand new Sky Club at BNA in order to tout having the nicest space at that airport, they aren’t building and expanding terminals just to lay claim to the “US’ prettiest terminals contest”

            Let’s check back as each phase of this new LAX complex opens – and Delta gains more space. I am going to go out on a not-very-long limb and say that DL will take larger and larger shares of the LAX market – which they clearly expect to show up in their bottom line results because that IS what well-run for-profit companies strive to continually improve.

            btw, I thought we would talk about the end of the Parker era today. Any guesses on how Isom at the helm will make a difference on what AA does at LAX or with its coastal strategies?

  7. Curious to see when the T2 FIS will be back in use–currently it is being used as an overflow domestic baggage claim area for DL.

    This also got me thinking to DL’s old facilities in T5/6. I understand the T5 FIS is no longer operational, but does anyone know where the facility was physically located? I’ve done some sleuthing on the arrivals floor (both landside and in/around the airside tunnels) but haven’t been able to find any traces of the facility.

    1. Derek – I didn’t get a timeline on when T2 is going back into service, but it was explained to me that it was a CBP staffing issue. Whether that’s just the blame game or not, I have no idea.

      There was an FIS in T5, but I couldn’t tell you the exact location nor whether that space still exists.

  8. My OZ/TW Pilot Father would’ve loved these type upgrades at LAX T3 during his TW days. TW just didn’t spend money before the OZ merger and/or after it. Horrible management. Awesome looking much needed upgrades to LAX T2 and especially T3 which was rundown.

    Bravo Delta & LAWA

  9. … No one noticed the low ceilings in the ticketing lobby and security check point.
    Another example of terminal renovation on the cheap.
    LAWA should have stipulated double-height ceilings.
    Given a choice, Delta was going to chose the cheap way out.

    1. It’s related to the SkyClub which covers the entire upper level. Hence the can’t raise the ceiling heights of the lower levels. A pity really. I’m also surprised at the external design of the t3 concourse. I was expecting lots of large windows

  10. It’s also time to renumber the terminals, especially when t1 will have a new concourse 0. They were designed so that gates with a 2 were terminal 2, 3 t3 etc.

    Terminal 2-3 have been consolidated

    So they should renumber
    T1
    T2-3 : T2
    Tom Bradley international terminal 3
    T4-5 : T4
    T6
    T7
    And the proposed T8

  11. @CF, did you say right that T2/T3 has a behind security connector over to T1.5 / T1? If so, doesn’t that mean you could do a behind security walk thru all the terminals during a nice long layover (I can’t remember if you can get to T7/8 or not)?

    1. BigD – Yes, there is a connector between 1 and 2 now. So when the connector to 3 and Bradley opens, you can go the whole way around the horseshoe.

  12. The terminal looks nice, but I will stay with AA on their SNA-JFK route. It is nice to breeze into SNA airport and get to your gate in minutes and be able to taxi off the ramp and not be number 20 for take off. You can keep the shinny supersized LAX with all its congestion on the roads by Century Blvd, I prefer the ease of the smaller LA airports.

  13. Well, it’s June 17, and terminal 3 is awful. I have an early flight out. Bathrooms are closed. No food options. Extremely limited seating by the gates; gate 31 A has only 43 seats despite having room for at least 60. I haven’t been in this cruddy of a terminal in a long time. And yeah sure it’s under construction but they shouldn’t open it to the public until they’re capable of actually taking care of the public.

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