In early May, Long Beach Airport opened a brand new ticketing lobby just to the south of the historical terminal building. Though I’ve seem some lament the loss of the historic structure for regular airline operations, this is actually just the first step in restoring that building to its former glory.
This airport was first built on its current plot of land in 1923, so we are approaching the 100th anniversary. But it wasn’t until 1941 that the now-iconic terminal building was constructed in the Streamline Moderne style. It was all ready to open… when World War II broke out. The terminal’s first job was to act as barracks for the military, but eventually it went back to its original purpose.
The history around LGB is fascinating. I know it well as a former tour guide for the airport, but I don’t need to recount it all here. Just know that the terminal itself is a wealth of history from WPA-funded art to little nooks and crannies belying the building’s history.
In the beginning, travelers walked through the building from the street on the east side to airplanes just behind on the ramp to the west. Eventually, trailers were stapled on haphazardly to accommodate growth. It wasn’t until 2012 that the new concourse was opened behind the terminal to the west, bringing a big improvement to the experience.
The terminal building remained the central focus as the ticketing area, but it slowly lost importance. The observation deck remained open, but it was hard to see over the new concourse. And the restaurant upstairs closed down once options beyond security became available in the new concourse.
The ticketing area itself was not designed for the traffic at hand, especially once Southwest came in. Here’s a look at the mess when I flew through earlier this year.
There was another side effect of this cobbled-together design. With the terminal building being the place for baggage intake, there was no easy way for bags to get to the concourse. So, you saw big fences erected with bag chutes going over the walkway.
When they decided to build the new ticketing lobby, this solved all those issues. The new ticketing lobby is to the south, attached to both the new security area and the concourse behind, making it easy to pass bags through without any of the ungainly infrastructure that was slapped together previously.
The new building also just makes for an easier and nicer experience with space and basic amenities.
But perhaps the best part of this project is what it will do for the terminal itself. Already it has helped uncover some long-buried aspects of the terminal. Take a look at this photo from before times.
This is looking north toward the terminal, and as you can see, it is dominated by the ugly covered walkway that went by a small security office and into the TSA security area. That is now all gone, and the view looks like this.
This is the view into the large plaza from the entrance to the new ticketing area on the left. Behind the palm tree, you can see that with the covered walkway gone, the old porte cochere was uncovered and brought into the limelight.
The construction you see to the left of the terminal is the new baggage claim area which opens by the end of this year. That will still be outside and will sit on the opposite side of the terminal building from the ticketing area. This whole project will now enable the old terminal to stand alone.
With the old terminal no longer being used, a big project is underway to renovate, perform seismic upgrades, and restore the building. The old makeshift ticketing areas will be stripped out and the rental car counters will move from the trailers in the surface lot across the street into the building.
All of the fencing and the old baggage infrastructure will be removed, and travelers will now be able to pass through and fully around the old terminal to the security area on the other side. Here is a rendering of what it will look like.
While the terminal may no longer play a part in the actual air travel experience any longer, it will still have a central place in the airport, and that is one thing that makes Long Beach Airport such a unique place from which to fly.
I thought the historic terminal was going to be used for Car Rental Counters? Getting those services out of trailers.
Subway – Yes, that’s what I said. Once the work is done they will move the car rental counters from the trailers into the terminal.
What surprises me most is that the LB city council approved this project at all considering their hostility to the airport to begin with. Brett you can explain this being a local & knowing more about the politics in the city. Nice job though.
SEAN – Well since it has nothing to do with gates or slots, the anti-airport people don’t really care. I think they probably got the historic preservation crowd interested or something, but there wasn’t really any fight that I can remember.
Used the new ticketing desk on a morning outbound rush hour 7 AM Saturday two weeks ago. . . and . . .. the experience was no different than the old terminal. Lines that intersected with other lines, with the check-in computers not quite far enough back — so the traffic pattern was messy. The check in lines for Hawaiian and Southwest intersected each other and people were spilling out into the sidewalk.
That being said with one Southwest employee taking bags. . . that likely had something to do with it also. . . .Its a nice small building that keeps the LGB outdoor vibe. That being said they may want to look at line configuration or moving the check in computers around a bit.
Sort of off topic- AA had received 1 additional slot pair at LGB which needed to be used by Oct. A 4th flight was loaded for sale a month or two ago beginning in Oct. In last week schedule load that flight was removed and AA is back to 3 LGB-PHX flights. Any insight as to what’s up with that?
Jack – Beats me. They’ll have to relinquish if they don’t use them enough. But there is some slack allowed.
Regional crew block hour shortage. Not wanting to add capacity into money-losing markets. Take your pick!
Love our little airport but wonder what limits the number of slots. We seem to only have 15 or so movements in peak hours – if even that. And used to be able to go to JFK and BOS; can you even get across the Mississippi non-stop today?
Randy – The airport is limited to 41 daily permanent slots for large commercial aircraft. As noise has decreased, the noise ordinance allows additional slots to be added as long as noise stays low. So today there are 53 daily flights permitted on those large jets. When JetBlue left, east coast flying disappeared, but Southwest does go east of the Mississippi with Chicago/Midway flights and starting this fall, Nashville.
This is why I’m very cautious of making transportation infrastructure a landmark. I’m glad that it could be still useful as a rental car counter canopy but that’s still a very expensive and lengthy project to put a historic and seismically upgraded roof over their head.
Basically, they are wasting money, turning it into a display piece. They should have kept it as a functioning terminal maybe for Delta and/or American.