Exec overseeing LAX's big modernization is retiring

Los Angeles airport director to retire after eight years overseeing LAX improvements

Los Angeles airport Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey, who has overseen the ongoing modernization of LAX for almost eight years, announced Tuesday that she will retire effective this spring.

"This is an appropriate time for a transition," said Lindsey, who has worked for 39 years, 33 of them in the aviation industry. "The next executive director will be able to take the airports development program through its next major phase."

Recruited by then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Lindsey joined Los Angeles World Airports in June 2007 at a pivotal moment in the history of the system, which operated Los Angeles International Airport, L.A./Ontario International Airport, Van Nuys Airport and LA/Palmdale Regional Airport.

At the time, the redevelopment of LAX had been delayed by lawsuits and community opposition. Flight operations were in decline at Van Nuys, a general aviation facility. And Ontario International, a once-popular alternative airport, was on the brink of sharp drops in flights and passengers.

Lindsey is credited with moving ahead with the modernization of LAX, which includes a $2-billion expansion and remodel of the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

She managed efforts to remodel the airport’s aging domestic terminals, build new taxiways and plan a variety of other improvements, including a midfield concourse, a consolidated car rental facility and plans for a people mover that would link to a long-awaited light rail line.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said Lindsey “is one of the nation’s finest aviation executives, and that’s why LAX is now on its way to becoming one of the world’s best airports.”

Under Lindsey's leadership, LAX reached about 71 million passengers a year, making it the second busiest airport in the U.S. in terms of travelers and the fifth busiest in the world.

"Gina Marie has put together a strong and efficient team that is transforming LAX into an airport the city can be proud of," said Sean Burton, president of the city's Board of Airport Commissioners.

Lindsey shut down Palmdale in 2008 and worked to increase revenue from Van Nuys, the latter move bolstering the airport’s finances but straining tenant relations as rents increased and additional fees were assessed on aircraft-related businesses.

“Eight years ago, Van Nuys was losing $5 million to $7 million dollars a year,” Lindsey said. “We are now meeting all our expenses, reconstructed the runway, and resolved the tenant issues.”

At L.A./Ontario, passenger volumes plummeted almost 45% from a high of 7.2 million travelers a year in 2007. The decline prompted the city of Ontario to sue Los Angeles in an attempt to regain control of the once fast-growing facility.

Ontario officials claim that Los Angeles mismanaged the airport and violated agreements to do its best to develop air service. Los Angeles officials contend the decline was due to the recession and a restructuring in the airline industry, which relocated service at major hubs, such as LAX.

Several years ago and again after the Nov. 1, 2013, shooting inside Terminal 3 that killed a federal official, questions were raised about the adequacy of security at LAX.

Studies indicated that improvements were needed in communications, emergency management, security of facilities and the airport police force. Lindsey has said that LAX is safer today, citing an investment of more than $1.6 billion in security measures since 9/11.

"We've closed some of the security gaps," she said. "It will be an ever evolving quest. You just can't put a period on it and say we are done."

Lindsey said she will remain in her position until a replacement can be found and the transition to new management can be completed. The mayor's office, she added, has already initiated an recruitment effort.

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