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LAX kicks off $508-million renovation of Southwest Airlines terminal

Work begins on a $508-million renovation at LAX's Terminal 1

The modernization of outdated terminals at Los Angeles International Airport forged ahead Tuesday as work began on a $508-million renovation of one of the busiest passenger facilities.

City leaders and airport officials broke ground at Terminal 1, home to Southwest Airlines and its subsidiary AirTran Airways. Known for traffic congestion and long lines, the 30-year old facility handled about 9.65 million travelers in 2013, the most of any LAX terminal that year.

“We want this airport to make the best first impression and the best last impression for people when they are here,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “This project will improve the passenger experience from the curb to the gates.”

Plans calls for a brighter, more open ticketing lobby, a fully automated system to handle checked bags and numerous structural improvements, including a new facade and seismic retrofitting.

The passenger screening area, operated by the Transportation Security Administration, will be expanded to 12 lanes to prevent long lines.

Once through the TSA checkpoint, passengers will experience a modern concourse with more seating in the waiting areas, larger restrooms and an updated selection of retail shops, beverage stands and restaurants.

Westfield, which is responsible for developing the terminal’s concessions, says it will offer 24 shops, cafes and lounges as well as upscale retail and dining establishments -- double what is there is now.

The terminal’s entrance, ticket counters and Skycap operations will be moved from the east end of the building to the west side to ease traffic congestion -- a problem motorists now encounter frequently while entering the central terminal area during peak travel times.

Airport officials also say baggage claim will be refurbished and the ramp areas will get new pavement and aircraft fueling systems.

“It’s all great. They need to make these improvements,” said Eric Crown, 50, of Phoenix, who regularly flies on Southwest to Los Angeles on business. "I hope they will be devoted to efficiency, not just amenities."

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