Trying to reverse its low grades from the flying public, Los Angeles International Airport marked a milestone in its modernization program Tuesday by dedicating a $238-million renovation of one of its aging passenger terminals.
The remodel of Terminal 6, the new home of Alaska Airlines, includes a variety of improvements to bag check, ticketing, security screening, waiting areas at gates and more.
“The whole thing is designed with the customer in mind,” said Bill Ayer, Alaska’s chief executive, who attended the terminal’s grand opening.
“Basically, we have blown up the old idea of the ticket counter, which acted like a barrier for passengers.”
In the upgraded, spacious lobby, travelers encounter two large oval islands with arrays of computer terminals for quick online ticketing. For passengers desiring the traditional approach, there are still some conventional counters staffed with agents. Bags can be easily checked at curbside.
On the way to the gates, an expanded security checkpoint provides for faster access to the boarding areas, where ample seating is equipped with electrical outlets for computer users. A posh lounge serving food and beverages is free to first-class passengers; those flying coach can pay $40 to enter.
The improvements also have eliminated the need for Alaska’s international passengers to go through customs and immigration at the Tom Bradley International Terminal before taking a shuttle to Terminal 3, Alaska’s old facility, to make their connections. Alaska, which offers the most international flights at LAX, handled about 1.2 million passengers at the airport last year.
Passengers can now walk through a tunnel to quickly reach the federal inspection station in nearby Terminal 7, and Alaska no longer has to tow its Mexico and Canada flights from the Bradley back to its facility.
“It’s nice -- a whole lot better than Terminal 3. The layout makes it easier. They put some thought into this,” said Michael Loust of San Clemente, who was headed to Mexico for a fishing trip.
The airline contributed about $16 million to the project, which came in under its $271-million budget. An additional $20 million came from the federal Transportation Security Administration. The rest of the financing came from bonds issued by Los Angeles World Airports, which manages LAX and the city’s two smaller airports.
“This project was on time and under budget,” said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who toured the terminal with airport officials and City Council colleagues Bill Rosendahl and Tom LaBonge. “We are creating jobs and enhancing the passenger experience from a convenience and safety standpoint.”
The upgrade of Terminal 6 is part of a $4.1-billion package of airport improvements that includes the expansion of the Bradley terminal, new taxiways and a rebuilt central utility plant.
Alaska’s new location joins other LAX terminals that have been improved since 2000, including the American Airlines facility and the interior of the Virgin America terminal. A $180-million renovation of the Delta Air Lines facility is underway, and remodels of Terminals 7 and 8 are planned.