L.A. and San Francisco airports celebrate renovations

Los Angeles and San Francisco have new airport renovations to crow about. While the City by the Bay is going green with its upgraded terminal, Los Angeles is focused on the sheer size of its expansion at Los Angeles International Airport.

San Francisco International Airport held a grand opening this month for its $383-million renovation project for Terminal 2, its 640,000-square-foot home for American Airlines and Virgin America.

The terminal was built with some recycled materials and features a people mover system. The toilets use reclaimed water, skylights reduce the need for electric lighting, and vendors sell organic food. The terminal has been designated with a gold certificate under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design system.

During the grand opening ceremony, Lt. Gov. and former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom called the terminal "the most innovative, environmentally sustainable domestic airport in the country."

Also this month, Los Angeles officials broke ground on a $1.45-billion project to double the size of the million-square-foot Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX.

Although the LAX project will also use recycled material, the emphasis will be on the size and scope of the terminal expansion, officials said. The food and retail area, for example, will grow to 140,000 square feet from about 50,000.

The terminal, set for completion in 2013, will serve up to 4,000 passengers per hour, compared with the current maximum of 2,800 passengers. The project also will add nine new gates that can accommodate the wide-body Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the world's largest commercial passenger jet, the Airbus A380.

At the LAX groundbreaking ceremony, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa declared: "The glory days of LAX are ahead of us."

• Frontier Airlines lowers some fees

In a time when the airline industry is collecting about 6% of its total revenue from checked-luggage fees and other extra charges, it's unusual to hear about an airline that is cutting some fees.

But Denver-based Frontier Airlines announced recently that it has reduced the fees for changing reservations to $50 from $100 for economy tickets and lowered the checked-bag fee to $15 from $20 if you pay online.

Frontier also eliminated its $75 flat fee to transport bicycles. Instead it will charge for bikes the same fee as for luggage.

And it changed the features of its "classic" fare tickets, allowing passengers to change reservations and check up to two bags at no additional charge.

"We are just trying to make the travel experience more fair for the customer," Frontier Vice President Ian Arthur said.

But Tom Parsons, head of the travel website BestFares.com, said he believes Frontier lowered the fees to better compete with Southwest and United airlines in such hubs as Denver, Milwaukee and Kansas City, Mo. "It's just pressure," he said. "I think they are feeling it."

• Passengers air their feelings

Despite rising airfares and increased airport security measures, air travelers are still flying and most are OK with the new screening procedures, according to an online passenger survey released last week.

Yet one thing has not changed about air travel: Most passengers are not happy about airplane food.

Despite airfares that are rising because of higher fuel costs, 92% of the respondents to an annual survey by the travel website TripAdvisor said they planned to fly in 2011, compared with 91% who said they flew in 2010.

Among other survey findings:

Forty-six percent of travelers thought checked-baggage fees were the most annoying airline charge, followed by 24% who said seat selection fees were the worst.

Fifty-one percent of travelers said they were comfortable with the new Transportation Security Administration security procedures. On that note, 82% said they would opt to go through a full-body scanner instead of enduring a full-body pat-down by TSA agents.

Fifty-one percent of travelers said they felt airline food had gotten worse over the last five years, while only 12% said it had gotten better.

Asked who would make the worst seatmate on a plane, 28% said an ill passenger while 27% said a smelly one.


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