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Fake passengers wanted: LAX needs 500 people to test out new airport terminal

A rendering of the outside of the Midfield Satellite Terminal, currently under construction at LAX.
(Los Angeles World Airports )

Feel like going to LAX and acting like an out-of-control passenger or a parent with kids in meltdown mode? Here’s your chance. Los Angeles International Airport is looking for 500 people to come to its newest concourse and behave badly, or sickly, or feebly. It’s all part of a readiness drill to make sure the upcoming Midfield Satellite Concourse will be safe and passenger-ready when it opens this summer.

The new Midfield Satellite Concourse at LAX, in rendering.
People who sign up will be first to experience the new Midfield Satellite Concourse at LAX, in a rendering.
(North Base)

It’s also the first time the airport will be performing what’s called a full Operation Readiness and Transition trial. People who volunteer will be asked to do what fliers do every day at LAX: Catch a flight. Sounds easy, right? Except you’ll be heading to a satellite terminal with 12 new gates that have never been used — and you may be part of planned obstacles along the way.

Now that curbside pickups have been banned, arriving passengers have new choices to make, and understanding LAX-it will be crucial.

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“We are going to write scenarios to check the processes that happen on a given day,” says L.A. World Airports strategic adviser Robert L. Gilbert. “With 150 to 300 people going through the ... concourse, some will be in wheelchairs, some will be young people racing for the gate, some will be elderly.”

A tunnel connects the Tom Bradley International Terminal with the new Midfield Satellite Concourse, in a rendering.
(Los Angeles World Airports)

The test will be staged to ensure that emergency responders, airline and concessionaire staffers, and equipment workers know how to operate and navigate the $1.6-billion concourse that connects to the Tom Bradley International Terminal by way of a 1,000-foot tunnel. That means knowing what to do if the boarding bridge doesn’t operate properly, or a stalled plane blocks gates for incoming flights, or a passenger falls and breaks his or her leg in the tunnel, or someone’s child gets lost.

Trouble-shooting also can be as simple as making sure signs are clear enough to get passengers to their gates and that all the toilets flush in the restrooms. “We simulate that this is a peak hour, peak day, peak month,” Gilbert says. “This is where our volunteers are very important.”

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Anyone who signs up will have a chance to be first to set foot inside the new concourse, kind of like being the first car to drive on the 405 Freeway or the first Expo Line passenger. You start by filling out the MSC Trials Volunteer Survey, which asks for a bunch of information, including your driver’s license and U.S. passport numbers. New sign-ups are currently suspended because of the “overwhelming response from the community,” but LAX may reopen it if more volunteers are needed.

The new concourse at LAX, accessed by bus or on foot, adds 12 gates. (rendering)
(Los Angeles World Airports)

Then Gilbert and his team vet applicants for security and look for the right demographic mix — seniors, the disabled, families, etc. — “to make sure we replicate our standard passenger flow.” Tests will take place up to six weeks before the concourse is set to open, a date that hasn’t yet been set.

People selected for the test will be emailed scenarios the day before they are due to appear. On the day of their assignment, fake passengers will meet at an assembly point, put on a distinctive uniform (think something in unflattering orange, so they can be easily identified) and then mix in with other passengers to play their given role.

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Volunteers can expect to be on-site for about half a day, and will be provided with beverages and a meal.

The satellite terminal’s roof resembles an ocean swell, a complementary design to the Bradley terminal’s roof, which looks like a breaking wave.

To sign up, go to MSC Trials Volunteer Survey.


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