Preview: Southwest Finishes Terminal Renovations at LAX… But There’s More Construction t

Southwest travelers who fly to, from, or through Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) have been waiting for this day for years.  The airline’s renovations in Terminal 1 are officially done later this week.  The airline took me around on a tour a couple weeks ago not only to give me a preview of the finished work, but also to let me see a bit of the next project… Terminal 1.5

This is the final chapter of a trilogy of posts here at Cranky. In February 2016, Southwest gave me a tour of the brand new ticket counter area along with some of the gate work. Then in March of 2017, I was given an early look at the rebuilt security checkpoint along with more gate work. The rest of the project was supposed to be done in time for this year’s summer travel rush, but changes in scope delayed it six months. Now it’s all open, and the $515 million project came in just a hair under budget. So, let’s look.

Erasing the Old Checkpoint

Between the new ticket counter and security checkpoint was the old bank of escalators that went up to the old security checkpoint. Those escalators have now been replaced with bathrooms. People going from ticketing to security wouldn’t see much of a trace of the old way of doing things… with one exception.

As you can see, there is still an escalator that goes up where the old ones use to be, but that’s meant to serve airline needs since it leads to Southwest’s offices and not to the secure area.

The part at the top of the escalators has now been converted into a restaurant space, the local food and coffee joint, Urth Caffé. But that area faces inward toward passengers already on the secure side.

A Door That Taunts You

Just to the west of Urth is a door that leads out of the secure area.

While the old escalators in the middle of the concourse going all the way down to baggage claim are still there, this door next to Urth was supposed to provide an easy way for people to get back to the ticketing level. (This is particularly important since Uber/Lyft now have to operate from the ticketing level as do some airport shuttles.) But guess what? You can’t use it.

Apparently airport police/TSA/some other agency has determined that this door isn’t able to be secured properly for it to be used as a regular exit. Only people who need to access an elevator can use this door if they are escorted. Everyone else either has to go the long way around back through the security checkpoint, or they have to go down to baggage and find an escalator back up to ticketing. This is a huge bummer.

More Space for Overpriced Restaurants

Across from there, you might remember an old, dingy food court with California Pizza Kitchen among other things. That has been blown out and the space is now more open with a bank of windows at the back.

It’s filled with local spots like Cassell’s Hamburgers and Trejo’s Tacos where I had a $7 shrimp taco.  (The tacos were good, but $7?  For one taco? No street pricing here.)

For those who would rather have something not local, there’s a Chick-Fil-A there which I find incredibly annoying. Any place that won’t open 7 days a week has no business being in an airport.

Throughout the rest of the concourse, restaurants have been added all over. Concession space has gone from around 15,000 sq ft before the renovation up to about 40,000 sq ft now.

A Temporary Crew Base and Gates

Just past the food court there’s a walled-off area that doesn’t look permanent. That’s because it’s not. What will eventually be gate 12A (you can even see the gate sign in the photo above) is, for now, the home of the brand new pilot base in LA that opens shortly. (The flight attendants are opening a base too, but their temporary space is up one more floor outside security.) These will both move into Terminal 1.5 when that opens, but I’ll get to that later.

Other than 12A, which won’t open for a couple of years, the last gate has reopened post-remodel. Gate 12B just opened earlier in November, so Southwest is now at 12 gates in Terminal 1. That’s where it will stay until 2020 when Terminal 1.5 opens.

Terminal 1.5

Do you remember that great airplane view between Terminals 1 and 2?  Or do you remember that short-lived skycap area just to the west of Terminal 1? Both of those are gone, because they needed to make room for Terminal 1.5 which is currently a big hole in the ground.

Terminal 1.5 is goofy because it won’t actually have any aircraft gates. But it will pack a bunch of utility into that small area between Terminals 1 and 2. Right now it’s just a giant hole, but when it’s done, it will have:

  1. A bridge to the automated people mover that will bring people in from remote parking, rental cars, and public transit

  2. A new security checkpoint that will complement the existing ones in Terminals 1 and 2

  3. Two new baggage carousels for Southwest to use, doubling the current two that are in use in Terminal 1 today

  4. A behind-security connector between Terminals 1 and 2

  5. Ticket counters for airlines with gates in the Bradley Terminal but no ticket counter space (likely suspects are airlines like Avianca, Copa, and Interjet which currently have ticketing in Terminal 3 and gates in Bradley)

  6. A bus gate for Southwest’s international operations which go from Bradley and also for those airlines using the above ticket counters

  7. Offices for Southwest including the pilot and flight attendant base so that gate 12A can reopen

This will be accessed via the walkway that used to go to the old gate 2 (briefly gate 10 after the renumbering). That’s just to the south of the new food court. Right now, it’s blocked off.

One More Project

Once 1.5 is done, then there’s just one more big project for Southwest.. Terminal 0. What is currently a parking lot to the east of Terminal 1 will become another concourse, probably something that will be similar to how Terminal 8 is set up. The dream is for this to house a customs facility, so Southwest can consolidate all its operations into one complex. The current gate 9 will be razed when they build it, but it should be able to add around 10 gates.

Right now, Terminal 0 is just a dream. Nothing has been approved or funded, so it’s just a long-term plan. It’s going to take years before it gets built, but some day…. Until that point, travelers can once again enjoy a (mostly) construction-free Terminal 1.

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Muscat,  Oman
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