L.A. Airport Makeover About to Get Ugly
Getting to, from and around Los Angeles International Airport has never been easy. Airport officials said last week it's going to get worse.
An ongoing, multibillion-dollar renovation at the nation's third-busiest airport that has mostly been behind the scenes will soon start affecting passengers in ways large and small.
LAX officials began warning the public about the coming inconveniences that will stretch over the next few years and affect traffic around the terminals and passenger movements inside them.
"Now you're going to start to feel the pain," said Mary Grady, managing director of media and public relations at Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that runs LAX. "Ultimately, it's work that has to be done to transform this airport."
The last major overhaul of the massive facility came as the city geared up to host the 1984 Olympics.
This one comes because LAX is showing its age. To wit: The interior look of one of its soon-to-be-renovated terminals was cast for scenes from "Mad Men," the cable drama set in the 1960s.
The aging airport is scheduled to get newly surfaced roads, upgraded restaurants with Los Angeles themes, and some terminal makeovers that will infuse more sunlight into otherwise cave-like interiors. Sleek roadway lighting and other design elements around the horseshoe-shaped layout will help unify exteriors of the terminals.
Currently, LAX is "nine unrelated buildings connected by a traffic jam," quipped Roger Johnson, the deputy executive director of LA World Airports in charge of development. With the exterior changes, "it starts to look like it is one airport."
Also in the plans are new bathrooms and, that must-have for travelers, more outlets and USB ports for charging electronic devices.
Part of the point is to make LAX more than just a place travelers go to get somewhere else. It's reminiscent of bygone days at LAX, where an architecturally striking building that hovers like a spacecraft on stilts with a panoramic view of the airfield once was pitched as a dining destination for non-travelers to watch the marvels of the jet age unfold around them.
As the airport works to transform itself, the primary goal must be convenience, said Michael Boyd, CEO of the aviation research and forecasting firm Boyd Group International.
"The best experience in an airport," Boyd said, "is the one you don't remember."