Time to take down LAX's 'Kick Me' sign?

TBIT2.jpgToday is the official opening of the new-and-improved Bradley terminal, with its additional shops and restaurants and larger and more accommodating gate areas. As could be expected, LAX critics are already in attack mode, calling the $1.9-billion facility a glorified food court with too much wasted space. Of course, these same boobs had been complaining that Bradley didn't have enough food options and was impossibly crowded. When it comes to Los Angeles International, some people will never be satisfied. Actually, I'm expecting a batch of "LAX on the way back" stories (they're already popping up in the national media) that will portray a supposedly troubled facility as finally getting its act together. From what I've seen, the new terminal looks quite nice, with retailers that include Bulgari, Coach, and Kitson, and restaurants that include ink.sack, Border Grill, and Umani Burger. But the prevailing narratives are mostly off. Even before the Bradley hoopla, LAX has been a perfectly serviceable place to fly into and out of. In my experience it's everything a major airport should be: Located near large population centers and providing service to virtually anywhere in the world. Yes, it's rundown in places and doesn't look like a shopping mall and lacks train service to the terminals. And yes, the Wi-Fi situation could be better. All told, however, LAX is a little like my 10-year-old car: Lacking a number of late-model bells and whistles but still managing to get the job done. Which brings up the broader point: Airports are not about buying designer dresses or eating nice meals - they're about moving thousands of passengers each day. And for all the griping, 70 percent of L.A. voters have a very or somewhat favorable view of LAX, according to a 2012 poll, while only 19 percent have a very or somewhat unfavorable opinion. That doesn't seem shabby. It's also worth pointing out that the Bradley makeover is only the first phase of $4.1-billion capital improvement project. From USA Today:

Outside, the building has a sloping, curved aluminum rooftop designed to be reminiscent of waves breaking on a beach. Inside, there's 1,179,000 square feet of useable space, which the airport notes is nearly 40% greater than that of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The most impressive indoor space is the Great Hall, named the Antonio Villaraigosa Pavilion, who served as 41st mayor of Los Angeles. This 150,000 square-foot area houses dining and retail, the airline club lounges (including the Star Alliance Lounge, which has LAX's first outdoor terrace and bar), and other passenger amenities. Nine of 18 new aircraft boarding gates are now operational. They're built to accommodate the larger, new generation aircraft such as the A380 and the Boeing 747-8 with two and, in some cases, three boarding bridges to allow simultaneous (and faster) boarding of the upper and main decks on the larger airplanes. In the roomy gate hold areas, at least 50% of the seats have power outlets and many are lounge-style, offering foot rests for travelers.

From the LAT:

Four mayors who worked to reshape Los Angeles International Airport turned out Wednesday for the grand opening of five passenger gates and a grand central hall at Tom Bradley International Terminal. Richard Riordan, James Hahn, Antonio Villaraigosa and current Mayor Eric Garcetti were guests of honor at ceremonies hailing the nearly $2-billion modernization. A similar celebration was also held for departed Mayor Villaraigosa, who left office three months ago after serving two terms. The gates and grand hall, which were nine months behind schedule, will complete the passenger facilities on the west side of the remodeled Bradley terminal, a key revenue gateway for LAX.

Photo: New shops at Bradley terminal. Elson Trinidad

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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