Delta unveiled the first half of its $229 million renovation Los Angeles International Airport last week, and while there’s no ‘wow’ factor in the upgrades, Terminal 5 is looking much cleaner and brighter than before.
Los Angeles World Airports, the landlord, is paying nearly all of the upgrades, with the Transportation Security Administration funding about $25 million in security improvements and Delta adding another $12 million for so-called “proprietary improvements.”
Most of Delta’s big changes will come in 2015, when Phase 2 improvements such as a wider security checkpoint and special VIP lobby will be finished. But I got a look this week at Phase 1.
Here’s what I learned:
- Delta’s kiosks are set up in islands, a move that was made to ensure that foot traffic flows better through the ticketing lobby. It seems to work well enough.
- Progress comes in the form of lower than normal desks for ticketing agents, which, apparently, makes the process of checking bags less intimidating. “We wanted to eliminate the traditional high counter,” said Ranjan Goswami, Delta’s vice president for Los Angeles. “It creates a barrier. There’s no reason to do that.” Interestingly, fewer passengers are reaching these desks of late. Goswami said 90 percent of passengers use online, mobile or kiosks to check in.
- In baggage claim, Delta inform customers when to expect bags. Two minutes after gate arrival is the goal, but timing can fluctuate depending on various factors. The important thing, Goswami said, is accuracy. “Whether it’s a delay or bags, people say to us, ‘Just be up front about what is going to happen,” Goswami said.
- Terminal 5 will remain under construction zone into 2015, so expect many fake walls and narrow hallways. Airport construction is not easy, said Jaco Claassens Delta’s regional director for facilities. “This terminal never really shuts down,” he said. “We have maybe between 1 to 3 in the morning when it’s quiet. It’s a challenge to schedule construction.”
- Los Angeles is the latest airport to get Delta’s coveted Porsche service. As in Atlanta, New York and Minneapolis, some of Delta’s best customers will be ferried between connections in chauffeured luxury cars. “I think only an appearance from Santa Claus and being able to ride in his sleigh would get people more excited,” Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst said.
- A couple of fun facts about the two-car fleet. I was told they’re diesel, which apparently was required by Los Angeles World Airports. They also have GPS, which you can faintly see in the photo above. It tracks the airfield. I asked our driver, Jeff Simonin, who manages ‘below the wing’ operations for Delta, the keys to driving on the airfield. “Aircraft always have the right of way,” he said. “Follow roadways. Never drive under jetways or under wingtips.” Simple enough.