LAX: United Airlines plans more than $400 million in terminal upgrades

United Airlines plans more than $400 million in renovations for its terminals at Los Angeles International Airport, according to a report filed recently with the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners.

United, which operates a hub in Los Angeles, wants to make a series of upgrades, including improving passenger security screening checkpoints, installing a better baggage sorting system, renovating passenger waiting areas, replacing boarding bridges and building a new lounge for premium customers.

The new premium lounge, called the United Club, will be built in Terminal 7. United plans to close its club in Terminal 6, which previously had been a Continental Presidents Club, according to the report. The two airlines recently merged.

“It’s a terminal in massive need of everything form aesthetic improvements to more substantive improvements to things that you can’t see under the walls,” said Henry Harteveldt, an airline industry analyst at Hudson Crossing in San Francisco. “It’s an old building.”

In all, United plans to invest about $413 million in improvements, mainly in Terminal 7. Los Angeles World Airports will pay for the bulk of upgrades through cash and rental credits. United will be on the hook for roughly $34 million for what are considering “proprietary” improvements. Transportation Security Administration grants should cover some of the security-specific changes.

Officials at Chicago-based United declined to comment on their plans.

United’s move comes as its competitors have also sought to renovate their terminals. Alaska Airlines received nearly $300 million worth of upgrades that were completed in 2012, while Delta Air Lines is getting a more than $200 million makeover of its Terminal 5. Southwest Airlines is also planning a full renovation of Terminal 1 expected to cost about $400 million.

“To an extent United is keeping up with the Jones’s,” Harteveldt said. “They are investing money because if the don’t their competitors will have better terminals to offer and better airport experiences to offer.”

United’s plan must still be approved by the seven-member Los Angeles Airport Commission. It next meets on Tuesday. (Update: The commission does not meet until Sept. 17. I was mistaken.)

Click here to read the entire preliminary report put together by Los Angeles World Airports.

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