Virgin America plans minor renovation of LAX Terminal 3

Virgin America and Los Angeles World Airports are planning a small-scale renovation of the carrier’s Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport, records show.

Virgin plans to grow from six gates to eight, according to a report shared recently with the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners. Virgin’s new lease will be for $30,255,000 and cover a five-year period. The airline will receive 42,913 square feet of space.

Virgin will make about $20 million of improvements to the space, and the landlord, Los Angeles World Airports, will eventually pay the airline back for most of the cost. This is standard practice at LAX.

I wouldn’t call this a major overhaul. Here are the plans, taken directly from the airport board report.

Virgin Renovations – include branded improvements, unique to Virgin’s operational needs, such that it is not reasonable to assume that another airline could use the improvement without modification. The Virgin Renovations are estimated to cost $610,000 and will be solely Virgin’s responsibility.

Non-Proprietary Airline Renovations – include non-proprietary improvements to Terminal 3 that are usable by any airline operating in Terminal 3 and located in parts of Terminal 3 classified as “airline areas”, including a proportionate share of building improvements allocated to “airline areas” of the terminal. The Terminal 3 Airline Renovations are estimated to cost $13,752,000 which LAWA will purchase upon completion of renovation components.

Terminal Renovations – include improvements that are allocated to the “public areas” of Terminal 3 that are being implemented during the course of the overall project including a proportionate share of building improvements allocated to “public areas” of the terminal. Terminal 3 Renovations are estimated to cost $4,973,033. The Terminal Renovations will be acquired by rent credits to Virgin over the term of the Lease, including annualized accrued interest on the outstanding principal for the value of such improvements at a total cost not to exceed $5,386,000.

This pretty minor stuff in comparison to United, which is receiving $400 million in upgrades, and Southwest, which is getting a $500 million plus overhaul.

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Southwest wants more than $500 million in LAX Terminal 1 upgrades, an increase over prior budget

Southwest Airlines is planning a massive renovation of LAX Terminal 1. Photo: Southwest.

Southwest Airlines is planning a massive renovation of LAX Terminal 1. Photo: Southwest.

Southwest Airlines wants to spend more than $500 million its renovation of Terminal 1 at Los Angeles International Airport, or about $125 million more than the project was originally allocated last year, according to documents before the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners.

In the course of planning for the project, Southwest discovered it could do even more with the space, the documents show. The old plans called for Southwest and LAX to combine to spend about $384 million over the next several years ….”improving the passenger security screening checkpoint, designing and implementing a new inline CBIS and baggage sorting system, upgrading holdrooms and associated building infrastructure, refurbishing the arrival/baggage claim area, replacing passenger boarding bridges, and replacing aircraft paving sections and associated fuel hydrant pit locations to accommodate larger aircraft.”

The new budget calls for about $509 million in upgrades, the vast majority of which will be funded by the landlord, Los angeles World Airports. This is the new stuff being proposed, most of it taken directly from the report.

  • Concourse Improvements - Increase the square feet in the northern portion of the concourse by approximately 25 feet on each side to provide for larger holdrooms, larger restrooms, and open and inviting retail, food and beverage concessions integrated into the holdroom experience.
  • Security Screening Check Point Improvements – Increase the square feet of ticketing building to provide post-security screening check point recompose area and allow state-of-the-art, industry standard Transportation Security Administration (TSA) passenger screening lanes to be constructed within the footprint of the existing facility.
  • Roof Replacement - Since the existing roof is nearing its useful life it is in the best interest of LAWA and Southwest to replace the roof as part of the renovation.
  • Fire Water Loop Replacement - The airside fire loop will be upgraded as part of the aircraft parking ramp replacement in order to avoid operational disruptions and additional cost of performing this work independently.
  • Seismic Improvement Program - Structural voluntary seismic upgrades will be included in the renovations.
  • Canopy Replacement and Exterior Facade Enhancement -  The exterior façade will be improved by replacing the existing automatic doors and storefront glazing system. Perforated metal panel screens will be incorporated into the existing façade to improve and modernize the overall curb appeal of this first terminal the public sees as they enter LAX
  • An extra gate. The original plan called for Southwest to get preferential use of 12 gates in the terminal. It will now have the right to use a 13th gate if it “maintains an average number of departing and arriving airline seats per day of 2,200 per gate in Terminal 1.”

Here’s the timeline for the Southwest project.

Project Timeframe
West Terminal Building: New Skycap, Ticket Lobby, New Baggage Claim, Airline Admin Offices and Bus Gate Holdroom 4th Quarter 2015
Exterior Canopy: Terminals Canopy and Exterior Facade 3rd Quarter 2016
East Terminal Building: New Security Screening Check Point, Checked Baggage Inspection System 4th Quarter 2016
Concourse: New Holdrooms and Concessions, Gate System, Passenger Boarding Bridges 1st Qtr 2015 to 1st Qtr 2018
Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, Fire Alarm & Suppression Systems 1st Qtr 2015 to 1st Qtr 2018
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Southwest’s new 737 Max fleet will have slightly wider seat width, Bloomberg reports

Southwest seats on the 737 Max will be a little wider than today's standard, Bloomberg reported. Rendering: Boeing.

Southwest’s seats on the 737 Max will be a little wider than today’s Boeing standard, Bloomberg reported. Rendering: Boeing.

Southwest Airlines will install seats that are 17.8 inches across when it receives its first Boeing 737 MAX jets in 2017, a change that will give travelers about seven inches of extra seat width, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.  Current Southwest seats are about 17.2 inches wide.

Airbus has spent a lot of time in the past year chiding Boeing on the fact that Airbus narrowbody jets are slightly wider than similar Boeings. Airbus officials like to say that many of their planes can accommodate 18-inch seats, while most Boeings have 17 inch seats. This does not actually mean all Airbus seats are wider than Boeing seats. As I wrote here in September, some Airbus operators still use 17 inch seats on narrowbodies. That can have two benefits — one is that it allows airlines to use a standard economy seat on all of its airplanes. And two it means that the Airbuses can have wider aisles, which can help improve airplane turn times.

Southwest Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven told Bloomberg that a little creativity helped lead to the extra elbow room.

“The seat technology has improved tremendously over the years,” Van de Ven told Bloomberg. “It’s allowing us to get the seats closer to the sides of the airplane by almost an inch, maybe a little bit more than that. You can then use that increased space in a little bit of additional seat width.”

When I met with Airbus officials last year, they told me of another way an airline might be creative with seats. It is theoretically possible, they said, for an airline to install window and middle seats that are 17 inches across. Then, with the extra space, the airline would have an extra wide aisle seat — one that it could sell for more money.

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Paying for carry-on bags? It could happen on major airlines.

Might major airlines like United someday charge for carry-on bags? It could happen, an executive at another airline says. Photo: M. Spencer Green/Associated Press

Might major airlines like United someday charge for carry-on bags? It could happen, an executive at another airline says. Photo: M. Spencer Green/Associated Press

Could you someday have to pay for carry-on bags on United, American and Delta?

Andrew Levy, president and chief operating officer at Allegiant Air, says he thinks you will. His airline, known for selling deeply discounted coach tickets mainly to and from leisure destinations, has been charging for all but the smallest carry-on bags since 2012. So far, in the United States, only Allegiant and competitor Spirit are charging for cabin bags.

“I would be shocked if in three years we were still the only ones charging for carry-on bags,” Levy told me in an interview last month. “I think if you are platinum medallion on Delta you ‘ll never pay for those. But if I’m ‘Joe Blow’ who only flies twice a year, I’ll always pay.”

You probably don’t believe him. But keep in mind, Allegiant was among the first carriers to charge for checked baggage, making customers pay for bags well before American Airlines shocked passengers in 2008 with the new fee. A fee that was almost immediately copied by every major airline except Southwest.

That could happen again with carry-on bags.

“I personally believe it is inevitable that there will be a charge for carry on bags,” Levy said. “I think it will be a widely adopted fee. But we’ll see. I could be wrong. But the industry has been moving pretty consistently toward where we are and where Spirit is. I don’t think it will stop.”

Charging for carry-on bags is beneficial for airlines in a couple of ways, Levy said. The first one is obvious. The airlines make money off of something that used to be free. The second is a slightly harder to quantify. But if charging for bags means passengers bring less stuff, airplanes will presumably fly at lighter weights.  And over time, that lighter planes can bring some fuel savings.

For many passengers, the key is that an airline’s best customers will actually be rewarded by this move. First, they’ll end up getting a perk, since they almost certainly won’t have to pay to use the overhead bin. Second, the bins will have more space than they do now, since passengers will no longer have an incentive to avoid checking luggage.

What do you think? Do you agree with Levy’s prediction? And do you think airlines should charge for carry-on bags?

And check back next week for more of Levy’s thoughts on ancillary revenue products.

 

 

 

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