Then and Now: Los Angeles International Airport
Can you imagine flying around the world 90 years ago? Los Angeles International Airport has evolved into a bustling hub since opening on October 1, 1928 and has tons of exciting improvements (USD $14 billion to be exact!) lined up in the next few years to help transform the travelling experience into one as smooth, comfortable and fun as possible.
Follow the footsteps of past, current and future travellers below and take a peek through time at how the bustling airport has/will change:
THEN: LAX begins operation on October 1, 1928. Although it functioned as an airport, there was no regular passenger operations at the airport and, per LAX historian Ethel Pattison, it was just “a dirt patch with rabbits running around.” The first structure, Hangar No. 1, wasn’t built until June 1929 and the main terminal complex was only constructed in 1961 after major airlines beganmoving their facilities to LAX.
NOW: There are now nine terminals at LAX, including the Tom Bradley International Terminal, with more than 62+ national and local brand-name dining and shopping venues for travellers to enjoy while waiting for their flights.
FUTURE: Scheduled to finish by 2023, LAX is undergoing a USD $14 billion renovation program that will transform the entire experience including getting in/out of LAX with metro light rail and a driverless electric train, a giant new rental car facility, a new Metro hub, a new terminal and other bonus amenities.
Getting to and from LAX
THEN: Travellers in the past all drove to the airport in their automobiles and, once air travel became mainstream, there was usually a long wait to drop/pick up passengers during peak holiday travel. Cars with overheated radiators would cause traffic to be backed up all the way outside the airport.
NOW: Driving is still one of the main ways of accessing the airport, with a myriad of road networks connecting LAX to the wider road system. Car-less travellers can easily hail an Uber or hop on a LAX FlyAway shuttle that whisks passengers to Downtown L.A., Hollywood, Westwood and Van Nuys.
FUTURE: Next year, Metro will extend the Green Line to connect with the new Crenshaw/LAX Line station, the closest station to LAX. In 2023, the electric people-mover train will bridge the gap between LAX and the new metro station, so travellers can seamlessly get in and out of LAX using Metro trains. There’s even talk that Uber is looking to bring flying taxis to L.A. in the future!
THEN: Flying was simple back then; there were no metal detectors nor X-ray machines. Travellers would board their planes and someone would take their bags and load them in the hold. Only police officers stationed at the airport were there to provide basic security to passengers.
NOW: Given the multiple layers of security present at airports nowadays, every little thing counts. For travellers looking to depart, self-tagging kiosks at airline counters are simplifying the bag-check process and automated screening lanes further speed up the carry-on luggage process, with five times as many loading stations, so that travellers can speed past slower ones. For those landing at LAX, passengers can look forward to using automated passport control kiosks that spit out a ticket and help process their arrivals through customs.
FUTURE: Instead of handing over a boarding pass, get ready for gate check-in using facial recognition. Earlier this year, British Airways and Lufthansa rolled out the technology in the Tom Bradley International Terminal; Qantas and Korean Air will be the next to try the system.
THEN: At the beginning of LAX’s operations, the travelling experience didn’t come with bells and whistles. In fact, to feed the travelling masses, a barrack was converted into a cafeteria.
NOW: Many terminals have revamped or are in the process of revamping their culinary and shopping venues in the past few years. For example, Terminal 2 unveiled a new dining hub last year and Terminal 1 is next, with 20 new shops, such as MAC cosmetics and Kiehl’s, expected. Aside from dining and shopping venues, LAX now also have teams of therapy dogs from their Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) program touring around terminals, offering emotional happiness and support to travellers. In addition, there are multiple pieces of gorgeous public art work in each terminal and seasonal live musical performances to liven the travelling experience.
FUTURE: Scheduled to open in 2020, a new USD $1.6 billion Midfield Satellite Concourse addition to the Tom Bradley International Terminal will add 12 aircraft gates, culinary venues and children’s play areas. LAX is also mulling a curbside concierge to escort travellers to the boarding gate.
THEN: Designed with a simple aesthetic of mid-century modern design, the first version of LAX wasn’t loaded with bonus features beyond the futuristic-looking Central Theme Building.
NOW: Although the Theme building no longer houses a restaurant, the top deck is now open as a public observation deck, where travellers can get a 360-degree view of the airport.
FUTURE: Circling back to the simplistic design that the original architects were aiming for, the LAX team is aiming for a futuristic look with an emphasis on openness, natural light and clean lines. They’re even planning to rebuild old bathrooms, where smart lights on the ceiling indicate if a stall is occupied and a computer tracks foot traffic to signal when it’s time for more upkeep.
Getting on the plane
THEN: Travellers would pass through the terminals directly onto the tarmac to board their flights via portable stairways, even VIPs.
NOW: Normal travellers now access planes through jetways, whereas VIP travellers can now take advantage of The Private Suite. A newly built terminal, The Private Suite is located a few miles away from LAX, has its own private TSA screening and a team of eight people to assist each travel party, from escorting to a private lounge suite to driving them across the tarmac to aircraft in a BMW 7 series sedan.