TBIT’s New Look

Improvements under the $723.5 million TBIT renovation program are taking shape

By: By Norman Sklarewitz

An architectural rendering of the future ticketing area at Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) // (c) LAWA
An architectural rendering of the future ticketing area at Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT)

No matter how enthusiastic your Southern California client may be over the foreign trip or cruise you booked them on, there’s a good chance that, upon their return, you have to suffer through their complaints about going in and out of the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. Such comments as "it’s like a Third World airport" are typical.

The sad fact is that the criticisms are probably valid. But the upside is that improvements under the $723.5 million TBIT renovation program are taking shape. Some can already be seen; others, unfortunately, are still a couple years away from being implemented.

One area where arriving international passengers will experience positive changes is in the international arrival hall. Lighting has been measurably improved, ceilings raised and those cubicles where you present your passport and landing forms to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspectors are now glass enclosed to permit greater privacy.

More importantly, the baggage claim area directly behind passport control has been upgraded substantially. Large flat-screen displays indicate on which carousels baggage from each arriving flight will be found. These are new carousels, too, with much greater capacity. TBIT officials claim that all the luggage from a single 747 or even a new Airbus A380 will be concentrated on a single carousel. Luggage from the same flight will no longer be carried on two adjoining carousels, as it was in the past.

In terms of check-in for departing passengers at TBIT, things are considerably less far along. For the time being, once a passenger checks in, his or her luggage still must be lugged away to an area where it is passed through huge explosive detection machines, "van-sized," the airport admits. Those EDS stations, manned by TSA personnel, occupy space in the regular passenger aisles obviously obstructing the movement of passengers going to their various airline check-in counters.

It will be two more years before all the so-called "in-line" screening systems will be in place. Then, as luggage is checked in at the airline counters, it will move directly through the most advanced EDS screening equipment and on to the aircraft.

In the meantime, airline check-in counters themselves are being completely renovated with greatly improved signage, better lighting and attractive color schemes. The first area to be finished is at Aisle C. The airline counters at each side of the three aisles at TBIT are currently lettered A through F. Soon, however, they will be redesignated only as A, B and C.

Departure lounges, too, will come in for new carpeting, new seating and an improved public address system. For now, only one — at gate 119 — has been completed. Of importance to agents with clients traveling with Mexicana is the fact that all its normal check-in activities now take place at the Arrivals level of TBIT. By moving its facilities down from the Departures level and away from the crowds, Mexicana makes processing its outbound passengers more convenient.

You can tell your first-class and business-class passengers that their processing at TBIT will be significantly improved. For one thing, there’s now an express line at the TSA screening stations for premium pax. They get to jump ahead of economy passengers waiting to have their documents checked prior to screening. While premium pax still have to go through the usual screening, once cleared they can proceed up to one of the four new consolidated VIP lounges. These replace the 16 small, independent lounges previously available.

There’s one for each of the Alliances airlines — One World, STAR and SkyTeam — with the fourth dedicated to carriers without an alliance affiliation. Awaiting pax at all these lounges are well stocked open bars, hot and cold snacks, free Internet access, free Wi-Fi, local phone calls and more.

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