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Airport Review: Pardon the Dust as LAX Gets a Makeover

In Yahoo Travel’s Airport Review series, we dissect everything you need to know—from check-in to take off to landing. Oh, and curious what it takes to get a perfect, 5-star rating? A hotel beyond security check—and not many pass the test. 

Airport Review: Pardon the Dust as LAX Gets a Makeover

(Photo: Getty Images)

Airport Star Rating: The sixth-busiest airport in the world, and third in the U.S., gets 3.5 stars and rising as its renovation progresses.

The Good: LAX’s $7 billion ongoing modernization brings improvements from LED street lighting and traffic safety, streamlined security and baggage handling, to the New Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT).

The Bad: Renovations aren’t due for completion until 2020, meaning inconveniences like tarmac busing and maneuvering construction zones. Helpful: construction scheduled between midnight and 5 a.m., and real-time traffic updates from www.LAXisHappening.com.

Best Amenities: Free WiFi, four “pet parks” and TBIT’s children’s play area.

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Children’s play area. (Photo: LAX/Pinterest)

Walkability: Elevators, escalators and moving walkways, 212 of them, will be added/updated by 2016. A connector between Terminal 4 and TBIT will alleviate the need for rechecking luggage.

Security and Immigration: Lately, LAX’s immigration process has been expedient. Global Entry and special TSA Pre-Check authorization hasten the process.

Baggage: An in-line baggage handling and screening system program is in place within Terminals 3, 5 and TBIT. Other terminals updates will follow by 2020.

Delays: Tips for avoiding delays – travel on Tuesdays or Wednesdays with departure times between 4 a.m. to 11 a.m. (especially Terminals 1 and 5) or Fridays 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Worst arrival time – Sundays from 5:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Some tarmac delays result from Terminal 4 connector construction.

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(Photo: Neil Kremer/Flickr)

Public Spaces: These house an art program featuring permanent and temporary installations. Also fun: LAX’s iconic Theme Building (above) and observation deck.

Plugs/Charging Outlets: TBIT is outstanding in this arena. Not great for terminals yet to undergo renovations.

Transportation: Myriad options, such as free inter-terminal buses, are clearly marked and remain uninterrupted during construction.

Hotel: Although no hotel is located within LAX, a plethora are just outside its entrance.

Dining & Shopping: There’s a bevy of new, L.A.-centric restaurants and shops. See recommendations below.

Terminal 1: A popular bottleneck site, future plans are afoot for shifting Terminal 1’s entrance, alleviating congestion. Shopping: Brookstone and Life Is Good. Dining: Gordon Biersch Brewery.

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(Photo: socialtimes/Flickr)

Terminal 2: For completion by 2016, enhancements to the ticket lobby, baggage areas, concourse area, new concessions. Dining: La Brea Bakery and Nate ‘n Al’s Delicatessen.

Terminal 3: No major renovations. Dining: Gladstone’s 4 Fish.

TBIT: $1.9 billion went into this wave-shaped, LEED Silver-certified structure. Pluses include wide-open spaces, enhanced in-line baggage screening system, improved ticketing, Integrated Environmental Media System and bathroom stalls large enough for passengers and their luggage. Impressive, too: business and first-class lounges for Star Alliance and OneWorld. Still to come: Sky Team Emirates, Ethiad and LAX Shared Use Lounge. Phase 2, set for completion in 2015, will bring with it East Gates and expanded federal passenger security screening.

The TBIT terminal. (Photo: Slices of Light/Flickr)

Dining: 29 venues, including 16 local brands like Border Grill, Umami Burger, and Larder at Tavern. Shopping: 42 stores, with L.A. faves, Kitson and Fred Segal, and 11 Duty Free Shops from Hermes and Gucci to Burberry and Salvatore Ferragamo.

Terminal 4: Beyond TBIT connection, an upper-level public plaza will be opening. Dining: L.A.-centric Homeboy Café and Real Food Daily.

Terminal 5: Through 2015 will be renovations to lobby, boarding gates and passenger security screening areas. Dining: Lemonade and Ford’s Filling Station. Shopping: Mattel Experience.

Terminal 6: Upgraded lobby, additional security screening checkpoints and direct access to U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection facility. Dining: RedondoBeach Brewing Company.

Terminals 7 & 8: Renovations on horizon: state-of-the-art lobby, improved security screening checkpoints, in-line checked baggage inspection system and baggage sorting system, refurbished arrival/baggage claim area, and new premium passenger lounge. Dining: B Grill by BOA Steakhouse and Engine Co. No. 28. Shopping: Harley Davidson, NBC Universal.

In Short: LAX sees daily improvements during its lengthy construction phase, bringing ease to formerly chaotic travel. Forever challenging: airport traffic.

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