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Take a sneak peek at LAX’s new international terminal

Compass

In a town known for big Hollywood debuts, the launch this fall of Los Angeles International Airport’s new Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) should be no exception. The $1.9 billion expansion is the “crown jewel” of a 25-element, $4.1 billion modernization project, the largest in Los Angeles history.

So what kind of numbers can LAX expect when it comes to an “audience?” The airport currently has more than 1,000 weekly nonstop flights to 58 cities in 32 countries on nearly 75 carriers, making it the sixth-busiest airport in the world and third-busiest in the United States. In 2012 alone, the airport served more than 63 million passengers.

Los Angeles Tourism already has an eye on what this means for the city’s revenue. “Having the ability to service more next-generation aircraft than any other airport in the United States is a huge competitive advantage for Los Angeles,” says Susan Lomax, the tourism bureau’s vice president of communications. “Add to this the experience that the new terminal will offer passengers from the unique-to-LA dining and shopping options, the views and the sophisticated lounge areas, and this is a real game changer for L.A.”

The dining is notable, indeed. Westfield Group and tenant partners have invested $80 million in a dining program that features 17 local brands like Larder at Tavern, Umami Burger and Chaya producing L.A.-centric fare. It includes 18 concepts new to LAX and 18 never seen in an airport. What they’re banking on: projected annual sales of $98 million.

Arnaud Thieffry, a vice president at specialty food provider Petrossian Paris, gave an example what these differences will look like: “At Petrossian LAX you’ll be able to have a glass of champagne with our world-renowned caviar or smoked salmon, or pick up a caviar picnic basket from the boutique for the flight.”

As for retail, the New TBIT’s lineup reads like a stroll down Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive – Michael Kors, Kitson, Bulgari, Coach, Emporio Armani… There are 36 retail units, 27 concepts new to LAX and nine never seen in an airport.

Then there’s Duty Free Shops’ $32 million investment in the expansion, encompassing 25,000 square feet and four units. The projected payback in first full year sales of airport-wide duty free concessions is more than $300 million.

Travelers can shop at venues like Gucci, Mac cosmetics, MontBlanc, Hermès and Grey Goose Vodka. “International travelers today have more U.S. airport choices than ever,” says Lomax. “We want to capture them in Los Angeles because these travelers stay longer and spend more money to help keep our local economy strong, to the tune of $30.5 billion in economic impact.”

As appealing as shoppers and diners may find the Curtis Fentress-designed, LEED-certified New TBIT, well-seasoned travelers should give it thumbs up, too. Los Angeles World Airports has made improvements such as redesigning ticketing and the inbound and outbound baggage-handling systems. Security checkpoints will be addressed by 2015, in the next phase of the project.

More convenience comes by way of a plethora of power outlets and USB ports linked to cluster seating, new row configurations and table or counter seating (goodbye searching out a spot on the floor). As for the bathrooms, luggage can easily be rolled inside the stalls.

Also larger are new gates, designed for a new generation of aircraft. Three of New TBIT’s gates have been in use for several months. All the north concourse gates — handling about 50 percent of LAX’s international flights — go into operation this fall.

Speed and efficiency figured heavily when the airport structured the new customs and immigration areas. There are 72 immigration booths, 16 of which are self-service for Global Entry participants. Foreseeing the growth of Global Entry users, the infrastructure is set up for 16 additional self-service kiosks.

Further speeding travelers home is a new inbound baggage claim system with six carousels equipped to carry the amount of luggage coming off an A-380 aircraft, eliminating the need for passengers to go searching between carousels.

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