American Recently Moved Gates to T5, Sees Room for Improvement
This past January, American Airlines moved what was legacy US Airways operations from Terminal 6 to Terminal 5 at Los Angeles International Airport. American now operates out of gates 50-59 at LAX’s Terminal 5. Flights that depart out of those T5 gates operate adjacent to Delta’s sprawling LAX operations. Sharing terminal and gate space with a competitor is not ideal. However, American Airlines sees room for improvement and opportunities for expansion at LAX.
Why Did AA Move from T6 to T5
If you have ever flown in or out LAX, you might have noticed just how congested the airport is. It is one of the largest airports in the world. However, expansion has been restricted. This means long tarmac delays for passengers and messy operations for airlines.
Before American Airlines merged with US Airways, American operated solely out of Terminal 4 while US Airways operated out of Terminal 6. For years after the merger, American Airlines continued to operate out of Terminal 6 due to limited gate space. However, following recent developments, American moved those T6 gates to Terminal 5. Why? Terminal 5 is adjacent to Terminal 4 and connected via an underground walkway. Before this move, passengers with flights departing out of T6 had to board buses for ground transfers from American’s main terminal, Terminal 4. The move allows for more seamless connections.
According to American Airlines, this move is just a minor part of the airline’s plans for improvements and expansion at LAX.
American Airlines at LAX
It is pretty impressive to see how quickly American Airlines has grown at LAX. In 2013, American served just four international destinations from LAX. Today, American serves 15 international destinations from Los Angeles. However, it is not just American’s international operations that have grown significantly. In 2013, AA served 42 cities within the US. American now serves 55 destinations in the United States. American has grown from the third largest airline at LAX to the largest airline at the airport. American operates more flights in and out of LAX than any other airline. That is phenomenal growth. With growth comes congestion and new demand. Tarmac delays, outdated amenities, and operational issues have occasionally plagued American (as well as other airlines) at LAX. Finally, American Airlines sees a path to improving its growing operations in LA.
American’s Future at LAX
American is wrapping up its largest domestic expansion at LAX in years. American is upgauging flights to Denver from American Eagle aircraft to mainline aircraft while the airline is adding flights to Medford, Oregon and Grand Junction, Colorado. However, adding additional flights does not address operational and passenger concerns. Here’s what American plans on doing to improve the passenger experience in the coming years.
Like Many Airlines, American Wants More Gates
The simple solution to an airline’s operational issues would be to add more gates. This is a feasible option at many airports. However, LAX is not one of those airports. American, Delta, and United all want more gates. Unfortunately, as I have alluded to already. you cannot just add gates to a terminal that’s maxed out on space. How will American “secure more gates”?
Over the next few years, LAX will undergo a massive shuffle of airlines. Delta Air Lines will move north to Terminal 3 or Terminal 2, Alaska Airlines and Virgin American will move south and consolidate operations in Terminals 5 and 6, and American Airlines will expand throughout Terminal 5. As of February 2017, there’s still a lot unknown about the moves airlines are planning to make but what is known is that both American and Delta are going for consolidated gate space. By consolidating gate space and allowing airlines to operate independently from a single terminal, airlines will be able to make better use of the limited space.
Tear Down that Wall….Between Terminals 4 and 5
Now that American has moved to Terminal 5 and plans to expand throughout T5 (once Delta makes its move), AA wants a “Contiguous check-in lobby between T4 and T5.” Essentially, American wants to tear down the wall between Terminals 4 and 5 and create a nice wide-open space. This would allow passengers better access to ticketing and check-in facilities. It would also allow employees to move about the pre-security area freely. Will this happen? I have no clue but, as a passenger, I hope it does.
Add and Improve Premium Spaces
American Airlines is currently in the process of renovating both their Admiral’s Club and International First Class Lounge (aka, Flagship Lounge). This renovation was much needed as both the Admiral’s Club and IFCL was showing its age. Neither the renovated Admiral’s Club nor IFCL is fully open, but it is expected to reopen sometime in the coming months. That takes care of the improvements, but what about the additions. Now that American has made their move to Terminal 5, it is likely that they plan to add an additional space for premium customers and passengers. Again, as a passenger, a second Admiral’s Club (excluding the American Eagle terminal) would be greatly appreciated.
Improved Gate Areas with Better Customer Amenities
Maybe you don’t travel in first class or don’t have elite status, that means premium spaces don’t mean anything to you. However, American also hopes to make the general passenger/customer experience more enjoyable. Plans for any major terminal renovations have yet to be announced, however, based on the phrase, “improved gate areas with better customer amenities,” one can only assume that renovations to pre-existing terminal facilities are in the future. This would likely mean brighter and more modern departure gates with power outlets as well as new dining and shopping spaces.
American Airlines has grown rapidly at LAX in the past couple of years. Today they are the largest airline at LAX with both Delta and United trailing closely behind. With the three largest airlines in the US, all hoping to dominate at LAX, operational issues, and congestion has plagued the airport. Currently, there are some passengers that go out of their way to avoid LAX at all cost. However, American Airlines (like Delta and United) is working towards more seamless operations at LAX. Additionally, American hopes to improve the overall passenger experience. Unfortunately, things move very slowly at LAX, so there’s no telling how long it will be before American Airlines can achieve their goals at the airport.
What do you think about AA’s plans for LAX? How long do you think it will take before we see real change at LAX?