I know, the “geddon” thing is so 2011. And as a writer, I should really abhor the cliché.
But when carmageddon became a part of the Los Angeles psyche in 2011, reports of the pending closure of a major Los Angeles freeway almost always predicted “mayhem” and “chaos.”
And if there’s one thing that’s almost certainly guaranteed to cause mayhem and chaos, it’s going to be the five-day period in May when Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) shifts 21 airlines at Los Angeles International Airport (that’s almost a third of the airlines that serve LAX), in order to accommodate Delta Airline’s move to terminals 2 and 3.
In a nutshell, Delta is moving out of its old digs in T5 and T6 and into a shiny new location in T2 and T3. This move is part of a $1.9 billion modernization plan for Delta at LAX and just one component of LAWA’s greater $14 billion investment in airport improvements.
The move makes sense for Delta. It puts the airline closer to the Tom Bradley International Terminal and also makes it more convenient for passengers to connect with other SkyTeam airlines at LAX such as Aeromexico, Virgin Atlantic and WestJet.
But it sends 21 airlines (and their passengers) scrambling to new locations, most of them in different terminals. Among the airlines moving are Air Canada, Copa, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, and Virgin America.
LAX is billing the move as “monumental,” while Delta is calling it “one of the largest terminal moves in the history of commercial aviation.”
As if being part of something historic makes is going to make it more palatable. But what it really means is uninformed passengers of the affected airlines could and will arrive to find their terminal has magically moved overnight.
And yes, Delta and LAX are doing their part to keep passengers notified about the changes. But travelers seem to take joy in being perpetually uninformed. If only I had a dollar for every time I hear, “no one told me I have to be at the airport two hours early for an international flight.”
And these uninformed masses will almost certainly add even more stress to the legendary congestion that circles the LAX departures level.
If you think I’m exaggerating the volume of people dropping off loved ones and shared ride passengers, even Delta says that one benefit of its move to T2 and T3 is a “new location closer to the LAX entrance for faster and easier access into and out of the airport.”
Too bad for you Hawaiian Airlines passengers.
Traffic considerations aside, it’s the technical aspects of the move that could be most problematic. With the increased incidences of nationwide flights being grounded or delayed due to “computer glitches,” the mind boggles when considering what will happen when 21 airlines try to shift their digital operations nearly simultaneously.
The bulk of the move, promises LAX, will happen at night, immediately following the last flight operations each day” and will continue into the early hours the following day.
As LAX prepares for the move, it has released a press release touting its “iCARE” customer service training program created “by employees for employees” to instill a “guest first” ethic.
While the release mostly sounds like whoever wrote it consulted their Corporate Speak 101 dictionary, the customer service training might actually be working. Last week, LAX was ranked one of the “Top 10 Most Improved Airports” in the world by Skytrax.
Still, time will only tell if the “guest first” attitude will be enough to soothe the enraged passengers who suddenly find they will miss their flight because they are the wrong terminal. Or even those who loudly and vocally lament the loss of their favorite amenities and vendors because they’re now departing from a different location.
Sorry LAX, I don’t care how many times you tweet at us to enjoy the “local” coffee options, many of us are still bitter over the loss of Starbucks in our favorite terminals.
But I digress.
Despite my commentary, I’m actually not an LAX naysayer. I think the airport has done a tremendous job of modernizing and I’m particularly excited about a day in the near future when I can ride around the airport on a people mover.
And although LAX has a somewhat limited set of growth parameters and space issues, the facility has grown into America’s second-busiest airport in generally efficient and fairly short period of time.
And despite the loss of my beloved Starbucks, I do enjoy the “local feel” of the new eateries and shops at the airport. I mean Book Soup at LAX? I leave extra time just so I can go shopping there.
Notwithstanding my blinding hatred of LAX traffic, I also enjoy the convenience that comes with living near an airport with so many domestic and international connections.
But I’m also a realist and no matter how much informing and planning done by Delta and LAX, shifting 21 airlines is going to cause headaches. And nightmares. And indigestion.
So, if you are planning on flying in or out of LAX during the week of May 12, I would do as the airport recommends and allow extra time. And bring a big giant dose of patience pills.
Then again, carmageddon turned out to be a big giant nothing.
Maybe the same will one day be said of LAWA-geddon.