LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Eighty-four million people traveled through Los Angeles International Airport last year, the fourth busiest airport in the world.
The CEO of LAX in charge of transforming the decades-old airport into a world-class aviation experience gave CBS2’s Pat Harvey an exclusive tour of how it’s all coming together.
Before LAX became the fourth busiest airport in the world, it was just a field in Westchester converted into a landing strip in 1928.
Now decades, later it’s undergoing a $14 billion modernization that’s well overdue.
Los Angeles World Airports CEO Deborah Flint was appointed leader of this colossal upgrade in 2015, transforming LAX into the end-all be-all of all airports.
“What’s most important to me and what wakes me up everyday is the stories of the travelers,” Flint said. “From Oakland, California, go Warriors, all the way to Beijing, Shanghai, Auckland.”
In May, Flint supervised the massive effort to relocate 21 airlines among four terminals at LAX.
A 1,000-foot tunnel will connect passengers from the Tom Bradley terminal to the Midfield concourse set for completion in 2019, adding 11 new gates to the mix.
While change is on the horizon, the past still serves a purpose like the iconic futuristic-looking theme building known for welcoming travelers since 1961.
“To me, it symbolizes the jet age and LAX being at the forefront of the jet age. It’s one of the most Instagrammed, photographed buildings in the city of Los Angeles.
The famous Encounter restaurant with its 360-degree views closed in 2013.
“We have a plan and a vision for how we are going to use that in the future, and you are going to have a first-hand look of how that is being transformed for our military,” Flint said.
Next year, the Bob Hope Hollywood USO moves into the ground floor of the theme building and will be a 7,000-square-foot state-of-the-art center for U.S. troops and their families.
“I mean, everyone can say, hey, walk towards the big spaceship looking thing and the troops will know how to find us,” Flint said.
One of the biggest complaints from travelers is how hard it is to get in and out of the airport.
“Picking someone up at LAX can sometimes be a symbol of how much you care about that person,” Flint said.
But getting to the new LAX might actually be enjoyable. That’s because part of the airport’s $5.5 billion “landside access modernization project” includes a 2.5 mile-elevated people-mover with stops at a consolidated car-rental facility and several new passenger pick up and drop off locations.
“There’ll be car parking there as well and then beautifully anchored by two other components. One, the connection at long last to Metro and Metro Rail as well as regional bus transportation.”
Flint credits the transformation of LAX to the thousands of employees who keep the airport and the projects running each day.
“Being here in charge of the fourth busiest airport in the world allows me to have a direct role in the stories and the outcomes from all of those people traveling.”
The $14 billion transformation of LAX is set for completion in 2023.