United Broke Ground on a $574 Million Renovation at LAX. Here’s What That’ll Get You.

United announced today that ‘we’ will invest over $500 million in renovating terminals 7 and 8 at LAX.

The ‘we’ is mostly Los Angeles World Airports, and they’re putting the price tag at about $573 million, up from $413 million projected 18 months ago. United of course pays the airport authority rent on the terminals.

They held the groundbreaking, and are sharing that the project — due for completion two and a half years from now — will include:

  • A streamlined check-in experience with more self-service kiosks, enhanced navigation and way-finding, and a new Global Reception facility

  • An expanded, 12-lane security checkpoint enabling improved wait and processing times

  • A brand-new United Club℠ above the concourse level, featuring an outdoor terrace

  • Enhanced gate areas with additional seating capacity, power outlets and work stations

  • A redesigned baggage claim, with carrousels relocated for enhanced navigation and faster baggage collection

They’ve put out several renderings. While I wouldn’t be surprised to see completion delayed and the price tag rise, these photos give a sense of what $600 million buys. Frankly the only piece that impresses is that the United Club will have an outdoor deck, though the Star Alliance business class lounge in the Tom Bradley terminal at LAX has one and that looks nicer (with fire pits).

Here’s the United Club rendering:

Here’s the outdoor deck of the Star Alliance lounge in the Tom Bradley terminal. I think I like it much better.

No word yet on whether the new United Club will have showers, though I’d certainly hope so.

This is the new space being built between terminals 7 and 8:

The renovated terminal will have a single security checkpoint with 12 lanes. That’s more efficient for processing, I suppose, than having multiple checkpoints. But it means more walking for passengers.

Here’s the entrance to security.

And the checkpoint:

They’re renovating baggage claim. I’m surprised that was even a rendering. Nothing to see here…

Net net LAX is improving. I actually like the Tom Bradley terminal, something I didn’t think I’d ever say about the international terminal at LAX in my lifetime. I’m perfectly happy with the American terminal as-is. They need to be making investments and they are, I’m genuinely shocked at the expense and timeframe of the projects and don’t expect this to be all that impressive overall. But at the end of the tunnel it will be better than what LAX offers United customers now.

I’m nervous about the single security checkpoint though. Although maybe it’s just because the lines for the one checkpoint in the Bradley terminal are almost always long.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This will be the best facility at LAX among the big 3.

    None of the bus nonsense of Eagle – or splitting ops between T4 and 6.

    And Delta has sorely outgrown its gates and lounge at T5.

  2. Didn’t they break ground awhile ago? I thought that was the construction they were doing in T6/7…

  3. Hopefully you won’t have to walk 5 miles to get to gates like you do at SFO without a moving sidewalk. You have to wonder why they don’t mention a thing about the types of restaurants or shops that they intend to attract. I give AA a lot of credit for some of the restaurants they enticed to open at MIA. They’re not all national chains they included some great local restaurants like Ice Box.

  4. I landed at LAX T7 today and had to clear immigration & customs. I had to have wheelchair assistance because of a leg injury (don’t ask). The elevator normally used to move wheelchairs between the gate and immigration is shut down as part of the remodel, so I was given a ride through the main T7 concourse, down a normally locked elevator, into the customs baggage area where I filled out the customs form (I didn’t do it in advance because I have GE — surprise!), got my bag, cleared customs, and then cleared immigration. Weird!

  5. @ Gary — Why so critical? This is a huge improvement, yet you still manage to diss United for this. What exactly did UA do to piss you off?

  6. The club is an improvement, but everything else, who cares? You use the counter for 30 seconds, with PreCheck, security for a minute, and you’re done with it.

    They’re not renovating the terminals it would appear, so the terminals remain the same. The big win on this is the United Club, so you have a nicer spot in which to enjoy your generic liquor United Club cocktail before your flight.

  7. United will figure out further ways to “enhance” your experience. Just like the new planes where you have to sit diagonally in the restroom! Good luck!

  8. Uncle Jeff – They’re renovating all of the gate areas – which is basically…the terminals.

    Gene – Don’t you notice – only AA and Hyatt ever make real improvements here…

  9. I don’t know what United did to Gary but they almost killed me making a connection at SFO. Having been a 1K for the last decade I like to cut them some slack but I honestly think there are some integrity issues at United and they often deserve much of the criticism leveled their way. My criticism tends to be directed more towards management and their ethics not the mostly hard working flight attendants, pilots (except for ones who refuse to turn on channel 9) and ground staff.

  10. @Gene – There’s no question this is better. But considering they’re spending more than half a billion dollars (probably more in the end) it’s pretty underwhelming.

  11. There’s a widespread perception (mostly among foreigners and the less-well-travelled) that USA airports are dumps and foreign airports are so much better. To that I say “hogwash,” but these folks always seem to think I’m either crazy, stupid, or somehow xenophobic. Yes, major USA airports often have fewer (often silly) bells and whistles than major foreign airports, but the typical USA airport is both functional and decent.

    The reason USA airports are pretty good is because they have more than adequate funding sources. Of course airport operators want more — there’s currently a battle over raising the allowable Passenger Facility Charge — but I think any astute observer of the current situation would conclude that there’s plenty of cash to build and refurbish airport facilities in the USA.

    The UA Terminal at LAX is, currently, below average for a major USA airport. Does it suck? No, it does not. Does it NEED to spend $600 million on a new UA terminal? Probably not. But this seems to be what airports do, both here and abroad, so I guess we’ll all get to enjoy it when it’s completed. I do wonder how much it’s actually going to cost me as a passenger, though (if this amount is even determinable).

  12. Considering UA has kicked pax off the plane for taking photos, it is more than a bit ironic that their promo sketch of the outdoor lounge includes people taking a selfie with UA aircraft in the background. Surely this is a security concern.

  13. The assertion that LAWA is paying for the renovation is false. LAWA may be fronting some of the cash, but it will collect additional (higher) fees from UA from their lounge and other exclusive spaces and of course continue to charge fees per passenger to the airline, which are passed on to customers.

    Airports either work as closed systems (self sustaining), or get subsidies in from local governments. Airports generally can not pay “dividends” to their municipal owners in the United States.

    Ultimately, pax pay for all of this.

  14. NY banker LAWA is indeed the one paying for almost all of the improvements. UAL is paying about 40 million for proprietary things like the new club. I have not read anything about UAL paying additional rent even if they did, it would have to be a significant increase to achieve payback any time soon.

  15. Went thru LAX in March wik a three hour connection in T7 and T8 waiting for a UA flight. I thought it was 1974, what with the small, crowded gates with little seating, and tired, repetitive shops and restaurants. I am not sure who could fix all this (UA or the airport), but I’ve always felt that at the end of the day it is the airline that’s pulling the train.

    During my visit in March, the whole T7/T8 experience felt like no one gives a hoot.

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