In the midst of vehicle traffic, thousands of passengers and hundreds of daily flights, Los Angeles International Airport is transforming into the new LAX.
Maligned for decades for congestion on its roadways, in the terminals and in the skies, the nation’s second-largest airport has embarked on a multi-year, $8.5 billion capital improvement program that aims to dramatically enhance the traveler’s experience.
Leading the transformation is Deborah Flint, the recently appointed executive director of Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), who was named by Mayor Eric Garcetti in June to head the mammoth transportation agency comprised of LAX, Ontario International Airport and Van Nuys Airport.
Flint previously served as director of aviation for Oakland International Airport where she successfully completed a range of capital projects including the opening of a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station, connecting the airport to the huge population throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Expressing excitement about similar customer-oriented advances planned for LAX, Flint said, “It’s a pivotal time to change and transform LAX. My vision is to restore it in all aspects to the iconic image that people have of LAX and to lead in the global rankings of airports the way that we should in this great city.”
The restoration Flint referred to contains several components already underway. The new Tom Bradley Terminal, which will be fully completed this year, features 18 new aircraft gates, expanded security screening areas, and a Great Hall offering premier dining and shopping. Also, Terminal 1, home to the ever-busy Southwest Airlines, is being renovated to enhance the building’s interior; aircraft ramp and traffic flow around the Central Terminal Area.
“Actually, every terminal has a plan to modernize, to add food, beverage and retail opportunities; so we can all shop and eat the way we want to at the airport. We call our customers ‘guests’ because part of our mission is to create a more hospitality-minded, guest-centric experience at the airport,” explained Flint. Most of the terminal modernization projects are expected to be completed by early 2019.
“Also, it’s so important for us that we proceed with a program that we’ve identified as the Landside Access Moderization Program and that program is to essentially take all of that congestion activity around the central terminal area, or the u-shaped roadway, and extend that out, providing facilities near the airport to help accommodate that activity.”
Three future projects, scheduled for completion by 2024, are earmarked to address the congestion issue. The consolidated rent-a-car center will house existing rental companies in one facility adjacent to the 405 Freeway. The Intermodal Transportation Facilities (ITF) will offer multiple locations outside the terminal area to pick-up and drop off passengers, park cars and check-in for flights. The automated people-mover or LAX Train will transport travelers to-and-from the rental car center, the ITF, airport terminals and the Metro system.
“We want this landside program to be a very efficient, effective process for entering in the airport. I envision that it’s going to be very, very reliable, quick, also whether you take public transit in or park at one of those facilities, a train will be available every few minutes and that train will deliver you expeditiously to one of the airport stations,” said Flint.
“It is going to take some time. I ask the public’s patience because for us to transform the facility, it’s going to be a little bit painful to bear. The access is not going to be there, the surface may be dusty, but we have a lot to look forward to.”
One benefit people can expect is the creation of more jobs. LAX is a huge economic engine for the region, generating an estimated 294,400 jobs in Los Angeles County and an economic output exceeding $39.7 billion. According to Flint, the LAX modernization project will create several opportunities for local hiring and small business owners.
“I’m optimistic that we’re going to create both small business, minority business, women and veteran-owned opportunities as well as local job creation and workforce hiring,” she said. “LAWA is committed to making sure that we develop our path forward, our procurement processes, with job creation and local small businesses, hiring in mind with that program.
“I have seen the direct results of what it can do for small businesses to grow and to be long-term sustainable because they’re had opportunities to work on airport projects. The team and the leadership of the Board of Airport Commissioners are really setting the stage to ensure that our programs are beneficial and impactful,” said Flint.
Aviation has definitely impacted Flint’s life. Her interest was sparked as a child travelling often to Africa and the Caribbean with her family to help people in need. Both parents stressed the values of a strong work ethic and giving back to the community.
“Growing up, I had a very global experience living in and traveling to a number of those places. As a young person, I didn’t necessarily appreciate those experiences. But, I did always appreciate how each airport, each place we landed, what it represented to me and how different they all were,” she recalled.
“I think recognizing how important jet travel is, opening up air markets and the ability for people to fly and how it changes lives so dramatically, had kind of a Freudian influence on where I ultimately choose to place my career,” said Flint with a laugh.
Encouraging young women to consider a transportation career, she advised, “I think it’s the right time for a young woman to think about the vast number of careers in transportation. What I’d like to do is spread the word to think about transportation, think about aviation, airports, as a potential career opportunity.”
To learn more about Deborah Flint and LAX, visit lawa.org.