Los Angeles International Airport’s board has approved a $6 billion expansion plan that would allow the U.S.’s second-busiest airport to catch up with passenger growth and prepare it for 2028 Olympic Games.
The Airfield and Terminal Modernization Project at LAX includes multiple aspects that will increase airport capacity and efficiency ahead of the Olympics. The highlights include a new Terminal 9 to the east of the existing terminal horseshoe, and a new Concourse 0 attached to Terminal 1. The two projects together will add gate space where it’s needed and improve the traveler experience by replacing 15 of the 18 remote gates that are only served by buses today.
The project is “really high impact in terms of how it’s going to be able to carry our airport forward to provide the customer service experience that you expect of LAX,” Los Angeles World Airports Board of Airport Commissioners President Beatrice Hsu said at a hearing last week. The board subsequently approved the environmental impact report for the entire program. Only the Los Angeles City Council needs to sign off for construction to begin next year.
The new facilities are needed if LAX sees the same level of growth that it did during the 2010s. Passenger boardings jumped almost 57 percent to 42.9 million during the decade, making the airport the second-busiest in the U.S. in 2019, according to U.S. FAA data. That made its limited facilities some of the most sought after in the country, with airlines scrambling for what gate space they could secure.
In a September report, LAWA adviser WJ Advisors forecast that LAX passenger numbers would return to 2019 levels during the fiscal year ending in June 2025, and growth would return to its pre-crisis rate of 1.7 percent annually the year after.
Terminal 9 is the biggest piece of the expansion. Located east of Sepulveda Boulevard — the existing eastern border of the LAX terminal complex — the facility will include 12 gates for large aircraft as well as a new station on the airport’s under-construction automated people mover. United Airlines has its eye on the facility, which will be adjacent to its current gates in Terminals 7 and 8, for its own operations and those of its Star Alliance partners.
“We need more gates,” United CEO Scott Kirby said of LAX at the IATA Annual General Meeting in Boston on September 4. “I think [Terminal 9 will] be great for us. [But] it’s taking a long time.”
Kirby did not express any doubt that Terminal 9 would become a United and Star Alliance terminal.
Concourse 0 will add a net nine new gates to Terminal 1, as well as include space for a new international arrivals facility. Although no airline has made overtures for the planned facility, the terminal is currently the near-exclusive domain of Southwest Airlines. Allegiant Air and Sun Country Airlines use check-in counters in Terminal 1 but then bus passengers to gates in the West Gates at Tom Bradley and could potentially also use the new facility.
Work on Concourse 0 would begin first in 2022 followed by Terminal 9 in 2023, according to LAWA. The former would open four years later in 2026 followed by the latter in 2027.