Inside the new Delta Air Lines terminal at LAX

After years in development and ahead of what is expected to be a major rebound summer for the travel industry, Delta Air Lines is opening the doors a new transit hub this spring.

The Atlanta-based airline is actually unveiling at least three new facilities this year: first at Terminal 3 within Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), followed by new terminal at New York City’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA), and additional capacity within Seattle-Tacoma International Airport’s (SEA) international arrivals facility. These projects were funded by a $12 billion investment to maximize speed, efficiency, and comfort at the airline’s proprietary terminals.

While the pandemic may have slowed down some aspects of travel, over the past two years Delta has accelerated major airport projects to modernize the customer experience from coast to coast.
Courtesy of Delta Air Lines

Delta, which is currently ranked at 178 on the Fortune 500 and number 23 on among World’s Most Admired Companies in 2021, already occupies Terminal 2 at LAX. But as frequent flyers to the terminal know, while it is fully upgraded in the style of 21st century airports, it is extremely cramped to the point of inducing claustrophobia at peak hours, especially during weekends and holidays.

Those same flyers also likely remember what Terminal 3 used to look like, which was outdated, to say the least. But it was a busy terminal, serving the likes of JetBlue Airways and Virgin America (before its sale to Alaska Airlines in 2016), and the crunch of those missing gates and waiting areas has been felt while Terminal 2 has been the airline’s only hub at the airport. Delta announced plans that same year to move from Terminal 5 at LAX to Terminals 2 and 3, and the renovation jobs have been in the works ever since.

The new Terminal 3 will host 32 self-serve kiosks and 46 check-in counters.
Courtesy of Delta Air Lines

Right now, Delta offers 140 daily flights to 53 destinations across the globe from LAX. The airline has more than 4,000 employees at LAX.

All of the new building systems will be LEED Silver Certified. Among the key sustainability features include low-flow water fixtures, use of low-emitting materials for interior spaces for better indoor air quality, a roof designed to reduce the heat island effect and maximize air conditioning energy use, and recycling of over 75% of construction waste.

Also crucial: the new Terminal 3 will have double the restroom capacity than the previous iteration, and it will increase capacity by a third from Terminal 2.

Delta’s new terminal will have a centralized check-in lobby, an expanded security checkpoint, and a larger baggage claim area.
Courtesy of Delta Air Lines

In partnership with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Delta is extending its use of facial recognition technology, already implemented at boarding gates within many terminals nationwide, to allow qualifying customers departing LAX to check bags, pass through security, and board their flights completely hands-free through use of their digital identity. (Passengers are allowed to opt out of the process.)

Qualifying passengers in Delta’s premium first class cabin, Delta One, will also have an exclusive check-in experience with premium amenities. And the new terminal will add six additional baggage claim carrousels.

Inside the new Delta Sky Club within Terminal 3 at LAX.
Courtesy of Delta Air Lines

Delta has two Sky Clubs on each side of Terminal 2, but even those lounges are often full to the point where customers are waiting in line for awhile to get in—even as the airline has instituted a number of restrictions (including the elimination of being able to buy day passes) to better manage capacity.

The new Sky Club in Terminal 3 should help alleviate those crowds as it will open its doors at the same time as rest of the terminal. Measuring over 30,000 square feet, the new Sky Club includes ample comfortable seating, a rotating seasonal menu, modern shower facilities, and a bar that extends from inside to the year-round on the an outdoor deck (contrary to other airports that close their outdoor seating amid more severe winter temperatures) where guests can enjoy panoramic views of downtown Los Angeles and the Pacific Coast Highway.

An exterior photo of Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Terminal (LAX).
Courtesy of Delta Air Lines

However, while the doors to Terminal 3 initially open this spring, the job isn’t done yet. Upon completion in 2023, the $2.3 billion modernization project—which includes direct investments from both Delta and Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA)—will link Terminals 2 and 3 into a 27-gate complex with a secure shuttle connection to the Tom Bradley International Terminal (Terminal B), which already serves some domestic Delta flights right now.

Seven security lanes are scheduled to open for service at Terminal 3 by April 20, with all 14 lanes fully operational later in summer 2022.

Never miss a story: Follow your favorite topics and authors to get a personalized email with the journalism that matters most to you.