Delta’s Disastrous Terminal Move at LAX – What Did We Miss?

Delta apology delta lounge middle seat passengers
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Back in March, we warned travelers to steer clear of Los Angeles International Airport during early May if flying certain airlines.  The big terminal move at LAX would shuffle 21 carriers over a multi-night multi-terminal logistical dance.

Our advice to Delta flyers should have been more pointed.  Delta’s disastrous terminal move at LAX, it turns out, was not only about logistics.  It was also about optics.

It turns out that Delta does a great job of managing public relations.  A little too good, it seems.  We would have all been wiser to read – and reread – the fine print.  Delta frequent flyers are now discovering that the new operations at Terminals 2 and 3 are – at least immediately – far less than what was promised.

Delta delivered the minimum of what they promised us with this terminal move at LAX – and nothing more.

Delta apology

You may remember that Delta devoted dedicated website space to promoting the new terminal space at LAX.

Rumor is that Delta wanted the new gates and dedicated space (to match that of United and American) so much that they were willing to front the cost to get the other smaller airlines to move out of Terminals 2 and 3 and into Terminals 5 and 6.  What may have been less publicized was what Delta gave up to do that – of the monies spent so far of the $1.9 billion that Delta planned to spend for the infrastructure upgrades at LAX, much of that so far went into improvements at Terminals 5 and 6 over the past year that will be realized by the newly relocated airlines.

What Went Wrong?

Meanwhile Delta passengers arriving at Terminals 2 and 3 the past week have been shocked by the conditions they have discovered.  I’ve talked to colleagues who were stunned to discover inoperable jetbridges, filthy restrooms, and a lack of overall amenities.  Posters on FlyerTalk.com backed up these reports with other comments about malfunctioning baggage conveyers and hour-plus waits for gates.

We did warn our readers that things might be rocky for a few days.  But we were not expecting lengthier delays to a fully operational passenger experience.  This includes having a minimal SkyClub operation in terminal 3 until it is fully remodeled at the beginning of 2018.  (The T3 SkyClub, will open as a Grab-and-Go operation tomorrow, May 24.)

Perhaps we all should have paid more attention to the fine print.

Details of the Terminal Move at LAX

While Delta did actually promise immediately was not as extensive:

Terminals 2 and 3 offer immediate benefits for Delta customers

Following the move, Delta customers will enjoy:

  • – Faster and more convenient connections to flights operated by Delta’s joint venture and SkyTeam partners in Terminals 2, 3 and TBIT via an airside bus that prevents customers from having to leave and re-enter the secure area

  • – Less ramp congestion upon arriving and departing LAX

  • – $332 million in recently completed upgrades at Terminal 2

  • – New location closer to the LAX entrance for faster and easier access into and out of the airport

  • – New concessions in Terminals 2 and 3, including popular spots like Shake Shack and Angel City Brewery

The official release goes on to say that the improvements will continue over the next seven years.  Seven years.  For those of us who have lived through terminal improvement projects at major airports, that’s a long time to suffer through a painful process at a hub or focus city.

West coast Delta flyers will have a decision to make.  Will the promise of an eventual world-class operation be enough to put up with the sub-par experience for now?  Or will this disastrous terminal move at LAX be enough to entice flyers to put up with the growing pains yet again?

One doubts that a lone Shake Shack is enough to lure passengers to Terminals 2 and 3 to make up for this terminal move at LAX.


  1. Thank God for Seattle which has a great operation – very friendly staff, spacious concourses and a superb SkyClub – plus all the network I need. I’ll be avoiding LAX as much as possible indefinitely.

  2. Flew on the 21st and it was a disaster.
    Waited 90 minutes in the basement for my luggage from HND to arrive and then my flight was delayed 90 minutes, giving me only minutes to make my connection in ATL

  3. Jennifer, I completely agree with you on this one. I came into terminal 3 on Delta last week and I was shocked! First, the jet bridge was inoperable for 25 minutes when we arrived at the gate. Second, the terminal was dirty and looked incredibly dated. Third, the “SkyClub” consisted of a cart with some bottles of water and a few snacks!

    You’re right that Delta made it sound like an exciting move that would benefit Delta passengers right away. The ONLY benefit I can think of is being closer to the entrance of LAX. Other than that, I’d say bring back terminal 5 any day!

    I’m NOT looking forward to the next 8 years at LAX, that’s for sure!

  4. I’ve been through there twice now and it’s a complete and total ghetto. AVOID.

    It reminds me of LaGuardia.

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