Los Angeles – The City of Dreams. Los Angeles Airport, LAX – for many, the gateway to dreams. 

LA is a city of movement and energy, and perhaps no place captures that essence more than LAX. The third busiest airport in the world, with over 700,000 aircraft arrivals and departures in 2017, LAX also throbs with energy and movement. Every 45 seconds, a plane is landing or taking off on one of its four parallel runways.

Ninety-one domestic and international airlines serve the LAX airport. A hub or focus city for more passenger airlines than any other airport in the country, it is the only airport that is designated a hub by all three U.S. legacy carriers (American, Delta, and United). 

A Never Ending Project – Great Aspirations

From its humble dirt field beginnings on 640 acres in 1928, Los Angeles Airport has continued to grow, now spanning 3,500 acres, always moving toward the future.  

The first major redesign began in the late 1950’s, to build an airport for the “jet age.”  In the center of the terminals and parking structures is one of the most recognized symbols of LAX, the distinctive white arches of the “Theme Building.” A restaurant commanding a sweeping view of the airport is suspended in the center.  

The Theme Building resembles a flying saucer that has landed, perched on four delicate on four legs. A beautiful example of “googie,” a futuristic style of architecture symbolizing movement and the Space Age, it looks ready to lift off into the heavens at any moment.

Whatever good things we build end up building us. – Jim Rohn

Over 84.5 million air travelers used LAX in 2017, making it America’s second busiest airport, and the world’s fifth busiest. However, LAX is the number one origin and destination (O&D) airport. More travelers begin or end their trips in Los Angeles than at any other airport in the world. And LAX is more than passenger traffic. Among U.S. airports, LAX is the only one to rank among the top five in both passenger and cargo traffic. In 2017, LAX handled over 2,158,000 tons of cargo, ranking 13th in the world.  

Always in Motion – A Vision Ahead

Taxiing American Airlines Plane

American Airlines airplane taxiing over the runway with the stunning mountain scenery in the back at LAX – Los Angeles, USA

In 1981, in preparation for hosting the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, LAX began a major expansion. Two new terminals were added – Terminal 1 and the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT). TBIT is one of most notable, with its overlapping curved roof elements, resembling waves marching toward shore. TBIT stands next to Terminal 4, the busiest terminal at LAX and home to American Airlines. With its vaulted arched roof and many windows, many also consider it the most beautiful.  

Originally constructed in 1960, Terminal 4 has been renovated and expanded several times to continue serve the growing legions of passengers. American, and its subsidiary American Eagle, operate the most gates of any airline at LAX. The late 1990’s brought more improvements to LAX, the most visible being the $29 million, 277-foot-tall air traffic control tower. It sits near the Theme Building, pointing skyward, a striking profile on the landscape. 

Designed by a team of four women, it is strikingly different from the plain control towers. Soaring tubular struts and a curved roof evoke biplanes, airplane wings and other images of flight. A cascade of 12 flood-lighted cables, which cross at the center of the 28-story tower, also suggest wings. 

United Airlines Plane

A United Airlines plane on the LAX runway with the tower in the back – Los Angeles, USA

The tower’s most mesmerizing feature might be a protruding egg-shape sculpture by the artist Sheila Klein.  Made up of 250 colored runway lights, it was inspired by the eggs of the El Segundo blue butterfly, an endangered species living in the sand dunes to the west of the airport. What better symbol of flight and dreams?

LAX – Stepping into the Future

Looking to the future, and the 2028 Summer Olympic Games, LAX has announced several new projects, part of a broader $14-billion improvement program. Look for the Midfield Satellite Concourse (MSC), an expansion of the Bradley Terminal, which will include a new baggage handling system, capable of processing over 6,000 checked bags per hour.

Another key component, dedicated to improving movement of passengers around the airport, is the $5.5B Landside Access Modernization Program (LAMP). It includes an elevated train, connection to ground-transportation facilities, a consolidated rental car area, and links to public transportation. 

LAX is on track to construct facilities capable of processing up to 100 million annual passengers per year within the next decade. No doubt it will remain among the busiest airports in the world, an efficient and effective gateway as people follow their dreams and travel into their future.