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Airport Alert: More Chaos and Confusion Coming to LAX

Between my own travels and those of friends and family, I spend plenty of time at Los Angeles International Airport. It’s rarely a pleasant experience. The facility has been in a near-constant state of expansion and renovation for years, resulting in traffic snarls that must have caused more than a few missed flights. It’s become a standing joke among Angelinos that the measure of someone’s love is their willingness to drive you to the airport.

(The last time I was there, to pick someone up, the drive to LAX from my home took 40 minutes, but it took an additional teeth-grinding 25 minutes to get from the airport’s entrance to the international terminal.)

Upgrades are a good thing, certainly. And everyone understands that there’s no gain without some pain. But in LAX’s case, there never seems to be a payoff for the suffering. The finish line is ever-receding; there’s always a next project, and then one after that, and so on. It’s positively Kafka-esque.

Guaranteeing that the frustration and inconvenience will continue indefinitely is Delta’s upcoming $1.9 billion renovation and relocation project, expected to take place over seven years. As Delta’s news release puts it: “Delta Air Lines and Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) will orchestrate one of the largest terminal moves in the history of commercial aviation when Delta relocates from Terminals 5 and 6 to Terminals 2 and 3 at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in May, and Delta customers will reap the benefits from day one.”

The first stage of the massive project will take place over a one-week period, beginning on May 12, and affect 21 airlines. At week’s end, Delta will have moved its LAX operations from Terminals 5 and 6 to Terminals 2 and 3. The move gives Delta more room for future expansion, and easier access to the airport’s international terminal, which is adjacent to Terminal 3.

Once relocated, Delta will begin extensive renovations on its new terminal spaces, including eventual replacement of Terminal 3.

Apparently recognizing LAX’s increasingly negative reputation among travelers, the Los Angeles World Airports organization has begun publishing a website, LAX Is Happening, with the latest information on current and upcoming projects, terminal information, traffic conditions and tips, and parking-lot availability. It’s helpful, and LAX-bound travelers should certainly consult it. But for the foreseeable future, what they’ll need most is patience and perseverance.

Reader Reality Check

How would you rate your recent LAX experience?

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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