America's Newest Airport Terminals to Speed Up Travel

Courtesy Alaska Air
LAX's new Terminal 3

Last week at Los Angeles International, Alaska Air moved to a fully renovated Terminal 6 The new airport is a big improvement over Terminal 3, and it's the first of several fresh designs in terminals being unveiled this year, including a new terminal in Atlanta in May and a new one in Las Vegas in June.

At LAX, Alaska Air says the $270 million makeover of terminal 6 has led to a better terminal for fliers. The check-in time for fliers checking bags from 20 minutes to four minutes, thanks to a bunch of new self-serve kiosks. The terminal now offers more ways to pass through security, immigration, and customs.

Best of all, international fliers no longer need to hop a shuttle bus to get to a gate. Once at the gate, half the seats have access to power outlets. A fancy and quiet lounge is available to any passenger for a $40 pass. The new terminal also makes it easier to connect to another flight due to a new passenger tunnel that connects it with Terminal 5, which is served by American Airlines and Delta.

In related news, Atlanta and Las Vegas are getting new terminals this year.

On May 16, Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is due to open its doors to a $1.4 billion dollar terminal. Passengers flying internationally will soon go straight to Concourse F, which will have a separate entrance on the east side via Interstate 75, compared with the main domestic terminal, which remains reachable via I-85.

The dedicated entrance to the international departures terminal means overseas fliers ought to be able to reach their gates faster. Tarmac wait times should disappear, too, thanks to a whole bunch of new gates opening up.

The new terminal will also end the infamous baggage recheck process. Up until now, Atlanta-bound international passengers who were passing through to a connecting flight had to recheck their luggage after clearing customs and then grab it later after hopping the airport train to the far away main terminal. No more.

Travelers may like the new Atlanta terminal on a few aesthetic counts: Glass walls will fill the central atrium with natural light, making it a brighter space than the main terminal. For what it's worth, planned artwork may include hundreds of brightly lit Swarovski crystals that hang from the ceiling and move in imitation of airplane contrails.

On June 27, Las Vegas's McCarran airport is set to debut Terminal 3. The new wing, which cost more than $2 billion, will double the airport's capacity to process international arrivals. It's a big change for Nevada, which will have two hectic terminals after years of only have one with 90 percent of the visitors. To speed all passengers through, Las Vegas's new airport has laid out most services—from check-in to baggage claim—on the same level.

Vegas-area officials are claiming the terminal will have the most advanced security in the country, with passengers often passing through metal detectors and also "an automatic target recognition system" which means full-body scanners that don't produce as detailed an image of the human anatomy but still reveal hidden weapons. About 1,5000 officers will also be trained to spot telltale shifty-eyed behavior in passengers waiting in line, to detect potentially threatening passengers for secondary screening.

There will be other high-tech tricks. Above the tram stop at Terminal three will be a 33-foot-by-19-foot video wall displaying advertisements, the largest-known such wall in a US airport.

All in all, an exciting year for airport terminals, and many other airport operators nationwide will be looking at these projects for examples of features to copy in their own projects.


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