Aviation News

December 12, 2012

Long Beach Airport Unveils Impressive New Terminal

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By: Phil Derner Jr.
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Inside the luxurious new passenger concourse at Long Beach Airport.
Inside the luxurious new passenger concourse at Long Beach Airport.
Long Beach Airport, an airfield incredibly rich in aviation history, opened a stunning new passenger concourse Wednesday. The terminal is part of a $145 million airport renovation that also includes a 1,989-space parking structure, a modified aircraft ramp and historic rehabilitation.

PHOTOS: Long Beach Airport Opens New Terminal

The new 35,000-square-foot concourse is comprised of outdoor garden walkways and atriums that offer local business concessions such as sushi, bakeries and wine bars. The fresh, outdoor air and feel adds to a wonderful passenger experience in a city that sees sunlight 355 days each year. The gorgeous structure also touts fire pits, plant life and historical exhibits that both celebrates and exudes Long Beach culture.

[Full disclosure: The Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau folks wanted me to see the new terminal so bad, they flew me across the continent to the LBC and put me up in a nice hotel for two nights.]

The goal was not only to provide passengers with a better experience, but a unique one that truly captures the essence of that culture, explained Airport Director Mario Rodriguez. Rodriguez offered his honesty in their success, “Because O’Hare sucks. ATL sucks. We wanted to deliver something great to our passengers that feels like Long Beach, not like an airport.”

The design was simple and flexible, allowing the airport to adapt to an array of unknowns that the travel industry may see over the coming decades. Changing aircraft size or other operational needs will keep Long Beach in the game for a long time to come. One example of such a change is the effect that post-9/11 security had on airports and the need for more concessions after going through security checkpoints, which currently plagues airports such at New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

Rodriguez was proud that the project came in not only ahead of schedule, but far under budget. “This would have cost ten times the amount elsewhere,” Rodriguez said.

Passengers come out on top, because the project came at no cost to the airlines, which means ticket prices are not affected by the new look and features of the concourse. Also, the local concessions mean that people are treated to street pricing, not airport pricing. [And the food is delicious to boot!]

Though unavailable for comment, the Earth is said to be very excited about the airport. Green technology is seen throughout the facility. Solar panels on the roof offset 13 percent of the structure’s power demand. Also featured are energy efficient lighting, glazed windows and a system that maximizes outdoor lighting when available, as well as low-flow toilets and sinks.

Noise ordinances currently limit daily flights at LGB to a total of 41 airline slots and 25 commuter slots, which is re-evaluated annually based on the standards of aircraft that are brought in by the airfield’s operators. Both US Airways and Delta have expressed their intent to bring larger Airbus aircraft to Long Beach Airport to replace their current regional jets, which would increase passenger capacity. Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster tells us that aircraft which are state-of-the-art in noise and emissions may get that slot maximum raised to as high as 52 daily flights in and out, but that they plan to always preserve the airport’s modest size.

JetBlue Airways, which currently operates 79 percent of the airport’s airline operation, boasts LGB as the airline’s largest operation west of the Mississippi River. JetBlue’s David Clark, Director of Schedule Planning, said that aside from JetBlue being ecstatic about the new terminal, that they would also welcome expansion if those opportunities arose. When asked for thoughts about other airlines also growing at LGB, Clark replied “What’s good for the airport is good for the airline”, expressing that anyone that comes through the new Long Beach terminal will want to fly through here again, regardless of carrier.

Some were surprised that the new terminal did not have jet bridges that physically connected the terminal to aircraft. On the contrary, in a place with such good weather, not having a jet bridge is a huge advantage in both cost and in being environmentally friendly. Using airstairs means you can board faster by utilizing both forward and rear doors, there is less training required by employees to operate the bridges, fewer pieces of equipment that can break, less change of aircraft damage and fewer workplace injuries.

Mayor Foster praised the efforts of Director Rodriguez and all of the people involved with the project. He pointed out that it was a citywide effort in which every local agency participated. He says that, though LGB was always a convenient airport, it had been an uncomfortable experience, and he is now very proud of what they can now offer today as a gateway to a beautiful and historic city.

PHOTOS: Long Beach Airport Opens New Terminal