Extreme makeover: LAX gets dolled up

Extreme makeover: LAX gets dolled up

Los Angeles International Airport's upgrade, including more than 60 restaurants and shops, could herald an end to its rep as one of the world's worst airports
Rendering of the new Tom Bradley International Terminal's dining and retail Great Hall, due to open spring 2013.

Los Angeles International Airport gets a lot of flack from global travelers for its aging facilities and challenging infrastructure, earning regular appearances on "world's worst airports" lists. 

But that dismal rep might change in 2013, as major upgrades are unveiled at the airport's Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), which is now undergoing a US$1.5 billion upgrade.  

LAX officials say more than 60 venues will open in TBIT's Great Hall as part of an $80 million investment to develop its retail and dining program. The upgrades are part of the massive Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) modernization plan.

Built in 1984, TBIT is LAX’s main facility serving international travelers. 

In addition to retail and dining enhancements, the improved TBIT will have 18 roomier boarding gates. Nine will be built to accommodate new-generation aircraft, such as the Airbus A380 and Boeing 747-8 jumbos and Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

Customs, immigration and federal security screening areas will also be upgraded. 

The first phase of the TBIT revamp includes the Great Hall and boarding gates on the west side of the terminal. It's scheduled to open in spring 2013, according to airport officials.

The second phase includes new gates on the east side of the terminal, a new federal security screening area and upgraded customs and arrivals area. This portion of the plan is expected to be completed by 2014.

Inside TBIT's Great Hall

Fans of "Top Chef" will be pleased. Restaurants coming to TBIT's Great Hall include season-six winner Michael Voltaggio's ink.sack, as well as Border Grill, from "Top Chef Masters" duo Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken.

Other eateries set to open in TBIT include Umami Burger, LAMill Coffee, gourmet sandwich shop Tavern, 800 Degrees Pizzeria, steakhouse III Forks, sushi eateries Chaya and Lucky Fish by Sushi Roku and the Petrossian Caviar & Champagne Bar. 

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Retail shops to open include Bvlgari, Michael Kors, Emporio Armani, Fred Segal, Kitson, Coach, Porsche Design, Tumi, Victoria's Secret, Hugo Boss and iStore Boutique.

There will also be a 25,000-square-foot DFS duty-free complex, stocked with the usual big name luxury fashion, beauty, watch, wine and spirits brands. 

“We’re investing in LAX because it isn’t just a travel hub, it’s the gateway to the Pacific Rim and a central driver of our regional economy,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa in a statement.

“[Property management group] Westfield’s development in the New Tom Bradley International Terminal will showcase L.A.’s distinct style and spirit, keep LAX competitive in the global market, increase international tourism and put Angelenos to work now and for years to come.”

LAX is the sixth busiest airport in the world and third busiest in the United States. In 2011, it served more than 61.8 million passengers.

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Have you ever flown through LAX? Share gripes and praise in the comments box below.