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What's Wrong (Or Right) With LAX?
LA city councilman Bill Rosendahl wants to know. Here's the email I sent him in response to his request:

I'm sitting in the Westin Hotel at the Northwest Terminal at Detroit Metro Airport. I flew in for the weekend to be with my boyfriend, who's in town for his work -- but I'd fly to Detroit just to stay at this hotel and never leave the airport.

The new Northwest terminal here is great -- airy, with high ceilings, and filled with light, with cool stores, and giant TV screens playing CNN while you're waiting for your flight. Contrast that with LAX, where I waited for my flight in a dark, smelly, cave-like gate area, littered with candy wrappers and newspapers, with too few of the dismal brown vinyl seats to accomodate all the passengers. Ellis Island with wings!

In Detroit, there are lots of places to sit throughout the airport -- in all the places it would seem like a person might want to sit down. After a recent flight to LAX, I was nauseated and needed to sit down, but there was not a bench to be seen in baggage claim. I was forced to pile my stuff on the floor and lean on it while my boyfriend waited for my bags. Again dismal and totally inhospitable. And LA's supposed to be a vacation spot?

Oh yeah, and in Detroit there's Wifi available throughout the terminal. I got off my plane in the morning, opened my computer, logged into my T-Mobile account, posted three blog items, and toddled off to baggage claim. Zilcho at LAX, although there are a few uncomfortable, usually-broken connect-to-the Internet phones here and there.

I don't have time to go to a bunch of meetings, and Detroit does a lot of stuff stupidly, but the new terminal here is just great -- and worth copying inch for inch, as much as possible.

Best,-Amy Alkon

Here's Rosendahl's email, cut slightly for space reasons:

Last December, when Mayor Villaraigosa and I announced the historic legal agreement ending LAX expansion, we promised the neighborhoods around the airport a genuine voice in planning the future of LAX. We start making that promise real right now.

This coming week, LAWA will begin holding public meetings to hear your views about how best to modernize LAX. The airport is in dire need of improvements in safety, security and efficiency. We need your perspective on how to make those improvements in a manner that is friendly to the neighboring communities.

There will be two meetings this week...At each session, LAWA officials will give a detailed presentation on the settlement agreement, and outline the process to kill and replace the parts of the LAX Master Plan we all found objectionable.

We have much work ahead. We’ve committed to scotching plans for a remote check-in center at Manchester Square. Now we need to put our heads together to find alternative methods to mitigate airport traffic. At these two meetings, LAWA officials will begin to frame the questions, and ask us all to help develop answers.

6:00pm-9:00pm, Wednesday, March 15
9:00am-12:00pm, Saturday, March 18

Flight Path Learning Center
6661 West Imperial Highway, Los Angeles

You can write him at I've also asked him to drop in and comment here.

Posted by aalkon at March 12, 2006 7:28 AM

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Thanks! I'll drop him a line. My biggest complaint about LAX (aside from the crappy and seat-deficient waiting areas) is how long it takes to get checked luggage. On a return trip from Denver last month, we waited almost an hour for our luggage! Compare that to JFK (an airport that certainly has it's share of problems), where every single time my luggage is circling the carousel when I get there.

Posted by: deja pseu at March 12, 2006 6:59 AM

I just flew in and out of LAX week before last. I travel around the country 3 or more times a month and I can tell you I would rather fly into almost any airport than LAX. I don't feel safe there. Cave-like is a perfect description of the gate areas. The one gate I flew out of gave more space to the Starbucks bar than the gate!

Well... that figures I guess. You may not be comfortable but at least you are awake.

There are a million people going in 18 million different directions at LAX and it just feels like crammed chaos the whole time.

I did like that for some reason LAX makes sure you here the 80's music in the background. Unlike the tunnel in Detroit that makes you feel like you have entered into another dimension (way cool). Actually both are cool in their own ways.

Good luck in updating LAX.

Posted by: Randy at March 12, 2006 11:02 AM

Favorite part of LAX: I forget which terminal, but one of the northern domestics (1, 2, or 3) has a little open-air terrarium for smokers. You can watch the carcinogens take root in their twitchy, withering flesh as you walk past this synthetic --yet convincing-- replica of their native habitat. It's adorable!

Posted by: Crid at March 12, 2006 1:59 PM

Besides, isn't DET a particularly futuristic airport? I think I was there a few years ago... Or maybe it was a dream. There was this long, tubular, sexual tunnel with these colorful fiber-optic illuminations on an etched glass surface, and Phillip Glass music played at low volume with psychodrama voices (please keep moving... please keep moving... please keep moving...)

Does anyone else know about this?

Posted by: Crid at March 12, 2006 5:19 PM

That's between one and two, the park-like area. Just passed it today on my way to Park One. And Detroit is very futuristic -- at least, the new Northwest terminal is. It's just fabulous. I guess they can't expand LAX outward, but they could at least raise a ceiling or two and de-grim-ify it. Also, hello? We're one of the world's media capitals. Would Wifi be too much to ask? Detroit even has a monorail to take you between terminals.

Unfortunately, thanks to the appearance of safety we feel compelled to provide, it's impossible to run around the Detroit Northwest terminal without a ticket. I seriously would like to buy and return a plane ticket each day just to go walk around there. Actually, I always wanted to go to an airport, bring a gourmet lunch basket and a bottle of wine, and sit there and watch the planes take off. I want to do that more there and less at LAX. A lot less.

Oh yeah, and by the way, on the way out of LA, I asked the woman looking at IDs before the metal detectors what my name was after she'd looked at my stuff. "Amy!" she said. "What's my last name?" I asked. "Too hard to pronounce she said."


Too lazy and or apathetic to actually read it, perhaps?

Are we safer...or are we just more annoyed?

Travel used to be fun. Detroit Metro Airport (DTW, actually), brings some of that back.

LAX is like getting thrown in one of those holding cells on Law & Order, except that you never see grannies getting strip searched on Law & Order.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 12, 2006 8:18 PM

OK, so it was DTW and not DET. This part seemed like a dream, too.

Posted by: Crid at March 13, 2006 12:58 AM

Fabulous, huh? Far cry from dismal LAX. They even have an oxygen bar!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 13, 2006 1:52 AM

The old-fashioned kind work just fine.

Nobody ever gets laid at an airport bar, but you're expected to hit on the waitress anyway... Until you're forty, and all of the sudden they don't want to help you find the power jack for your laptop. After that, you hope like hell to see a granny strip searched.

Posted by: Crid at March 14, 2006 7:28 PM

Very interesting site. Perfect design and content. Thanks

Posted by: Ricko at July 2, 2006 7:22 AM

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