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Better Travel, From the Ground Up

Airports around the country are adding amenities and working creatively to try to enhance business flying--well before takeoff

September 24, 2002|BONNIE HARRIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In true Hollywood form, Los Angeles International Airport has added several amenities during the last year to keep business travelers entertained--as well as fully connected.

The Gate Escape is a full-service cyberport in Terminal 8 that lets passengers access a high-speed T1 Internet connection from private cubicles with flat-screen monitors.

For $5 for the first 15 minutes, guests can check their e-mail, surf the Internet or work on projects. They can watch movies or television from a DirecTV satellite service or get free traveler information through the computers. Guests also can send or receive faxes, ship or print documents, make photocopies or buy office supplies.

Two more Gate Escapes recently opened at the Tom Bradley International Terminal and Terminal 7.

Given that business travelers account for more than half of LAX's 67 million passengers each year, airport officials have made finding new ways to accommodate them a priority, even as the city has begun debate on a $10-billion plan to modernize the aging complex.

The proposal, put forth by Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn this year, would entail a dramatic reworking of the airport, including the demolition of four terminals and the removal of all cars in the central terminal area.

"We know we're an older airport and we're lacking in the square footage that others have to do more for business travelers," said Paul Haney, an airport spokesman. "But we still have some pretty neat stuff going on. And our concession revenues show what we're doing is really working."

After the terrorist attacks, airlines, concessionaires and other tenants at LAX reduced their staffs by 10,000 workers. Since then, however, food, beverage and retail revenue has increased every month. As of May, total concession revenue topped $20 million--about flat with the previous year's figure, officials said.

LAX offers a wide variety of eateries and shops, including three Sunglass Hut locations where passengers can get into the L.A. spirit with $200 Oakley sunglasses and other items.

Airport officials credit the business-related additions with helping to boost sales.

The Travel Right Cafe in American Airlines' terminal is an upscale cocktail lounge and deli with tableside data-port jacks and electrical outlets that allow customers to use laptops or recharge cellular phones at no charge.

The cafe, in Terminal 4, has 48 ports to accommodate as many as 68 users and offers sandwiches and salads from Boudin's Sourdough Bakery, chili, sushi and a full bar.

"It's our first concession at LAX that lets you eat, drink and stay connected," said Ramon Olivares, the airport's concession management director. "That's what L.A. is all about."

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