To frequent fliers, the proposal to replace Los Angeles International Airport's stale array of restaurants and shops probably doesn't seem very controversial; in a recent J.D. Power survey of airport quality, passengers ranked LAX 19th out of the 20 biggest airports in the U.S., and gave its fast-food chains and other eateries two stars out of five. But then, those fliers aren't subject to a big lobbying campaign by the current operators, which stand to lose six-figure contracts if city officials kick them out.
What seems like an easy decision is clearly tormenting City Councilman Tony Cardenas, for example. Confronted with a recommendation by the staff of Los Angeles World Airports, which operates LAX, for a sweeping overhaul of concessions, Cardenas replied with a 30-point questionnaire probing LAWA's choices in extraordinary detail. Interestingly, Cardenas planned a fundraiser Thursday to kick off his reelection campaign at El Paseo Inn, which is owned by a company that stands to benefit from his decision on the LAX contracts — it was rejected by airport staff for a restaurant slot. After the LA Weekly reported on the apparent conflict, Cardenas switched the event to another restaurant.
The contractors recommended by LAWA would include outlets from acclaimed L.A. chefs such as Susan Feniger, Mary Sue Milliken and Joachim Splichal, and a bakery from Homeboy Industries, an inner-city group that helps former gang members go straight. But rejected incumbents HMS Host, Delaware North and the Hudson Group aren't giving in without a fight. They have complained from the beginning that the bidding process was flawed, only to have their objections tossed out by the L.A. city attorney's office. Their lobbying drive continues unabated.